Travel has always been about opening your mind and discovering new things. A huge part of this is experiencing different landscapes and cultures. If you are from the dry desert of the Western United States, you might be interested in seeing the green rolling hills of Ireland. If you are from the chilly fjords of Europe, you may wish to explore the warm waters and colorful coral of the Great Barrier Reef. These differing environments and the cultures that surround them are part of what makes our planet so unique.
In recent decades, scientists have tracked unprecedented weather patterns that have drastically changed our ecosystems. These shifts in weather are collectively known as climate change and are directly affecting communities around the world.
The good news is that there are things we can all do to help keep our planet healthy. This is where eco-friendly travel comes in!
There are a number of things we can do during our travels that will help protect our ecosystems. To make this process as easy as possible, we have put together a list of 12 tips that will help you practice eco-friendly travel!
1. Pack a Reusable Water Bottle
Be sure to bring a reusable water bottle with you wherever you go. This will help you avoid using plastic or paper cups, while also keeping you hydrated.
2. Take Alternative Transportation
Skip the rental car! Instead, take advantage of alternative transportation when possible. Taking alternative transportation will ensure that you don’t individually add to carbon emissions. Many countries have multiple forms of transportation available:
- Tram/Cable Car
3. Travel with Solid Shampoo and Soap
Purchase solid shampoo and soap instead of hefty liquid bottles. By doing so, you will limit your plastic waste and have more room in your luggage!
4. Eat Local
Avoid dining at world-wide restaurant chains that import their food and add to carbon emissions via food transportation. Instead, head to a local eatery that utilizes fresh regional produce. Local markets can also be fun to explore and shopping local supports local businesses. You’ll get to experience more varieties of food while also helping the earth stay beautiful!
5. Use Reef Safe Sunscreen
Purchase Reef Safe Sunscreen for your time in the ocean. Common chemical sunscreen ingredients (oxybenzone and octinoxate) can wash off your body while you are swimming and damage the coral. Look for sunscreen products that don’t include these ingredients. You’ll still get to enjoy the ocean and the animals living in it will appreciate it!
Note: Try to avoid the use of aerosols as they can release volatile organic compounds (VOC) that contribute to ground-level ozone levels and asthma-inducing smog. This can include:
- Fingernail polish
- Shaving cream
6. Always Carry a Reusable Bag With You
Pack a light cloth shopping bag and carry it with you during your travels. If you have one on you at all times, you can avoid plastic and paper bags that grocers and shops often hand out.
7. Minimize Housekeeping at Your Accommodations
If you are staying in an accommodation for a short period of time, be sure to hang your towels up to dry (for multiple day use) and put the “do not disturb” sign on your door when you leave for the day. This will ensure that your sheets and towels will not be washed every day, saving both water and energy.
Note: Some hotels will provide a sign for you to place on your bed indicating that you do not want your sheets changed. This may be helpful if you still want your room cleaned but wish to avoid wasting water and energy.
8. Pack Light
Lighter luggage means less fuel needed for flights and, in turn, fewer carbon emissions.
9. Stick to the Trail
When hiking or wandering in nature, be sure to stay on the designated path to avoid impacting local flora and fauna. You’ll want to keep yourself, and your vehicle, on designated roads whenever possible. This will protect sensitive ecosystems you may not even be aware of. Although it may be tempting to wander off to snap a picture of a cute critter just barely off the path, it’s important to be mindful of the environment. Our choices shape the future of the earth!
10. Avoid Plastic Straws & Utensils
It’s very common that plastic utensils and straws end up in our oceans and harm sea life. It might be in your best interest to pack your own set of reusable utensils so you can avoid using the plastic ones that restaurants may give you. You’ll be reducing your waste and have the convenience of reusable utensils wherever you go!
11. Conserve Energy
When you leave your accommodation for the day, turn off your heating or air conditioning unit and all of the lights. Save the energy for when you are ready to relax in your room after a day well-spent vacationing.
Note: In the Summer, make sure the AC unit doesn’t go below 78 degrees Fahrenheit (25.5 C). In the Winter, make sure the heater doesn’t go above 68 degrees Fahrenheit (20 C). These are eco-friendly temperature settings.
12. Conserve Water
Lack of access to clean drinking water is a global crisis yet something as simple taking shorter showers and turning off the faucet while brushing your teeth can be a great help!