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How to Travel Sustainably

Sustainable tourism is focused on reducing the negative impacts of tourism and improving the positive benefits for local communities, ecosystems and the planet as a whole. Below are some top tips for when you are travelling for how to be as sustainable as possible!


Photo by Hrvoje Cizmek


  • Respect nature – many travelers visit places of incredible natural beauty. If every person that visited left a wrapper behind it would quickly become covered in rubbish, which as well as ruining the beauty of the landscape also harms wildlife and makes it less habitable for the local people. It is vital to ensure that you take your rubbish home with you and dispose of it in the correct bin.
  • Pack reusable items – take a water bottle, food container, spork and reusable shopping bag with you to reduce the amount of single-use plastic you have to buy. Having a food container with you will also mean you produce less food waste (and you can be lazy and avoid cooking lunch the next day!). If you are worried about the water quality in the place you are visiting you can buy refillable bottles with a built-in purifier!
  • Change eating habits – if you want to skip cooking always eat in the restaurant rather than getting take-out which often comes with a lot of waste. With street food vendors, try to find one that dishes up food in biodegradable containers.
  • Skip the straw – Many countries still use plastic straws in drinks, which should be avoided. However paper straws have been found to contain more “forever chemicals” than plastic, which can contaminate water supplies. Paper straws typically can’t be recycled and have been found to actually emit more greenhouse gases when they rot in landfill than plastic straws. Many people use reusable alternatives (such as metal, glass or bamboo), however these are also all responsible for more greenhouse gas emissions than plastic. Generally it is better to just avoid a straw altogether.
  • Use your money to help the local economy – try to buy things from small businesses rather than a large corporation. For example, buy souvenirs from a small hand-made shop rather than at the airport, and try local cuisine rather than familiar fast food chains. This keeps the money in the hands of the people who live in the area, who respect and depend on the local environment, rather than large companies.


Photo by Aoefe Ni Rathaille


  • Pack light – the lighter your bag, the less fuel is needed to transport it around with you! It’s also much more enjoyable to have a lighter rucksack when you are trying to run for your next bus…
  • Cook using local ingredients – these will likely be cheaper as they will not have the associated transport costs, and the reduced food miles is also better for the planet. A win-win! Eating in-season produce will give a more authentic taste of the area, and also reduce your carbon footprint.
  • Travel in off-peak times – over-tourism can strain both ecosystems and infrastructure as most people visit in the peak season. Consider visiting outside of these times, as it will be less busy and your money will help businesses to survive through the rest of the year. It is also recommended to visit less-popular areas to avoid the crowds.
  • Think about your mode of transport – flying is the opposite of sustainable travel, but if it is unavoidable then limit the number of flights you take. When travelling within a country aim to take public transport instead, for example trains or buses. Try to limit the number of private modes of transport you use like taxis wherever possible. Often you can walk or rent a bicycle to see the town instead of renting a car (if you do rent look for an electric, a hybrid or a smaller car).
  • Consider your flights more carefully – always choose economy seats as first class can actually have much higher associated carbon footprints (and obviously economy is much more within budget!). Fly direct when possible as this reduces your emissions, and also look into which airlines have the lowest emissions per passenger mile.


white airplane flying in the sky during daytime


  • Offset the flights – calculate your carbon footprint and then purchase offsets which are equivalent to the amount of CO2 you have produced. This money will then get invested in projects that aim to reduce greenhouse gas emissions or mitigate the effects, such as a tree-planting scheme. When doing this make sure to go through a reputable provider to make sure your money has the greatest impact.
  • Slow down – don’t be in a rush to tick off the highlight then shoot off to the next location! If you stay in each place a while you will get to know it a lot better, it will be a lot less stressful and more enjoyable, you can invest in local businesses and you will also spend less of your trip travelling from one place to the next, reducing your travel emissions.
  • Use zero-waste toiletries – you can find both soap bars and ecofriendly liquid soaps that you can put into refillable bottles. These are great because when they get into the ecosystem they are much less harmful to wildlife. Using bars of soap also reduces the amount of plastic you will use. You can get toothpaste tablets and deodorant paste which reduces waste, and also has the added benefit of meaning you don’t need to worry about how to transport aerosols or liquids on a flight!
  • Eco-friendly accommodation – many hotels and hostels have realized that the market is changing as more customers want to reduce their negative impact on the area. You can find places to stay that are CO2 neutral, recycle, are plastic-free or give profits to tree-planting schemes. You can also sometimes find eco-houses to stay in, which are entirely made out of recycled materials!
  • Choose animal experiences carefully – avoid all experiences where animals are not behaving naturally (for example give elephant rides a miss) and always choose places where the animal’s wellbeing is prioritized. It is advisable to do a lot of background research beforehand, and usually better to choose places where you can volunteer rather than just getting a selfie and leaving.


Photo by Lara Jackson


  • Conserve water and energy – tourists often use far more energy and water than the locals. Take a shower rather than a bath, keeping it as short as possible. Turn off lights and unplug devices once fully charged. Turn off the aircon when leaving your accommodation. In many hotels you can keep towels on the rack to prevent unnecessary washing.
  • Visit national parks and protected areas – these often will have entrance fees that go towards preserving the areas and the wildlife within them. Every year tourism to protected areas generates an estimated $850 billion, which goes back into local communities too. When visiting make sure to minimize your impact by complying with all guidelines (many are no smoking areas due to risks of wildfires), avoid disturbing wildlife and book accommodation and tours with local operators.

Now you are ready to travel sustainably, go out and explore!

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