6 Green Travel Tips to Make Sustainable Travel Easier Than You Think

These days, people are more tuned in to the impact they have on the environment than ever before. As a result, many take steps to reduce their carbon footprints, even when heading off on an adventure. The good news is that this increased awareness has made sustainable travel an option for all kinds of travelers—from backpackers to luxury hotel enthusiasts.

Samantha Bray, managing director at the Center for Responsible Travel (CREST), notes that there are many ways for travelers to dive headfirst into new locations and cultures while not only minimizing their negative impact on the environment, but also maximizing the good they can do in the communities that they visit.

“Sustainable travel has somewhat been categorized as separate, but we need to get away from that separateness,” she says. “Any trip that you’re taking can impact the environment and you can make changes to lessen that impact.”

We’ve rounded up six expert tips that will make sustainable travel a cinch.

6 Green Travel Tips

Do Some Research

First and foremost, travelers should do their research. Bray notes that there are several sustainable travel certifications, many of which are offered through the Global Sustainable Tourism Council, the organization that sets global baseline standards for sustainable travel and tourism. Travelers can look for this stamp of approval when they’re booking their trip. “Certification is not the end-all, be-all, but it is a good place to start,” she says.

It’s also worth noting that if a hotel or tour operator isn’t certified, that doesn’t necessarily mean it isn’t eco-friendly. “There are a lot of hotels and tourism companies that are doing great things, but maybe they’re really small and can’t afford to be certified, or they don’t have the manpower to go through the certification process,” Bray says. “But even if a company isn’t certified, it could be sustainable in its operations, using water wisely, using energy efficiently, sourcing products locally, and employing local people. All you have to do is call and ask; if they are doing those things, they would love to share the details.”

Keep Up Eco-Friendly Habits

Travel disrupts routine, but that doesn’t mean you should abandon the green habits you have at home when you’re on the road. “Reusing towels, turning off the lights when you leave the room, turning off the A.C. if you’re going to be gone all day—these are all things you can do at a hotel as well as at home,” Bray says.

One area in particular to keep an eye on is shower time. “Oftentimes, when we go on vacation, we luxuriate in all of the free time we have. Try not to let that mindset apply to showers, especially if you’re in a place where water availability is an issue, like an island or a desert,” Bray explains.

Traveling with reusable utensils and straws can also have far-reaching benefits.

Use Green Methods to Get From Place to Place

According to Bray, one of the simplest ways to reduce your environmental impact when traveling is to rely on public transportation like subways, metros, and trains. “Also, try to use your own manpower to see the places you want to see. Walking and biking are fantastic options,” she notes.

Watch Out For ‘Greenwashing’

Sustainability-minded travelers should be cognizant of the possibility for “greenwashing,” says Bray. “Greenwashing occurs when an organization wants the consumer think that they are making a sustainable choice, but isn’t really making the effort.” Bray cites hotels with towel and linen reuse programs—that is, hotels that give you the option of not getting new towels from housekeeping every day—but no other green initiatives, as an example. “Really, we should be far past that by now. It’s just not enough to just do a towel/linen reuse program and claim to be a sustainable hotel.”

Bray reiterates that hotels and organizations that have true green initiatives will be eager to discuss them.

Focus on Local

Perhaps the most fun way to ensure you’re traveling sustainably is to focus on putting back into the community in which you’re staying. “Try to book hotels and tour operators that are owned locally, so that way you can be sure that the money is staying in the economy,” suggests Bray. “And try to eat at locally owned and staffed restaurants. This all minimizes something we call ‘leakage,’ which occurs whenever a business is owned by an international entity and the money a location makes ‘leaks’ out of the country.”

Bray adds, “Focusing on experiencing the local culture and supporting local businesses creates a richer experience. You’re not giving something up whenever you’re traveling sustainably—you’re gaining something. You’re getting a better experience and creating a stronger local connection.”

Offset Your Impact

If a trip isn’t as eco-friendly as you would like, there are ways to make up for it. “Look at carbon offset options, especially if there are options where you are traveling,” Bray notes. Carbon offset programs fund projects that reduce carbon emissions. “They’re really cool, and not that expensive. We just consider them as a part of our trip costs,” Bray notes, adding that CREST’s associates use Atmosfair to mitigate their travel carbon footprint.


What steps have you taken to travel more sustainably? Let us know in the comments!


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