I love to travel! It has so many benefits, such as helping you grow as a person (read about the advantages here) and appreciating different cultures and religions. However, it’s bad for the planet, and I love the planet just as much.
So, this is a guide on how to travel responsibly and sustainably to reduce your environmental impact while travelling.
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What is responsible travel?
The exact definition of responsible travel is:
“Tourism that takes full account of its current and future economic, social and environmental impacts, addressing the needs of visitors, the industry, the environment and host communities”.
In simpler terms, it is travelling in a way that does not have a negative impact on the environment.
Why should you travel responsibly?
The planet is in a bad shape, and there are lots of reasons as to why (watch Seaspiracy! It’s very eye-opening). Travel has a negative impact on the environment; flying contributes to 2.5% of CO2 emissions alone!
So what does responsible travel do?
As mentioned earlier, responsible travel is travelling in a way that doesn’t have a negative impact on the environment. By travelling sustainably, you can have all the benefits of travel but avoid the negatives!
Going carbon neutral
Have you checked out your environmental footprint yet? Do it here!
One thing I love about technology is how you can use it to go carbon neutral! I’ve got a couple of favourite apps that reduce your carbon footprint:
This is an app where you pay a monthly subscription and with your money they help reducing your carbon footprint. In all honesty, I couldn’t explain what they do but their website has all their information and financials on it if you want to check it out!
I absolutely love this app because it honestly feels like I’m making a difference every single day. Every day, you get one free tree you can plant. The trees are sponsored by companies who are advertised on the app, and they usually give you discounts if you buy through the app as well.
There are photos of them planting trees across the world, and you can choose which country you would like to plant your tree in.
This is a free Google Chrome extension which plants a tree for every 5 tabs you open! You get a nice google screen and it tells you how many trees you have planted (at the time of writing this, I’ve planted 206!).
There are other ways of going carbon neutral alongside these apps!
Off-set flights. If you book with a reputable airline, they should give you the opportunity to offset your flight for a small fee.
Travel by public transport. Having a taxi take you to the airport is a lot nicer than taking a bus, but it’s not very sustainable. Using public transport helps to reduce your carbon footprint and is better for the environment.
Find alternatives to flights. Like with using a taxi, flying is easier and quicker to get from one side of the country to the other. But do you have to? Can you get a train? Do you know someone who is heading in that direction anyway? Can you make a road trip out of it instead of flying?
What kind of things do I need to think about before travelling?
Avoid visiting places suffering from over-tourism
Before you decide on heading to Bali during the summer because that’s where everyone else is going, look at if it’s suffering from over-tourism.
Over-tourism is when “certain places of interest are visited by excessive numbers of tourists, causing undesirable effects for the places visited”. This is bad for the ecosystem surrounding that area, as well the social side of things. Read more about it here!
Book eco-friendly accommodation
There are many ways that accommodation can be not bad for the environment. They can use a specific type of lightbulb, or have solar panels, or be made from a durable and sustainable material. If an accommodation has put measures in place to be eco-friendly then they usually advertise it.
Check out this World Nomad post on finding truly eco-friendly places to stay!
Another sustainable way of travelling is by staying in homestays. Homestays are when travellers stay in a room of a locals home. This has so many benefits!
Not only can you feel incredibly embedded in their culture, but you can learn so much about the place you’re visiting and the best places to check out. It’s also good for the environment because you’re not staying in a hotel that washes your towels every single day.
If you’re interested in staying with locals, you can book it here.
Voluntourism is a new field of travel, and it’s my absolute favourite! I have spent time in South Africa working with Wildlife ACT, and Spain volunteering in a rescue shelter. This year I shall be heading to Costa Rica to work with monkeys, turtles and crocodiles, as well as being an intern at a vet clinic in Laos (I wrote a post here!)
This is a way of getting fully immersed in the life of a local, and feel like you’re contributing to something.
You can volunteer in schools, on farms, with wildlife, youth development, and so much more.
I’m going to go into more detail about this in the next section, but packing sustainable is actually pretty easy once you know what to look out for.
Also, packing sustainably tends to lead to packing light, and who doesn’t want that!
Travel responsibly and sustainably
One thing I don’t think is talked about enough is how suncream affects the environment.
Most sunscreens have chemicals in them that are toxic to coral reefs (which supplies over half of our oxygen!), so before buying a generic brand, look at the ingredient. If you want to make sure you’re safe, then use the brands listed in this post.
This is similar to suncream; people don’t realise how bad it can be!
You want to stop pesky mosquitos from biting you, not kill bees, so use these brands!
Buy local and seasonal produce
The cheapest way to eat while travelling is to buy produce that’s in season. This means it doesn’t have to travel hundreds of miles to get into your mouth, and if you buy local then you’re supporting the community!
I felt guilty when I learned about this because this is something I have done before, but bargaining isn’t actually very responsible. Although it might be nice for you to save a few bucks on a charm bracelet, you’re actually taking money away from someone else.
Especially in third world countries, those people need that money a lot more than you might.
Avoid animal exploitation
I’m a big advocate for avoiding animal exploitation because I know how bad it can be to the animal’s welfare.
However, I don’t really talk about how it can be bad for the environment. Did you know that in most animal petting industries, the animals are taken from their parents in the wild? It’s traumatic for the cubs, but it also is making those animals go extinct which destroys eco-systems.
Just research where you’re going before giving them your money.
I’ll have a whole post on this coming out soon (be sure to subscribe to be notified!) but slow travel is basically:
Slow travel is an approach to travel that emphasizes connection: to local people, cultures, food and music. It relies on the idea that a trip is meant to educate and have an emotional impact, in the present moment and for the future, while remaining sustainable for local communities and the environment.Remote Year
Leave no trace
I spoke about this in my post on wild camping, but it can be implemented wherever you go. It means to not leave a mess, because a crisp wrapper can end up in the stomach of a seagull, polluting the ocean or leaving more mess for locals to clean up.
Reduce meat consumption
You may roll your eyes to hear another vegetarian preach about not eating meat, but I promise that’s not what I’m doing!
Reducing your meat consumption dramatically reduces your carbon footprint, but also makes for cheaper travel! I spend a lot less on fresh fruit and veg than I did when I travelled and bought meat.
Books on sustainable and responsible travel
Turning the Tide on Plastic by Lucy Siegle
Overtourism: Lessons for a better future by Martha Honey and Kelsey Frenkiel
Go Lightly: Travel without hurting the planet by Nina Karnikowski
The Sustainable Travel Handbook by Lonely Planet
Travel: Easy Tips for an eco-friendly traveller by Juliet Kinsman
And that is the end of my guide on how to travel responsibly and sustainably!
Have you got anything to add? Leave it in the comment box below!