Nobody can deny climate change now. I am writing these words in February 2020. It is sunny outside and the temperature in Poland reaches 15 degrees. This season, it snowed just a couple of times – and the snow disappeared after a few hours. This was unimaginable when I was a kid 20 years ago. I remember building igloos in snow up to my waist…
To impact the planet as little as possible, we should change all aspects of our lives – travel included. Eco travel starts to be a more and more popular topic. We try to travel in a way that limits our negative impact on the environment, harmony of natural ecosystems or local communities.
How to be an eco traveller? What are the best sustainable travel tips?
Eco Travel: Sustainable Travel Tips For Beginners
1. Unplug unnecessary devices, turn the heater down
The first step to eco travel starts before you even leave home. Make sure that all devices which don’t need to be on during your trip are off and unplugged from the socket. Your computer, chargers, TV, radio, coffee machine, microwave… Walk around the house and decide what you can unplug.
If it’s winter, turn the heaters down (but not off!).
Another of sustainable travel tips is to make sure the water is closed. It’s best to close the main water valve/source in your home. You do not want to come back after 2 weeks and find out that water was dripping all the time from a tap or the toilet. And not only for eco reasons 🙂
2. Re-usable water with a good filter
One of the first changes people interested in ecology introduce in their lives is switching from plastic water bottles to a re-usable water bottle. They drink water straight from the tap or filter it. In Poland, majority of European countries and US states tap water is safe to drink and it is a great change!
Tap water doesn’t taste good everywhere though. And in many developing countries drinking it is simply dangerous. That’s why I recommend to get a bottle with a GOOD filter which not only neutralizes the taste of tap water, but also removes contaminants and microorganisms.
I have Water-To-Go bottle. Their filter was developed for NASA. It filters 99,99% of contaminants and bacteria. I have already drank water from rivers and streams – it is ok. Getting one is one of my favorite and easiest sustainable travel tips 🙂 You can read more about the filter here. And no, this is not sponsored content 😉
Another of sustainable travel tips for countries where tap water is not safe, is buying water in big containers, e.g. 5 litres. Then, you can fill up your re-usable bottle from it every day. You will use less plastic than buying small bottles.
3. Carry a re-usable bag or backpack for shopping
It’s always worth having a shopping bag, even if you don’t plan shopping. What if you decide to get wine and snacks for the evening? 🙂
Be prepared for shopping. It’s a good sustainable travel tip but also a great rule to follow in your every-day life. Let the vendor know you don’t need your shopping packed in plastic, show them your bag. In some countries (like Thailand!) this may be surprising for people – but just smile and do your thing 🙂 You are also showing the locals another way and who knows? Maybe your eco-friendly travel will inspire them and soon they will do the same?
4. Take a coffee cup and food container
Your own coffee cup will help you avoid single-use cups in coffee shops, plastic cups in planes – but not only. You can also use it for cold drinks, smoothie or a small draft beer 🙂 I have a foldable Stojo cup and I am very happy with it. I’m linking a US-based page but if you’re not from the US, check your local websites. I bought my Stojo cup in a Polish shop. Again, not sponsored 🙂
In a food container you can pack snacks for the way. You can also take leftovers from a restaurant with no need to ask for a plastic box.
5. Take your own cutlery or use the single-use one multiple times.
Take your own fork and spoon from home. You can use them in a plane or eating local street food. If you forget – take plastic ones but don’t dispose of them. Wash them and use again for your next meal until the end of your trip.
Some eco travellers recommend buying a spork – fork and spoon in one. A handy thing and I may get it at some point – but for now, I work with what I have 🙂
6. Refuse a straw or use one multiple times
Do not take straws for your drinks. When ordering your drink or a lemonade, remember to say “no straw please”. If a drink with no straw loses its charm for you – that’s ok 🙂 Get a re-usable one or use a single-use a couple of times.
7. Collect some trash every day
I can’t count how many times I passed a trash can and found a bottle, can or cigarette butt just two steps away. If you are sightseeing in a city (like Paris, Lisbon or Petersburg) and find some trash – take it to the nearest trash can. I know it can be an overwhelming sustainable travel tip in some places where trash is everywhere. But even if you take a few – it already makes this place cleaner and you – a more eco friendly traveler.
If you go hiking, take a bag for trash in your backpack and collect some on the way. Nature will thank you for it.
8. Don’t have your hotel room cleaned or towels changed every day
Admit. How often do you change your bedsheets at home? 😉 I assume it is much rarlier than hotel services do. Until you really need cleaning, put a “Do not disturb” sign on your door. That’s environmental tourism – you save water and the amount of detergents used.
9. Support local businesses
You can choose between having a coffee in a small, local coffee shop – or in Starbucks. What do you choose? 🙂
Especially when you travel, you should choose a small, local place. This is how your visit and your money support the local community. Do shopping in local stores, buy hand-made local souvenirs. Stay in small hotels or homestays more often than in global hotel chains. You make a good impact on the economy of the place.
10. Don’t print if you don’t have to
We live in a time when everything can be done via our smartphones. Your boarding pass, booking confirmation, tourist attraction ticket? In vast majority of cases you don’t have to print them, it’s enough to show them on your phone.
Make sure though that it is ok in your case so that my sustainable travel tips don’t make you miss something! If needed – print on both sides of the page or use the paper again for notes, shopping lists or your kid’s drawings 🙂
11. Light luggage
Yes, I was also thinking what the weight of my luggage has to do with eco travel. Apparently, it does have a lot! The heavier the plane or car, the more fuel it consumes on the same distance. I found data that for each additional kilogram of weight, a plane burns 0.2 kilograms of fuel more for each 1000 kilometers. Limit your luggage – it will be easier for you, and the environment 🙂
12. Take food for the way from home
Prepare, so that you don’t have to buy snacks on the way. They are usually unhealthy, expensive and packed in plastic.
If you plan a long-haul flight, take your food for the way too. The service in planes generate tons of trash. Plastic trays, plates, cutlery, containers, cups… In 2012 and 2013 IATA conducted a research on Heathrow airport and found that on average, every passenger generates 1,4 kilograms of trash per flight! That’s an average value for short and long-haul flights.
Do your best to limit that number!
13. Try to avoid planes
I know people who can hitchkike from Poland to China or go around the world without boarding a single flight. But these are extreme cases and it is not for everybody.
But traveling short distance in Europe, we do have options to choose a train or bus instead of flying. Check possible train connections before browsing cheap flights. Ground travel from Poland to Prague or Vienna may turn out not only possible, but even quicker that flying, if you count the time of getting to/from airports, waiting and the flight time itself.
If you go for a trip in a bigger group that will fill up a car, road-trip may be the most sustainable solution. For the brave – there is always hitchhiking 🙂
Some airlines have already started to limit the number of short flights and started cooperating with railway companies. KLM replaced one of their daily flights from Amsterdam to Brussels with a fast train.
How about traveling with a Trans-Siberian Railway to Lake Baikal? 🙂
14. As little flights changes as possible
If you choose a flight or you simply don’t have a choice traveling to the other side of the world – try to get a direct flight or with as little changes as possible. This way you limit the distance you fly. You will spend less time flying – and the environment will be less polluted.
15. Carbon offset
Flying is not and for a long time will not be sustainable. But there is something you can do to minimize the impact of your flight. It is called carbon offset. Here is a dedicated post to carbon footprint and offset – below you’ll find a quick summary.
In the Internet you can calculate how much CO2 you produced during your flight. Next, the system calculates how much money you should donate to projects which help reduce emissions somewhere else in the world.
This way, even though your flight did emit the CO2 to the atmosphere and the damage is done – at least another kind of emission will be reduced and “compensate” for it.
Until now I have been using this calculator. You can choose what kind of project you are going to support. If you recommend another one, let me know!
It is not a perfect solution. The only good one is to limit or avoid flying at all. But this is a huge challenge for someone passionate about traveling. I’m afraid this would discourage you (and me!) from following any sustainable travel tips. If avoiding or limiting your flights sounds too challenging for you – I totally understand. Compensate your carbon footprint instead!
I hope that now you know what to do in order to travel in a more sustainable way! I wish you the best of luck on this green travel journey 🙂
For more eco-travel related content, check also:
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