10 Realistic Eco-friendly Travel Tips

It’s impossible to travel completely green. It’s part of the deal. If you get on a plane, train, or automobile you’re contributing to a carbon footprint. But there some steps to take to help your trip be a little more environmentally conscious – without breaking the bank or completely changing your plans.

1. Respect Parks. Follow instructions set out by park rangers and signs in natural areas. They know what they’re talking about. Don’t be the couple ignoring signs to stay on the path – like the couple I saw in Muir Woods National Monument. You may get a better selfie closer to the redwoods but you’re also destroying the soil and spreading disease. You’re asked to follow instructions for a reason. Not because they don’t want you to not have fun.

2. Pack Re-usable Items. Limit plastic consumption by reusing toiletry bottles, water bottles, and similar items. But use what you already have. For example, buying an environmentally friendly backpack doesn’t make sense if you already have one that works perfectly well.

3. Avoid Restaurant Waste. Refuse straws if you can. This is a personal pet peeve in the US. I’ve asked to not be given straws and have been given two in response. Just, why? Also, think about taking your own reusable to-go box to reduce food waste (and save money and plastic).

4. Take Public Transportation. Bike in cities if it’s safe to do so. (e.g. Amsterdam.) Or better, walk. You’ll see more anyway!

5. Reuse Your Sheets. Sleep in the same sheets for at least two days. It’s nice to have new crisp sheets, but you’ll probably survive.

6. Turn Off Items You’re Not Using. Other countries may have a power-off outlet switches. Use them. Or unplug things. Vampire energy is a real thing. It also helps us keep bills low in our house. Turning things off saves money and energy. Win-win.

7. Take a Photo. Take photos of brochures, maps, or other pieces of paper if you doubt you will use them. Take only what you need. Free stuff gives you a dopamine hit, but think ahead.

8. Look at Eco-friendly Hotels. Be aware of ‘greenwashing‘. What makes a hotel green?Find a reputable source if going down this route and keep an eye out for eco-friendly certifications, like a LEED-certified property.

9. Avoid Animal-based Cruelty. We all love animals and want to see them in person, and that desire can cloud reality. When I was a kid a circus came to our small Texas town. They had elephants and tigers and trapeze artists. I rode an elephant. Would I technically want to do that again? Sure. Should and will I? Absolutely not. It’s human to want to get up close to wildlife, but avoid doing so. You’re supporting industries that abuse animals and can’t afford to take care of them. Even TripAdvisor has been taking baby steps to remove some of these animal-based entertainments from its tour lists.  Think twice and do your research beforehand.

10. Be Responsible. Don’t litter. Do recycle and compost. Every little bit helps. In the end, it’s all about consuming less. After all, we’re in this together. If you get a little guilty like me, donate a few bucks to a charity like WWF.