Earth Day is right around the corner, making it a great time of the year to show global support for environmental protection and evaluate how to make more sustainable changes to your daily life. People are making a larger effort to invest in our planet and favoring a more ethical approach to travel by protecting the world’s most vulnerable destinations. If you’re wondering how to travel sustainably, keep reading for our tips below.

5 Tips for Traveling More Sustainably

Sustainable travel focuses on reducing the negative impact that tourism can have while maximizing the benefits to local communities, cultures, and the ecosystem — both today and in the future. There are a variety of ways that you can travel more sustainably too. Here, we reveal five of the most important ones.

1. Consider Distance and Mode of Transportation

Rideshare bikes locked up at their dock.

Transport is responsible for 24% of global carbon emissions, which means the tourism industry is one of the biggest negative contributors to climate change. According to a study conducted by the UK Department of Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy, planes and cars are the least efficient mode of transport. While you might have to take a plane to your destination, consider using a train or bus to get around upon landing. Not only are these great ways to cut your emissions, but they are likely to provide fantastic scenery and can help you immerse yourself in the local culture.

If you need to use a car to travel around, an electric vehicle is a great way to cut emissions. Electric cars are also more cost-effective than vehicles that you’ll need to fill up with gas. You could even opt to travel somewhere that doesn’t require a car and explore on foot. Not only are you protecting the planet, but you’ll be protecting your wallet too, meaning you’ll have more money to spend on experiences.

It also pays to consider where you are traveling to and how far away it is. The closer your destination is, the less gas you will need and, therefore, the smaller your carbon footprint. This might not always be possible, especially if your travel bucket list is taking you around the world, but it helps to consider the total impact that your travels will have.

2. Visit Parks and Protected Areas

Two people with packs on hiking in Chile and Patagonia.

Up next on our list of tips for sustainable travel is visiting protected areas. National parks, animal sanctuaries, and protected regions rely on tourism to operate and keep the protected lands clean. They play a crucial role in protecting the environment as well as several species of animals and nature. For this reason, why not add national parks and protected areas to your wanderlust list? There are plenty of activities you can do while you’re there, and you’ll be supporting a fantastic cause.

You’ll often find the scenery is incredible in these areas. When you do visit, make sure you abide by a “leave no trace” policy and take any rubbish away with you. Plastic pollution and litter are a huge global issue, particularly harmful to animals and plants.

3. Avoid Single-Use Plastics, Even While Traveling

A disembodied hand holding boxed water.

Every day, eight million pieces of plastic enter our ocean. This can threaten water quality, damage marine food sources, and even kill animals — some of which are already on the brink of extinction. One of the most common types of plastic being discarded is single-use beverage bottles. A solution to this is taking your own reusable water bottle when you’re out and about. There are plenty with built-in water purification systems if you’re worried about water quality, plus many facilities — including airports — have water refill stations.

You can also save on plastic bottles by reusing travel-size toiletry containers. Simply wash them out when you’re done and keep the bottle for your next eco-conscious travel trip. It’s also more cost-efficient, as you only have to buy large toiletries once and can fill up your mini toiletries when you need to. Even better: switch to shampoo and soap bars to reduce your plastic use even further.

4. Slow Down

A man with his hoodie up staring at some glaciers.

With so many places to see and activities to tick off your list all over the world, it’s easy to want to cram as much into your itinerary as possible. But if you try to do everything, you likely won’t have enough time to really explore each destination properly. Instead of taking lots of trips in a given year, why not consider one longer vacation and really get to know a place and its culture?

Being in a rush will tempt you to hail taxis or hire your own car during your travel. Slow down and give yourself more time to explore a destination. When you do, you’ll be able to immerse yourself in the local culture and community and uncover hidden gems. By staying in one place and not using planes or cars as often, you’ll also be reducing your carbon footprint.

5. Be Mindful of Greenwashing

A girl sitting on the ground looking at her computer.

During the planning stage of your next trip, consider if the companies, services, or products you intend to use are actually eco-friendly. Be on the lookout for organizations that will deceptively persuade tourists that their services and products are environmentally friendly. It’s so common that there’s a name for it: greenwashing. There are a few ways to spot it. Look into a company, how it was founded, what they stand for, and whether they can evidence the good they’re doing.

Don’t be distracted by too much “green,” beautiful images of the environment, and be wary of buzzwords. Spend some time researching to see if they have industry accreditations and look at recent reviews to see if other eco-tourists have spotted any areas of concern.

Choose Sustainable Accommodations

A tropical destination with thatched roofs and aquamarine water.

Your itinerary isn’t the only important part of environmentally friendly travel. After a day of exploring, you also need somewhere to rest your head, and this is another area where you can make small changes to become more eco-friendly.

During your search for rentals, look for accommodation that evidences actionable steps that they do good for the planet. Some questions to ask while shopping around include:

  • Do they recycle?
  • What type of energy is in place?
  • Is the food locally sourced?
  • Are they part of any eco-tourism boards?
  • Do they have any eco-friendly accreditations?
  • Are there water-efficient showers or toilets?

Once you’ve got a shortlist of properties, it’s wise to look at recent reviews too. To help you out, we’ve listed some sustainable properties we love below.

Hotel Terrestre in Oaxaca

Beachfront accommodations with rooms starting from just $60 per night, this five-star hotel has a pool, terrace, and garden. It’s also doing its bit for the planet with the availability of recycling bins, water-efficient showers, and 100% renewable electricity. All food on the menu is locally sourced too!

Refugios Outscape Fuy in Río Negro Province

Pet-friendly and boasting a hot tub and spa area, these lodges are the perfect home base for exploring Río Negro Province. The site doesn’t use any single-use plastics and most of the lighting is energy-efficient or LED. Guests are also encouraged to use the recycling bins.

Ecocamp in Patagonia

These luxury domes boast incredible views of Torres del Paine National Park. A percentage of their revenue goes directly back to the community and local sustainability projects. In addition to this, the water is recycled, you won’t find single-use plastics anywhere, the electricity is 100% renewable, and you’ll find recycling bins dotted around.

Eco-Friendly Packing List

Young man packing travel bag for summer vacation.

Everything has an impact on the environment — no matter how small it might be. You can use the following eco-friendly packing tips to travel with the peace of mind that you’re doing your part to help the planet.

  • Reusable water bottle. It’s estimated that in 2050, there will be more plastic in the sea than fish. By moving away from single-use plastics and reusing your own water bottle, you can make a big difference. Choose one with a built-in water purifier and refill as you go.
  • Reef-safe sunscreen. Sunscreen is essential for our skin health, but did you know that some types of sunscreen contain oxybenzone, which affects the DNA of young coral? Switch to sunscreen made from titanium oxide or zinc oxide to protect your skin and marine life at the same time.
  • Eco-friendly soap and shampoo. You can reduce your use of single-use plastics with a little more awareness when you shop for toiletries like shampoo bars and soap bars. Buy solids — they are zero waste and last much longer than liquid alternatives. You won’t need to worry about any spillage in your bag either.
  • Toothpaste tabs. Plastic-free and zero-waste toothpaste tabs are much more eco-friendly than their standard tube counterparts. And they’re just as effective — simply chew a tablet and brush your teeth as normal. Lastly, these can save space in your bag!
  • Natural insect repellent. Traditional insect repellents contain DEET — a chemical compound that’s not only bad for the environment but has been shown to irritate some skin too. Instead, switch to an all-natural repellent that’s packed with essential oils proven to do the job.
  • Reusable bag. Plastic bags, alongside plastic bottles, are one of the biggest threats to our oceans. You can play your part in protecting the planet with a plastic-free reusable tote bag, which is a great multi-purpose option for going to the beach or supermarket. You can even wash them if they get a little dirty during your travels!

Plan Your Next Eco-Friendly Trip

Eco-friendly travel doesn’t have to be difficult. Use our tips on effective ways to travel sustainably to make your life easier. Book your next trip with VacationRenter and experience the best destinations around the world safe in the knowledge that you’re playing your part to reduce the impact of travel on the planet. Our search engine gives you sustainable accommodation options based on your budget and travel preferences.