Trying to travel responsibly? No matter where you’re headed, your trip has an impact. Carbon emissions may be the most well-known offender, but the truth is, travelers also affect local environments, economies, and communities in a variety of ways.
Fortunately, there are many simple steps you can take to travel more responsibly and sustainably. Follow our suggestions to be aware of your impact and help make a difference on your next trip.
Respect local customs
Do your homework before departure to ensure your behavior doesn’t offend local sensibilities and customs. Depending on your destination, this may mean dressing appropriately for religious sites, avoiding eating with your left hand, or being sensitive to rude gestures. It’s worth learning a few local phrases, too – you’ll have a more pleasant, authentic experience and find it easier to build rapport with locals.
Did you know carbon emissions peak during takeoff and landing? Reduce your footprint by booking direct flights when possible.
Check out the footprint of your itinerary on the UN/ICAO Carbon Emissions Calculator, or on your airline’s website. Many airlines also enable travelers to buy carbon offsets with their tickets.
Think before you snap a photo
In pursuit of the perfect selfie? Make sure your photo-op isn’t disruptive to the local environment. Don’t step outside designated visitor areas at monuments or historic ruins, you can damage sensitive sites. Never approach wild animals; you can endanger them and yourself. And it’s best to ask permission before taking photos of locals. Unsure what’s appropriate? Just put the phone down and savor the moment without the lens! Chances are, that Instagram celeb has a better photo anyway.
Ditch the one-use water bottle
It requires an incredible amount of fossil fuels to make plastic water bottles, and most of them end up in landfills or in the ocean. Ditch your plastic bottle in favor of a reusable option made by socially-conscious companies such as S’well, Platypus, or Klean Kanteen. Worried about water safety? Bring a portable purifier or filter.
Support local businesses
Make sure your money stays in-destination as much as possible. Shop in local boutiques, consume locally-produced food and drink, stay in locally-managed hotels, and choose tour activities run or managed by local operators. In many destinations, you can now buy souvenirs and crafts from socially responsible companies that utilize profits to support underserved populations. Some of our favorites include Artisans d’Angkor in Cambodia, Tribal Textiles in Zambia, and Fabindia in Delhi. Bring home something that will make you proud!
Hang up your towel
Save water at your hotel by opting to hang up your towel, rather than having it laundered and replaced daily. Most leading hotel brands offer this option now, and many will reward you for your eco-conscious choice with extra loyalty points or a discount at the bar.
Avoid endangered or illegal products
We know you’re not planning to smuggle ivory – just make sure you don’t inadvertently contribute to the problem. Ask a local guide or research before you go to identify at-risk or illegal products to avoid.
Be smart about how you give or volunteer
Want to donate to the local community? Find a reputable organization through a source such as Charity Navigator or Guidestar. If you’re planning to volunteer in-destination, make sure you are working with an ethical, well-run organization that has taken steps to harness the benefits and mitigate the impact of short-term voluntourism.
Leave no trace
The classic camping maxim applies on the road, too. Leave what you find, travel on durable or well-marked surfaces, dispose of waste properly, respect wildlife, and be considerate of other visitors.
Get your home squared away while you’re away
Did you turn off the lights? Turn down the heat? Unplug your devices? Before heading to the airport, do a quick check to make sure you are reducing your energy consumption while you’re away. After all, responsible habits start at home.