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 responsibly and sustainably. Follow our suggestions for eco-friendly traveling, so you can be aware of your impact and help make a difference on your next trip.
Hang up your towel
Save water at your hotel by opting to reuse 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.
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 under-served 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!
Book eco-friendly excursions
In simple terms, ecotourism is responsible travel that helps conserve the environment and the well-being of the local population in the area you’re traveling to. From island-hopping in the Galapagos Islands to exploring the rain forests in Costa Rica, eco tours offer an in-depth look at the fragile environment of your destination and will give you a new appreciation for the local culture and wildlife.
Your ecotourism can start before you even take off. As you plan your trip, consider using Ecosia as you surf the web. This free browser extension works just like Google and donates up to 80% of its profits to plant trees where they are needed most.
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.
The World Wildlife Federation also offers this quick quiz to help identify real ivory versus harmless artificial products. Take it before you leave so you can be on the lookout. And when in doubt, just don’t buy it.
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. Follow these simple tips to ensure you leave the area just as you found it:
- Leave what you find
- Travel on durable or well-marked surfaces
- Dispose of waste properly
- Respect wildlife
- Be considerate of other visitors
Get your home squared away while you’re away
Responsible habits start at home, so before heading to the airport, do a quick check to make sure you are reducing your energy consumption while you’re away. Follow this quick checklist to make sure you are aren’t wasting energy while you’re away:
- Adjust your furnace and air conditioner. Your home doesn’t need to be comfortably warm or cool if nobody is going to be there. Set the temperature higher or lower (depending on the season)—just make sure your home is warm enough so the pipes don’t freeze if the temps are expected to be below freezing.
- Unplug your devices. You probably know to unplug accessories like your hair dryer, but anything that is plugged in still uses energy, even if it’s turned off. Take it a step further and unplug your coffee maker, toaster, table lamps, and desktop computer. If you’re going to be traveling for a long time, you can even unplug your fridge (just be sure to clean it out first!)
- Speaking of refrigerators, adjust the temperature on that, too. If you won’t be opening and closing the door, your food will be just fine sitting in a warmer fridge. Select the highest setting before heading out.
- Turn off your water heater. You won’t be taking any showers if you’re not home, and leaving it on wastes a lot of energy. If you have an electric version, turn it off at the breaker. If your water heater is gas, just switch it to the pilot setting.
Responsible travel is an essential step in helping to keep our planet healthy. Do your part by following these simple tips, and let PlacePass help you plan your next trip with the perfect itinerary of activities and excursions.