If you ask someone if they care about the environment, they will almost definitely say yes. But if you ask them about what they do everyday to protect the environment, the answer might not be so clear.
Most people care about climate change and preserving our planet. In day-to-day life however, it’s easy to settle for convenience over eco-friendly choices. I consider myself a sustainable traveler yet I am guilty of buying a plastic to-go lunch instead of bringing my own container. It’s also so easy to order a coffee without thinking about that paper cup that will end up in a landfill.
Sustainable travel is about the little things – it’s about making simple choices to lessen your negative impact on the places you visit.
Here are 11 things travelers can do to ease their impact on the planet.
1. Carry a Reusable Coffee Mug
If you’re anything like me, coffee shops are a place you go almost every day. That means more than 300 paper cups used by just one person every year! To get your next caffeine fix, bring a thermos or hydroflask with you. Not only will your coffee stay hot longer but this eliminates paper waste from reaching a landfill. What is more, many coffee shops will give you a discount for being environmentally friendly. (I’m a coffee addict – check out my favorite affordable cafes in Melbourne).
2. Invest in Quality Gear
Buying a good quality backpack and other travel gear means that it will be more durable and last longer. There’s nothing worse than buying a super cheap item (that you thought was a great deal) and then it breaking after a few uses!
3. Buy Quality (or Thrifted) Clothes
Traveling sustainably doesn’t mean that you stop buying things you like. It means buying high quality items that are useful long-term. Next time you go shopping instead of buying a 5$ t-shirt at H&M (that will probably look like crap after a few washes) buy a shirt that costs a bit more. It will last longer, and the clothing company itself is probably better to it’s workers and the environment. If this isn’t in your budget or if you love vintage vibes, shop at second hand stores. Check out my favorite thrift shops in Melbourne, Australia.
4. Get Groceries at Local Markets
Instead of shopping at a supermarket chain, consider buying shopping at a local grocery store or farmers market. This will give you a better feel for local culture and foods. What is more, you will probably buy more fruits and vegetables (healthier for you) and the produce will be in season (less fuel used in transportation). It’s a win-win!
5. Spend Money on Experiences, not Stuff
Things that bring me long-term joy are generally memories of travel experiences and people I met, not things I bought. Spending money on activities instead of souvenirs is not only better for the planet but its better for my wellbeing…. and the weight of my backpack!
6. Bring a Reusable Water Bottle
Purchasing a water bottle for 10-20$ will reduce the billions of plastic bottles thrown out every year. Most places have fountains where you can refill for free, or ask a cafe to fill up your bottle for you. If you are somewhere that doesn’t have potable water, try a bottle with a built-in filter or a portable water purifier. Water purifying tablets are another easy option.
7. Move Less
Instead of trying to cover as much ground as you can in a limited time, embrace a slower pace. Staying in one destination for longer gives you more chances to explore and experience local culture. It also means you’re using less fuel and consuming less resources.
8. Move More
Instead of using a car, bus, or train to explore your destination, rent a bike or walk. Many cities have bike rental programs where you can ride for 30 minutes at a time and the fee is comparable to public transportation. It is also better for the environment, of course!
9. Rent a Hybrid Car
Rent a hybrid or economy car on your next trip instead of the bigger gas-guzzler. The extra cost is offset by the fact that you are buying less gas during the journey. Prius’s get excellent mileage, or try an electric car if charging stations are available in your country.
10. Skip Zoos, Protect Animals
We’ve all seen photos of people posing next to trained kangaroos or sedated tigers, riding elephants, or taking pictures with chained monkeys. These animals are being abused for profit and tourism. The only way to put an end to this exploitation is by not supporting these places with our money and business. Instead, visit ethical animal sanctuaries.
11. Return Maps, Brochures, and Other Tourist Info
This allows papers to be reused by future travelers, and causes less to be printed in the first place. Leave papers you no longer need at your hostel or nearby tourist center.
These small actions can make a big difference over the course of a week, a year, or even 10 years. Let’s make this world a better place by being more mindful of our actions. With simple steps as sustainable travelers, we can protect our beautiful world for generations.
How do you try to have a positive impact while you travel?
Click here for more tips on how to travel better (on a budget).