You can reap the rewards of helping our planet, feel like a part of the greater good as a responsible global citizen, and get to know your destination even better while doing your part to ensure it and the community that lives there will be around to inspire others for generations to come.
Here are our top five ways to travel better while making an eco-friendly impact that matters.
Seek Sustainable Places
A great way to make a difference when planning your next trip is to select a destination that is already doing a lot of the legwork for you. Decide on journeying to a place that legislates sustainable practices, has an engaged community that’s dedicated to responsible business and environmental practices and is truly committed to changing the world for the better (not just enticing tourists with empty claims of doing good).
Look for destinations with telltale signs: great public transportation systems, pedestrian- and bike-friendly areas, and lost and/or large areas of dedicated green spaces. Need some inspiration? Check out this comprehensive guide to the Top 100 Sustainable Destinations around the world with independently checked and approved locations and businesses that you can consider supporting on your next trip.
Try Voluntourism & Eco-Tourism
Volunteering and supporting local eco-friendly activities is a great way to give back while gaining a deeper understanding of and helping out the community in your destination—not to mention a great way for traveling families to teach kids about the importance of becoming responsible local and global citizens.
Projects Abroad offers a wide variety of activities you can donate a little of your vacation time toward, like wildlife conservation, youth development, community immersion, and much more.
No time to volunteer?
Pack for a Purpose helps support the sustainable development of community-based education and health initiatives around the globe by coordinating small donations of much-needed supplies brought along by generous travelers like you.
Be a Locavore
Be adventurous, and explore the unique local diversity of your destination!
Eat and drink at locally owned businesses—especially ones that support local farmers and suppliers—and avoid familiar chains, which have far-reaching distribution networks.
Buy truly special souvenirs to treasure made by local artisans and craftspeople to remember your travels rather than something mass-produced elsewhere.
Get to know local recycling rules. Look for or ask for info at your hotel, AirBnB, or visitors’ center about best practices.
Learn more about other ways you can help with environmental conservation and sustainable travel ideas at The International Eco-Tourism Society.
#3 TRAVEL ACCESSORIES
Bag it Up
Bring your own reusable bag, travel tote, or small duffel for souvenir shopping and day trips. Bonus, you’ll have something that doubles as an extra personal item for the trip home to carry all your locally crafted mementos.
Slather Reef-Safe Sunscreen
If you’re heading to the beach, do your part to protect ocean reefs and aquatic wildlife by using reef-safe sunscreen with safer ingredients that won’t contribute to coral bleaching. In some destinations, like Hawaii and Florida, it is required by law. Check the label when purchasing and avoid oxybenzone and octinoxate, or choose one from this list of 15 Reef-Safe Sunscreens from Hawaii.com.
Pack a Reusable Water Bottle
Many airports, hotels, and points of interest offer water-bottle filling stations to help reduce waste created by one-use containers. Even better, choose a reusable that’s created with the health of our planet in mind, too. See top picks (including one made from wheat plastic!) for eco-friendly water bottles at Refinery29.
Pack Like You Mean It
In addition to doing your best to pack less (more weight equals more fuel burned), there are innovations in textile technology, which make it easier than ever to help you pack green. Our Malibu Bay 2.0 collection (pictured above) features an eco-conscious dreamfel® exterior material—truly unique for its long-lasting durability, lightness, and water-resistant protection against the elements.
Hotels in the LEED
Seek out hotels with LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification. Verified by a third-party rating system, these hotels help provide numerous benefits for the environment.
Even without a LEED rating, many hotels (especially locally owned) are investing in designs and innovations to appeal to green travelers and to support their local environment and economy. For example, the Peruvian Inkaterra Hotels Collection (see them featured in our Dream Destinations story), integrates studying and nurturing the environment as a top priority on its properties; Bucuti & Tara Resort in Aruba uses exercise equipment to generate supplemental electricity for the property when in use. Find more inspiring hotels like these, which keep our environment top of mind in the Travel + Leisure Global Vision Awards for hotels.Stay-Smart Quick Tips
- Help cut down on the use of cleaning products, water, and electricity used by daily housekeeping, and leave the “Do Not Disturb” sign on your door.
- Reuse your towels. Keep them off the floor, so they aren’t picked up by housekeeping staff for daily cleaning.
- Turn off the lights, A/C, and TV when leaving your room.
- Use glass and metal cutlery for eating and drinking instead of ones made from one-use plastic.
- Step away from the small toiletries bottles. Bring your own toiletries to discourage waste of these little samples. Since the hotel will throw them away at the end of your stay, take them on your last day to donate to a local homeless shelter or charity in need.
Lessen Your Carbon Travel Footprint
Offset airplane travel with carbon miles. Take a look at Carbon Fund and Carbon Neutral, which help you make a tax-deductible donation to lessen your carbon footprint in support of their carefully vetted carbon reduction projects.
Also, book non-stop flights when you can. Take-offs and landings account for the majority of airplane emissions.
Consider traveling by rail whenever possible. It’s much more scenic and relaxing than traveling by air or by car. Plus, it’s a great way to reduce emissions and save extra money for eco-tours and locally made souvenirs.
Need a car? Seek out electric or hybrid options.
If you love (or are interested in) cruising, opt for smaller operators and sailing vessels (like one of these more eco-friendly vessel options), which offer more intimate travel groups, can access interesting locations the big guys can’t, and produce much less waste than a floating city.