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Eco Travel is in the spotlight more than ever in 2022. The lack of tourism over the previous 2 years has highlighted the undeniable impact that travel has on the environment. With less people moving around and most travelers staying home, polluted skies cleared and top destinations realized a reprieve from the tourist crush.
However, travel is making a massive comeback. With pent-up demand and travel restrictions loosening, it seems the tourism sector may come back even stronger than it was before.
As travelers begin booking trips again, eco-friendly tourism is a major consideration. For those who want to become better eco travelers, we are sharing our top tips for sustainable travel!
Why Eco Traveling is Essential
We live in a fascinating and marvelous world of diverse civilizations and intriguing cultures. Exploring to the far reaches of the earth is a natural curiosity – and traveling has never been more accessible than in our modern times.
The act of travel, however, can gobble up natural resources, leaving behind a rather large carbon footprint. In hard-to-reach locales, limited resources can be quickly consumed by travelers. Popular cities and natural sites can suffer from being over-touristed, trampled and mistreated.
More informed than ever, it is essential that people become more conscious about eco traveling.
How We Became Better Eco Travelers
To be honest, when we first started traveling full-time in 2014, eco travels were not top of mind. Throughout our travels, however, we have become more personally aware of the unfortunate effects of travel and it changed our outlook.
We have witnessed the beautiful beaches of Thailand strangled in trash, mountains of plastic water bottles piled up in Bali and free maps and pamphlets strewn along the most famous boulevards of Europe.
And it’s not just trash and plastic that contributes to the wastefulness of travelers. Food waste and a strain on resources are huge contributors as well. We often see full plates of unfinished meals left on restaurant tables and hear the hum of air conditioners cooling empty rooms. At airports abroad, we are left baffled by passengers who skip out on public transport in favor of a long, single-person taxi ride.
As we observe the carelessness, we vow to do better ourselves. We are, admittedly, a work in progress, but we are aiming for a higher eco-travel consciousness.
Eco-Friendly Travel Definitions
Before we jump into our list of eco travel tips, we want to cover a few of common terms often used in conjunction with ecofriendly travel. Sometimes words, like Sustainable Tourism and Eco Tourism, are used interchangeably, while they actually have different meanings.
What is Sustainable Travel?
The United Nations World Tourism Organization define Sustainable Tourism as, “Tourism that takes full account of its current and future economic, social and environmental impacts, addressing the needs of visitors, the industry, the environment and host communities.”
According to Wikipedia, a sustainable traveler should strive “to make only a positive impact on the environment, society and economy” while visiting a place.
What is Eco Tourism?
Eco Tourism – or ecotourism – is defined by The International Ecotourism Society as “responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment, sustains the well-being of the local people, and involves interpretation and education.”
Some of the benefits of ecotourism are minimizing tourist impact, building awareness, supporting local communities, providing positive experiences and improving conservation.
What Are Eco Tours?
Ecotourism companies offer small, educational tours that adhere to the principles of ecotourism. Do note, however, that some companies who offer ‘eco tours’ do not abide by the true eco tour definition so make sure to do your research!
What is Green Travel?
Green Travel is an umbrella term that can refer to both eco tourism and sustainable travel.
What is Eco Travel?
Just like Green Travel, the Eco Travel definition is broad. For many people, Eco Travel means any effort made while traveling to protect the environment.
What is an Eco Traveler?
Eco travelers are tourists who travel with a heightened awareness of and an effort to support the environment while traveling.
30 ECO TRAVEL TIPS
If you are wondering how to travel eco-friendly, you are in the right place! Our list of eco-conscious travel tips can be implemented into your next trip!
The Basics of Eco-Friendly Vacations
Eco vacations start with the most basic actions of the travelers. Taking on these few tasks will help to ensure environmentally friendly travel.
#1 Don’t Be ‘One and Done’ with Hotel Towels
Reusing towels at hotels is one of the common eco-friendly travel ideas and something we certainly practice at home and abroad. Hanging up your towel – rather than carelessly discarding it on the floor after one use – helps to cut down on the amount of water and energy used to clean it.
#2 Sleep on the Same Sheets
Likewise, your bed sheets likely don’t need to be changed if you are staying in a place for less than a week. Not only does the environment benefit from the saved water and energy, but most hotels use chemicals (like bleach and fabric softener) to clean linens, which are not eco-friendly.
To be a better eco traveler, request your sheets not to be changed – or simply hang the Do Not Disturb sign on your door and eliminate any cleaning during your stay.
#3 Take the Chill Out of the Air
One of our top eco travel tips is to always be conscious of how often you run the air conditioner in your accommodations. Of course, you always should turn off the air conditioner when you leave your accommodations. Take it a step further, and even in warm weather destinations, limit the use of the A/C on cool nights and mornings.
#4 Flip the Switch
Turning off lights when you leave a room is a good habit for anyone who is trying to be more eco friendly! When traveling, make a mental note to switch off all the lights when you leave your room.
#5 Save the Water for Swimming
Long, hot showers can eat up resources! Even if your accommodations have water-conserving showerheads and energy efficient water heaters, take a short shower (you will have more time to explore and enjoy your destination, too!).
#6 Don’t Be a Litter Bug
Litter and trash are big pet peeves of ours – and travelers are big offenders. Don’t be a beach-goer who leaves trash behind or a city explorer who lets tissues slip from their pockets or pamphlets fall from their purse. I always keep a foldable bag with me, just in case I can’t find proper trash receptacle.
#7 Invest in Eco Friendly Travel Containers
One of the best eco-friendly measures you can take is to buy reusable eco-friendly travel toiletries and containers. Assemble your own eco friendly travel kit with products made with the environment in mind.
Refillable, eco friendly travel bottles are key – and the GoToob brand makes a supreme product. Not only do the bottles have a lifetime warranty (ensuring they will last!), but they are made of BPA-free silicone.
However, you can forego the plastic tubes altogether when you opt to use shampoo and conditioner bars instead! If you go this route, make sure you invest in an eco friendly travel soap dish – like this one – too!
Environmentally friendly travel bottles are not the only toiletries for your eco travels. Another product you will want in your eco travel kit is a toothbrush – like these highly rated eco friendly travel bamboo toothbrushes.
Ladies looking to cut down on feminine hygiene products (both packing and using them on trips!) might want to consider reusable menstrual cup. The Diva Cup is widely touted as one of the best eco friendly travel accessories for women.
#8 Travel Eco Friendly by Taking Public Transport
Using public transportation is one of the best eco friendly travel habits to form! Not only does taking the train or bus help the environment, but the very act of it offers a local experience, too!
That said, biking and walking are even more environmentally friendly ways to travel. In fact, walking is our preferred method of exploring cities. We slow down a bit, wander and see things we would miss otherwise.
#9 Use the Right Protection
Did you know that most sunscreens are harmful to the environment – especially marine life? A great way to be eco friendly while traveling to the beach is to use specific sunscreen that is ocean- and reef-safe – like this one.
If you want to completely eliminate slathering on sunscreen and eliminate the negative impact, you could also consider wearing a UPF Sun Protection shirt that will keep you protected from the sun’s rays.
#10 Let the Wild Animals Be Wild
We love seeing wildlife in their natural habitat while on our travels. Monkeys in Malaysia, penguins in South Africa, bears in Montana and sea lions on the California Coast are just a few of the wild animals we have spied.
However, one of our top eco-friendly travel tips is to resist the temptation to feed the animals – even the birds in NYC’s Central Park. Feeding wild animals human food disrupts the natural environment.
Eco-Friendly Travel Products
Ecotravel isn’t just about the things you do, but also the products that you use. We have already mentioned a few of our favorite earth-friendly travel products, but there are a few more you will want to be certain to pack for your next trip.
#11 Ditch Single Use Plastics for a Reusable Travel Mug
Single use plastic water bottles are a huge problem in almost all tourist destinations – and especially so in warm climates, on islands and in developing countries. You can help keep plastic use to a minimum by bringing along an eco friendly travel mug and reusable water bottle on your trip.
Travel Mug: Eco Friendly
An eco friendly travel coffee mug is ideal for travelers who want to be kind to the environment. We like the Kleen Kanteen insulated eco travel mug and they offer a wide range of environmentally friendly beverage products.
Water Bottle for Eco Travelers
When it comes to travel water bottles, we think it is best to go collapsible. The STOJO collapsible cup is rated by many as the best eco water bottle for traveling – and they make great travel mugs as well.
Filters and Purifiers for Travelers
When traveling to places where the water isn’t potable, you can bring your own filter or purifier rather than buying single-use plastic bottles. We have used a Steripen (although we have to admit it didn’t live up to our expectations). The Lifestraw is a highly rated water purifier for travelers and backpackers, too.
#12 Don’t Forget a Reusable Shopping Bag
One of our favorite eco friendly travel products that we travel with is our cloth shopping bag. In fact, we think it is one of the eco friendly travel essentials – and we never travel without it!
Always tucked into my day pack, we use it to carry home items from the grocery store instead of opting for plastic bags, for shopping at the local produce market, as a tote for the beach and for our picnic lunches.
#13 Let The Sun Shine In
Solar power is one of the cleanest energy sources on earth. Travelers can get on board with solar energy by using backpacks with a solar charger – like this one! The eco friendly travel bags are perfect for sunny days at the beach, hiking on an epic trail or discovering a new city. The solar panel on the backpack harvests the energy – and will keep you powered throughout the day!
Eliminate Waste for More Eco Friendly Trips
When it comes to eco travel, there is no better way to be kind to Mother Earth on vacations than to cut down on consumption. We are sharing the best ways travelers can limit use of resources.
#14 Go Digital with Tickets
One way to become eco friendly while traveling is to ditch the printed tickets – and the tourism industry is on board with the idea. Most transportation tickets (airlines, trains, car rentals) can be made online with absolutely no need to print.
Furthermore, many trip activities can be purchased online too (we recommend using Viator!) – and, in many cases, it is not necessary to print tickets.
#15 Leave the Little Bottles
It’s hard to resist swiping the cute travel amenities at hotels – until you consider how much waste they create. If you want to practice environmentally friendly tourism, then don’t hoard hotel supplies. In fact, it is better to just use what you packed for your trip in your reusable bottles instead.
#16 Eat What You Order
One of our favorite aspects of travel is eating local food – and we understand how easy it is to get carried away when you want to try everything on the menu. Food waste, however, is a big strain on resources. If your goal is to have an eco trip, then only order what you can eat – and box up any leftovers for later.
#17 Skip the Freebie Free-For-All
Airports, hotels and popular sites are almost always stocked with free pamphlets – and it is tempting to grab them all and sort them out later. The problem is that most of them end up in the trash.
If you really want to travel eco friendly, think twice before snagging a free pamphlet.
At attractions – like museums and churches – the pamphlets can be extremely useful during your visit – and you should use them! However, instead of taking them with you, consider leaving the brochure behind for the next guest or using the recycle box provided.
#18 Become a Trash Hero on Your Trip
All travelers – whether participating in eco-conscious travel or not – should abide by the Leave No Trace rule. We just think it is the decent thing to do!
Eco travelers, however, can take it up a notch and become Trash Heroes by picking up trash when you come across it. In places like Thailand, for example, where trash often washes up on the beaches, we carry an extra bag to collect rubbish and glass to do our part to keep the beaches clean for everyone.
#19 Understand the Rules of Recycling
Recycling has long been associated with being eco friendly and it’s something travelers should do, too. That said, it is important to know the recycling rules where you are visiting.
In Ljubljana, Slovenia (which earned the title of European Green Capital in 2016), for instance, there are strict rules about recycling – and it is important for travelers to know which products go in which bins. On the other hand, recycling efforts are less streamlined in other countries, like Vietnam, so visitors need to be aware of what can and cannot go into recycle receptacles.
#20 Support Locals with Your Souvenir Purchases
Tourists are easily lured into buying cheap, mass-produced trinkets – but many of these souvenirs are not earth friendly or beneficial to the local community.
Instead, one of the sustainable travel tips is to help support the local community – and be a more conscious eco traveler – by purchasing souvenirs made by locals…with local products.
Eco Trip Planning
We have outlined some top tips for making your trip more eco friendly – however, the best eco trips start with the planning process.
#21 Do Your Research
One of the best ways to get on board with eco traveling is to do prior research. With diligent effort, eco travelers can specifically seek out green hotels and eco resorts. Furthermore, tourists can look for eco-friendly activities and other environmentally friendly resources in the place they are visiting if they start their research before arriving in at the destination.
#22 Unplug at Home
When we say, “Unplug at home,” we literally mean it! Before taking a big trip, make sure to unplug major power sources in your house – such as the toaster oven, microwave, TVs and sound systems – to save energy.
#23 Travel Deeper, Not Farther
One of the eco friendly ways to travel is to plan longer trips to an entire region. Not only will it cut down on your air traffic emissions, but it will allow you to discover a place more deeply.
Additionally, you don’t have to travel far at all! Start exploring your own backyard – there are likely interesting places to go in your city, state or region that you can drive to…or even take a bus or train!
#24 Choose Eco Friendly Travel Destinations
A great way to plan eco trips is to opt to visit an eco destination. We’ve already mentioned Slovenia as a top environmentally friendly city, but there are numerous eco travel destinations where visitors will notice a real effort toward the environment – like Iceland, The Netherlands, parts of Costa Rica and New Zealand.
#25 Tread Lightly on Over-Touristed Locales
Overtourism has a substantial impact on both the natural environment and local communities. In the height of the tourist season, places like Dubrovnik, Barcelona, Machu Picchu and Glacier National Park are crushed with tourists.
To plan a more eco friendly trip, travelers can visit the same destinations outside of the tourist season. In fact, we prefer visiting popular cities when there are fewer tourists, more locals and which often means lower prices as well!
To even further reduce the problem of overtourism, consider alternate destinations altogether. Visit Sibenik instead of Dubrovnik, Choquequirao instead of Machu Picchu and North Cascades National Park rather than Glacier NP.
#26 Invest in Quality Eco Traveler Luggage
When it is time to purchase new luggage, upgrade to a quality eco travel bag! Top brands for eco travel bags are Patagonia, Samsonite and Tumi. All three companies offer products made from recycled and sustainable materials.
If you are searching for an eco friendly travel backpack, we recommend going with a trusted brand like Osprey. Osprey has an All Mighty Guarantee that ensures your pack will last – plus they have a commitment to sustainable practices.
Deciding between Suitcase or Backpack? Find out which we choose – and why!
#27 Hit Up the Internet
Travel guidebooks can be fantastic resources – but do you really need to buy a book on an entire country when you are only going to one city?
Instead of purchasing a book, you can probably find the same – or better – information online. Blogs are fabulous resources for planning your next trip. Seriously, check out our Travel Destinations page and you will find in-depth travel guides for locations around the world.
If you are a paper person, consider checking out a book from the library instead of buying a paper copy. Not only is this an environmentally friendly travel tip, but it’s a good budget travel tip, too!
Want more budget travel tips? Sign up for our step-by-step Budget Travel Planning Guide (and you’ll get free budget worksheet, too!)
#28 Join Eco Friendly Tours
In your planning process, seek out ecotourism tour operators for the tours you want to take on your vacation. Many ecotourism tours focus on nature and local experiences.
That said, at the beginning of this article, when we defined ‘What is an Eco Tour,’ we cautioned to do your research before booking – and we want to emphasize that point again.
Eco travel buzzwords are being used to describe tours that do not adhere to eco friendly practices; we have experienced this firsthand. We recommend using a site, like Viator, where they offer honest customer reviews to find eco tours that fit your personal criteria.
#29 Take Ecotourism Vacations
To really immerse yourself in the best eco friendly vacations, consider booking your entire trip with one of the highly touted eco friendly travel companies.
Travel to the Galapagos with True Ecuador Travel or go on a conservation adventure with Responsible Travel. Intrepid Travel is another one of the eco travel companies that is dedicated to ‘small group travel that makes a difference.’
#30 Offset Your Travel Carbon Footprint
When posed with the question, “What is the most eco friendly way to travel?” some might say the answer is to not travel at all. We disagree. While travel – no doubt – creates carbon emissions and leaves a carbon footprint, we think travel is essential to better understanding the world.
In order to keep things in balance, travelers have options for offsetting the toll travel takes on the earth.
More Eco Friendly Air Travel
Worldwide, airlines have made big strides towards becoming more friendly toward the environment. Although all airplanes contribute a high amount of CO2 emissions, some airlines stand out for their efforts in becoming more green.
Virgin Atlantic, Air France/KLM and Alaska Airlines stand out for their green practices.
Use our tips for booking the best flights before buying tickets!
Make a Carbon Offset Donation
Flight passengers who want to do more for he environment also have an option to offset their flight carbon footprint by making a donation to a reputable environmental agency.
Gold Standard and Carbonfund.org both offer ways for travelers to calculate and donate to offset flight emissions.
Products and Eco Friendly Travel Gifts
Looking for green travel products or need ideas for eco travel gifts? In our list of eco and green travel tips, we have touched on some of the best eco travel products – like eco travel bottles – which make great travel gifts. However, we have a few more tips for products and ideas for eco friendly gifts for travelers.
Eco Friendly Travel Gear
Eco travel gear – like a solar backpack or game-changing packing cubes – make great gifts for environmentally friendly travelers! You could also consider gifting an eco travel kit of toiletries.
Eco Friendly Travel Clothing
Travel clothing brands – like prAna and Smartwool are excellent clothing options for active and eco-conscious travelers.
Eco Travel Accessories
Reusable straws and eco friendly travel utensils – like these – are fabulous accessories for travelers. Dr. Bronner’s soaps are a perfect accompaniment to eco friendly travel cutlery!
Find more eco friendly travel items in our list of Unique Travel Gifts.
We Want To Know: What would you add to our eco travel guide? Do you have any eco friendly travel tips to share? What are your best eco travel examples? Tell us in the comments!
Start planning your next trip! Search for the lowest airfares, the best accommodations and fun things to do…then start packing! Want more travel planning tips? Head over to our Travel Planning page for more information and tips on traveling – and for country-specific information, take a look at our Travel Guides page!
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