You’ve hopped out of the car and you’re ready to start an adventure in a brand new city. The intriguing place warmly welcomes you to explore and discover its offerings — it’s only right to respect it as if it were your own home.
Younger generations want to change the way we travel. In fact, 56% of Gen Z says they would enjoy staying in eco-friendly accommodations. They’re passionate about putting a spin on the golden rule — treat all places the way you want your home to be treated. Green travel is a hot trend you can’t skip out on. It’s rad to consider the wellbeing of Mother Earth and other cultures as part of your travel habits. Follow our extensive guide to start incorporating green travel into your itinerary.
What Is Green Travel?
Also known as “sustainable travel” or “eco-friendly travel,” green travel refers to practicing responsible and sustainable travel habits. Green travel involves staying conscious of your impact on the environment, social livelihood and economic well-being of the destinations you visit. Since traveling takes a toll on the places we explore, strive to minimize your carbon footprint and respect other cultures.
With green travel, you’ll find purpose in each milestone of your journey.
Why Is Green Travel Important?
With global travel becoming more accessible for everyone, carbon and other chemical pollution is increasing.
In a recent study covering carbon emissions, it was found that 8% of emissions is directly caused by global tourism. This number isn’t predicted to plateau — in fact, it’s predicted to increase annually by 4%. The largest contributors to carbon emissions are transportation, shopping and food — all travel practices you can change to have a positive impact.
You often hear about carbon emissions, but do you know the effects on the environment? Carbon monoxide increases greenhouse gases, which are linked to negative health effects (such as chest pain, heart disease and grogginess) and global warming. Global warming negatively impacts ecosystems, increasing storm activity and harming natural habitats as a result.
There are physical impacts of tourism as well. One major tourist activity that destroys natural habitats is cruises. There are 109 countries with coral reefs and in 90 of them, reefs are being destroyed by cruise ship anchors, sewage, tourist activities, and use of reefs in commercial sale. Reefs are important to ecosystems since they serve as breeding and feeding grounds for many marine life species. Without reefs, the livelihoods of people in entire countries would disappear since marine life (that lives off reefs’ offerings) is a staple to their country’s diets and occupations.
If you’re planning to go on a cruise, keep in mind that Caribbean cruises are estimated to produce over 70,000 tons of waste per year. Cruise ships are not required to report the waste they dump in the ocean or even require a permit to do so. Much of this waste is found in natural habitats. Not all waste decomposes, and when it rots, it releases methane gas into the air, which contributes to the greenhouse effect — making the planet hotter.
Consider alternatives to hotels when booking travel. Hotel chains are powerhouses for unnecessarily using up water, producing excessive waste and practicing business inefficiently. In some countries, guests can use 10 times as much water as a local resident daily. Plus, hotels are estimated to use 36,500 to 73,000 gallons of water per room annually.
Observing the consequences of tourism will open your mind to green travel and motivate you to think twice about your tourism habits. We highly encourage you to research the effects of your travel plans.
When Does a Company Offer Eco-Friendly Options?
Create your itinerary with eco-friendly options. If you’re not sure what to look for, don’t worry — we’ve got you covered. We’ve listed below some of the major certifications to guarantee you’re traveling green.
- LEED certification: One of the best certifications for estimating how environmentally friendly your hotel is.
- International Air Transport Association: Offers carbon offset flight options which help passengers neutralize their portion of a plane’s carbon emissions.
- Green Globe certification: Awarded to any eco-friendly business across all industries. The standard criteria must match their expectations in categories such as sustainability, as well as social, economic and environmental practices.
- Rainforest Alliance: Awarded to tourism businesses that conduct services in compliance with sustainable practices.
- EarthCheck (AUS): A similar certification to the one above, EarthCheck ensures a business is “delivering clean, safe, prosperous and healthy destinations for travelers to visit.”
- Tourism Cares: Their mission is to assist the travel industry’s social impact to help the cultures of heavily traveled destinations thrive.
- Green Seal: Provides a certification denoting that the product or service is created or conducted via safe, green practices.
Green Transportation Tips
Transportation is the number one contributor to carbon pollution while traveling. Minimize emissions by thinking twice about your transportation plans.
- Travel in groups. If you plan on meeting others, see if there is a way to travel together. You’ll use less gas while also creating memories with others. The more the merrier, for you and the planet!
- Book non-stop flights. Revving up and slowing down the engines creates the most carbon emissions.
- Rent hybrid or electric vehicles. Feel less guilty and decrease your emissions by renting an electric vehicle instead! A typical passenger vehicle emits 4.6 metric tons of carbon dioxide per year.
- Use electronic tickets. This is a win-win all around because you’ll have less to carry and you’ll produce less waste. Paper represents 16% of solid landfill waste in the US.
- Research before you travel. Educate yourself on the culture you’ll be visiting because green travel requires traveling responsibly. Treat another person’s home like your own. Research what you can do to bring a positive change to the new environment.
- Avoid traffic-filled cities. Traffic increases fuel consumption and carbon emissions. There is also increased exposure to harmful gasses for those stuck in traffic.
Tips for Practicing Green Habits at Hotels
It’s easy to pick up a vacation mentality and let go of all responsibilities. We encourage you to relax but also be mindful of how your actions affect the places you visit.
- Stay at local bed and breakfast establishments. Local hospitality produces much less waste than a hotel chain. Plus, you’ll support the local economy versus a global corporation.
- Ask the front desk about the hotel’s recycling program. Make sure you recycle properly by knowing the hotel’s recycling process. If the hotel hasn’t established a program yet, encourage them to do so.
- Bring your own toiletries. Some hotel chains throw away single-use toiletries after one guest. In case you forget to bring your own, take home the shampoo and conditioner bottles to use on your next trip.
- Leave guide books you collect for future guests. As we mentioned before, paper is a huge contributor to solid waste. If you find an interesting guide, leave it for the next guest to use.
- Stay conscious of A/C or heater use. Residential air-conditioners alone release 100 million tons of carbon dioxide per year from using up energy and releasing hot air.
- Unplug appliances when not in use. All plugged in electric appliances bleed some energy called “standby” electricity loss. This includes chargers, wireless phones, cable boxes, kitchen appliances, etc.
- Opt-out of cleaning services. Leave the “do not disturb” sign on your door. Skipping cleaning services avoids using unnecessary energy by passing on rewashing your sheets and vacuuming. Plus it cuts chemical cleansing agents that negatively impact air quality.
Water-Saving Travel Tips
Water seems to magically appear from faucets, but when you look behind the scenes, you realize the amount of energy water uses to arrive at your faucet. If your personal water usage is excessive, it affects the 663 million people who don’t have access to clean, reliable water.
- Avoid using the hotel’s laundry facilities. Hotels wash every guest’s laundry separately and a typical washer uses anywhere from 15 to 45 gallons per load.
- Stick to showers. Showers take ~17 gallons of water per use, whereas baths use a whopping 70 gallons of water.
- Hang up your towels to signal you’re reusing them. As we mentioned, hotels wash guest’s laundry separately. Signal you’re still using your towels by hanging them up. You don’t wash your towel after every shower at home, so why would it be different in a hotel?
- Carry a reusable water bottle. You won’t waste water and you’ll avoid unnecessary plastic use. 1,500 plastic bottles are discarded every second in the US.
- Only flush the toilet for business. Some of us have a bad habit of flushing tissues and other small trash items down the toilet. Flushing uses two to seven gallons of water at a time.
- When using the sink, don’t use high pressure. Avoid turning the sink knob all the way up and don’t leave it running while grooming.
- Go for seconds instead of piling up your plate. Food waste is the number one contributor to water waste in hotels. Rather than fill up your plate only to realize you’re too full, take smaller amounts and go for seconds as needed. Agriculture accounts for 70% of the water used globally.
Tips for Shopping + Eating More Sustainably
Waste affects people and the environment. Hazardous waste takes a toll on human health and exhibits ignitability, corrosivity, reactivity or toxicity towards the environment. By shopping and eating with an eco-conscious mentality, you can combat the negative effects of waste.
- Shop at local farmer’s markets. Supporting the local economy encourages gratitude for the new culture you’re visiting. This provides jobs for and feeds local residents.
- Eat at locally-sourced restaurants. You’ll be eating healthier at locally sourced restaurants and restaurants that source their ingredients responsibly use less waste in the process.
- Avoid all plastic wrappers, bags and bottles. Pack a reusable shopping bag and avoid other plastic wrappers by bringing reusable packaging. Plastic pollution affects the land, waterways and oceans. Plus, 91% of plastic isn’t recycled.
- Cook your own road trip meals. You’ll be eating cleaner for your gut and the environment by cooking for yourself. An average restaurant produces 100,000 pounds of garbage per year.
- Avoid purchasing items that are made from or tested on animals. This is immoral and takes a toll on wildlife. Look for the phrase “This product has not been tested on animals” along the product to check or research the product to double check.
- Learn what labels to look for. When shopping, spot the certifications that indicate a product was responsibly made. Research before your travels what common responsible green certifications look like in the city you’re about to visit.
Eco-Friendly Activity Tips
We recommend eco-friendly activities in nature. Being in nature has benefits such as reduced anger, fear and stress. Getting outdoors is good for Mother Nature and your mental health.
- Skip commercialized tour companies. Mass tours are usually conducted irresponsibly and without a green travel mentality. It’s estimated that only 5% of a commercialized tour company’s profit goes back to the local city. There are tours that act eco-consciously. Community-based tourism is the most sustainable.
- Be mindful when booking hands-on encounters with wild animals. Some of this industry takes part in illegal captures and doesn’t properly care for wild animals.
- Scuba dive with operators that don’t chum the water. Chumming the water involves dumping bait in the waters to attract fish — this changes the behavior of marine animals, leading them to feel sick.
- #OptOutside. Discovering the great outdoors in a new place is the best way to show your appreciation and avoid unnecessary energy and waste. Check for nearby hot springs or waterfalls to refresh your mind.
- Stay on the path. Trampling causes loss of ground cover, decrease in air and water permeability, loss of biodiversity and other negative impacts.
- Volunteer locally. Leave where you travel in a better state than when you arrived. Whether this involves assisting those in need or cleaning up the environment, you’ll leave a positive and lasting impact.
- Use eco-friendly sunscreens. Regular sunscreens contain toxic and potent chemicals that rub off when swimming, affecting ocean wildlife and natural habitats.
Certified Eco-Friendly Travel Resources
If you’re looking to book a trip soon, we encourage you to use the resources below to create your travel itinerary. You’ll do the world and yourself a favor.
- Environmental Protection Agency: Showcases a list of green hotels.
- ECOCLUB: Resource for finding ecolodges across the globe.
- Element Hotels: Worldwide eco-friendly hotel chain.
- Design Hotels: Uscale green travel hotels.
- Pack For A Purpose: Specializes in finding places you’d like to do voluntourism in.
- Good Travels Advisor: Provides you with a specialist to help you find a place you would love to volunteer for.
- B’n’Tree: One booking through B’n’Tree means one new tree planted. So far, over 77,000 trees have been planted!
- The International Ecotourism Society: Find companies that offer eco-friendly tours and trips.
- andBeyond: Responsibly adventure in a safari tour through this company.
- Responsible Travel: Eco-friendly tours worldwide.
- Ecoventura: Carbon-neutral cruises on a luxury yacht along the Galapagos Islands.
- Adventures Within Reach: Adventurous travel plans around the world.
Additional Green Travel Resources
- Sustainable Travel International
- Rainforest Alliance: What is the difference between green, eco-, and sustainable tourism?
- Impact Travel Alliance
- SmarterTraveler: 60 Green Travel Resources Every Responsible Traveler Should Know
- Green Global Travel
- Small Footprint Family: Take an Eco-Friendly Vacation – Low Impact Travel Tips
- Good Nature Travel
Remember the golden rule of green travel — treat all destinations the way you want your home to be treated. Green travel means staying conscious of your decisions on the go and acting in an environmentally, economically and socially responsible manner in the communities you visit. With tweaks to your regular travel routine, you’ll be traveling green in no time.
We hope this guide motivates you to complete your civic duty as a guest in a new city — and gives you peace of mind when renting a car in your destination.