6 tips for traveling sustainably

Let’s face it: high airfare and gas prices aren’t exactly making traveling any easier right now. And the greenhouse gases that come out of those transportation methods aren’t particularly good, either. Commercial air travel represents approximately 4 percent of carbon emissions only in the United States. For those who love to see the world, giving up airtime can be difficult. But you can travel a little more sustainably with the following strategies.

Sure, driving in your own car is convenient. But, on average, each individual vehicle release about 1 pound of CO2 per mile. Public transportation like trains and buses reduces carbon output by up to 45 percent. Having fewer private cars on the road should also reduce traffic and contribute to better air quality. Also, buying a bus ticket is often cheaper than splurging on a private rental or paying for your own gas.

If you have to fly somewhere, choose a carbon-friendly airline. The airlines of the International Air Transport Association offer carbon offset programs take sustainable tourism into account. Many airlines even show how they are offsetting emissions at the time of booking.

Tourists walking in Rome, Italy.

Tourists walking in Rome, Italy. /Giorgio Cosulich de Pecine/GettyImages

If you can, consider walking instead of driving while exploring your vacation destination. Walking (or cycling) is more environmentally friendly, good for your health, and a great way to take in the sights while fully immersing yourself in the local environment.

It’s really convenient to have a quick coffee or a bottle of water on the go. But once you finish your drink, you’re left with plastic waste that ends up in a landfill. In 2015, 730,000 tons of single-use plastic they were made in the US, and only 13 percent of that was successfully recycled. Single-use plastics rely heavily on fossil fuels, one of the main contributors to greenhouse gas emissions. Some estimates suggest that fossil fuels in the plastics industry contribute to greenhouse gas emissions. 12.5–1.5 million metric tons of greenhouse gases.

Bring a reusable water bottle or coffee mug with you on the go (some places may even offer a discount for using your own mug). And if you plan to pack toiletries, opt for a few which are zero waste.

Retro motel room interior

Closing the shades can help keep the room energy efficient. /Aladdin Color Inc/GettyImages

While you’re on the go, consider using solar chargers to keep your devices powered up. You can also conserve water by taking shorter showers and asking hotels not to change your sheets and towels as often.

Be sure to turn off or reduce the air conditioning or heating while you explore; keeping the curtains closed during the day will help your accommodation maintain a more comfortable temperature. What about those tourism brochures that most people take and then throw away? Please try to return them after you have examined them.

Make sure your house is too as energy efficient as possible while you’re away. Unplug all unnecessary devices, adjust the thermostat, and put the lights on a timer so they aren’t on all the time.

While it’s good to keep the environment in mind while traveling, it’s also important to be aware of your local impact. According to the world tourism organizationFor every $100 spent on tourism, only $5 benefits locals. Whenever possible, consider seeking out local guides or homestays. This allows you to learn about the community while giving your money directly to those who would benefit the most. Be sure to shop for handmade souvenirs and gifts, and eat local food too!

person canoeing on a lake at sunrise

A quiet, low-impact experience. /Christopher Furlong/GettyImages

Some types of travel generate higher levels of greenhouse gases than others. When you’re getting ready to choose your travel destination and activities, consider opting for a low-impact option. You can choose to go canoeing or camping, or head to a location closer to home. You can also book eco-conscious guides who prioritize protecting the environment and supporting local communities.

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