It is most likely that if you are visiting TripGiraffe, you have got a soft spot for traveling. Whether it is for leisure, hobby, or a special occasion, there is just something about being far away from home, discovering new cultures and sceneries. But if you are anything like me, you want to travel while treating Planet Earth with as much respect and care as possible.
With more than a handful of different sources and many companies claiming that they have “gone green,” figuring out where to start with sustainable travel can seem self-defeating. In the hope that I can make this endeavor a little less daunting, here are 5 tips for environmentally-friendly traveling to get you started.
1) Choose a destination that cares about the environment
Now in order to do that, you’ll of course have to do your research. Sure, there are most likely some level of green initiatives going on just about everywhere, but some more than others. With a little bit of rummaging around on the internet, you’ll surely find good options. Some examples of countries that score high on the eco-friendly scale are Sweden and Costa Rica.
Need some tell-tale signs to help you discern which destinations are really as environment friendly as they claim? Pay attention to the forms of transportation they prioritize. Is biking or public transportation a popular means of getting around? Do any trustworthy environmental organizations, companies, or publications back them up, such as the Global Green Economy Index by Dual Citizen LLC or EcoWatch? Use these methods to choose a travel destination that’s already known for its sustainability efforts.
2) Stay at hotel that implements sustainability programs
This is a significant step in reducing your carbon footprint while you travel, and all you have to do is your research. Start by looking for hotels or resorts that are Energy Star or LEED certified. If they’re marked by any of these internationally recognized symbols, you know you’ll be leaving a gentle mark on the environment there yourself. Check their website to see if they implement recycling programs or towel and linen reuse programs. And if you’re skeptical about whether or not they’re as green as they claim, check for sustainability reports on their website and read reviews from other travelers. Find the right hotel and you can already be certain you’ll be making a difference.
3) Choose the most eco-friendly means of transportation possible
It’s probably a no brainer that walking is the best way to travel to harm the environment as little as possible. Of course walking to your destination is most likely not a possibility, but you can use your feet to get around during your stay as often as possible. The next best thing to walking as far as getting around while you’re out and about is biking. Not an option? Opt for public transportation, whether that means taking the local transit bus or riding the train to get from country to country.
Next in line for eco-friendly transportation is renting a hybrid or electric car, since they use little to no gas depending on which one you choose! And if you just have to fly, choose a non-stop flight and pass on first-class seating. Don’t be fooled, this should really be your last resort if you’re truly trying to make a difference as a traveler. Even so, you can make your contribution to air travel a little less detrimental by keeping these tips in mind.
4) Adopt resourceful habits inside the hotel
Make sure you’re being an environmentally-friendly traveler by creating simple habits during your stay to reduce, reuse, and recycle. For example, turn off the lights when you’re not using a room, or open the windows during the day and utilize natural light instead. Use the AC as little as possible, or at least keep it low. Reuse your towels and sheets, and recycle whatever you can. Better yet, just use a refillable water bottle instead of the plastic cups available in the room. These are all easy ways to use less energy and cause less damage to the environment, and they barely take any effort at all.
5) Care for the environment like it’s your own when out and about
We all know the golden rule: don’t litter. Since you’re already interested in greener travel, I’ll assume you’ve got that under control. Some lesser known tips that’ll help you treat your travel destination’s environment well? Avoid flushing anything but toilet paper down the toilet—no tampons, no tissues, just the good ol’ TP. It’s certainly tempting—especially if you’re the spontaneous type—but stay on clearly marked paths when out hiking. There’s a reason those untouched trails remain untouched, so you’d better stay on course. Another way to care for the environment on your trip is to eat and drink local food. That way, you’re supporting the local farming (not to mention, helping their economy) and discouraging foreign fare that has to travel from afar.
Full disclosure here—there are plenty more ways to be a more environmentally-friendly traveler, but if you need a starting point, I hope this brief list of tips will do.