As travelers who want to experience the world but also do what we can to protect the planet, it can sometimes seem like a tough balance to strike. After all, air travel is one of the least green methods of transportation today. Luckily, in recent years the community of travelers who want to see the world in ethical, sustainable ways has been growing, and there are some easy things you can do to lower the impact of any trip (and make it even more fulfilling in the process).
Here are seven of Journy’s favorite sustainable travel tips:
1. Keep It Local
Every traveler has, in a moment of weakness, found themselves starving and standing outside a McDonald’s or KFC in some far-flung city. But beware! Big chains and fast food aren’t just a lousy meal—they’re also one of the least environmentally-friendly options when dining out. Whenever possible, try to find restaurants that use locally-sourced ingredients (which your Journy trip designer can take care of for you). Not only will the food be fresher and taste better, but the fuel burned to get your food from farm to table will be much less.
We caught up with Gautham Dhaliwal, founder of the Conscious Adventurist, a company that plans eco-conscious adventure travel, who agrees that the benefits of eating and shopping local go beyond the environmental, and can also help the locals themselves. “They're opening their home to you,” Gautham reminds us, “the least you can do is support them economically.” And don’t forget—this isn’t just a travel tip, you can practice this at home too!
2. Fly Nonstop
If you already hate layovers, this advice won’t be too hard to hear, but it can significantly reduce your carbon footprint when traveling. Planes burn the most fuel when taking off and landing, so if you can fly from point A to point B directly, you’re doing the planet a favor and avoiding another 90 minutes in the Atlanta airport.
3. Pack Light
Ever packed an outfit (or three) you didn’t end up wearing? Don’t do it! Packing light comes with a bunch of benefits: you won’t break your back lugging a huge suitcase around, you’ll save on jet fuel by keeping the weight of the plane down, and it might mean the difference when you land between needing an expensive, gas-guzzling cab ride to your hotel and taking a greener public transit option. Wherever you’re going, aim for versatile layers you can dress up or down so you’ll be well-equipped in any weather or social situation without bringing your entire closet to Venice.
4. Use Public Transportation
Jumping off from #3, we can’t say this enough: use public transit! We know the black cabs of London are a charming symbol of the city, but trust us: they’re expensive, often slower than riding the tube and burn way more fuel while your driver takes the both of you wherever you’re going. A lot of cities offer a ton of public transit options for getting around—be it subway, bus or streetcar. It’ll make you feel like a local and keep the carbon impact of your trip low. In the last ten years, a ton of cities around the world have introduced bikeshare programs, which are a great way to explore a city in a sustainable way—we love them!
5. Do Not Disturb
More and more hotels are calling this out, but in most cases you probably don’t need your hotel room cleaned every day. Traditional housekeeping uses a ton of energy, from powering vacuums to laundering fresh sheets and towels, and can use some pretty serious chemicals to clean your room while you’re out exploring. Just put the ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign on your door when you go out to keep the environmental costs of your trip low. If you’re craving a freshly made bed, you can always leave the sign off midway through your trip for a cleaning or two.
6. Leave No Trace
Gautham from Conscious Adventurist reminds us that, when traveling to explore nature, the tried-and-true rules for responsible exploring still apply. You may have heard it in the Girl or Boy Scouts, but Leave No Trace is still the best approach when venturing through the wilderness. Leave No Trace means always keeping your impact as low as possible, including “leave what you find, be careful with fires, respect wildlife, bring your trash with you.” Leaving No Trace protects the environment you took the time to travel to, and keeps our natural world pristine for future travelers.
7. Stay On The Ground
We love seeing the whole planet, but if your last few trips have been a dozen time zones away, consider checking out a destination closer to home for your next trip. You can really minimize your carbon footprint by heading to a destination you can reach by train or on a road trip. And don’t worry, there are a ton of great cities in the US and Canada you may have overlooked when picking your next trip: San Diego is a mecca for beach fun and water sports year-round, Charleston has charm to spare and great Southern cooking and Montreal feels like a slice of Europe but is just a train ride away from New York City.
Even better, there’s a really great travel planning service that covers all of these cities and more... (hint hint). Plus, if you're not sure where to go but know you want to go somewhere...give us a call! We'd be happy to help you decide.