Biking to work and walking to the grocery store are great ways to lessen your impact on our environment, but what about when you have to go a bit farther? We all know how awful travel can be, but sometimes it may be inevitable and it’s an important way to connect with the world at large on a deeper level. Fortunately, with a little extra effort there are ways to reduce your environmental impact when you travel.
Practice Greener Travel for a Healthier Planet
Eco-Friendly Flight Options
There’s no question that traditional air travel has a huge cost to our environment. But there are times when it may be unavoidable. Fortunately, there are ways to lessen your impact.
Choose a Newer Plane – Advances in aircraft design over the past several decades can mean huge differences in fuel consumption. Some of the most fuel efficient planes include the Airbus A320neo, Airbus A3250 XWB, Airbus A380, Boeing B787-800 Dreamliner, Boeing B737 MAX, and Boeing 747-8 Intercontinental. Do your research before you book and try to get a flight on a newer airplane, if at all possible.
Fly NonStop When Sensible – In addition to being quicker and more convenient for the traveler, nonstop flights burn less fuel than two shorter flights. That’s because the fuel burned for climb and descent is much more than the fuel burned in the air. There is an exception, however. Long haul flights have to carry more fuel because of the distance of the flight. The added weight affects fuel burn in the air. For example, flights beyond 3,000 nautical miles on a Boeing 777-300 begin to consume more fuel than two shorter flights to cover the same distance.
Compare Emissions with FlyGreen – This flight search engine can help you find and book tickets. But even if you don’t book through them, you can use their search engine to compare the CO2 emissions of different flights. They also offer carbon offset purchases that plant trees, fund solar power initiatives, and otherwise help the planet.
Eco-Friendly Hotel Options
In almost every major city around the world, you’ll find selected hotels that have been certified as eco-friendly. Certification programs like Green Key Global and Green Globe International ensure that these properties are using the best environmentally responsible practices for a minimal impact on the world around them. Most are run on renewable energy, use green cleaning products and practices, and may offer options like not having your sheets and towels washed every day in order to further reduce your impact. Be sure to consider these properties whenever you’re spending a night away from home. If you can’t find a certified hotel, look for a small, independently run property or a B&B as these are often more environmentally friendly than their big chain competitors.
Walk, Bike, Ride
It’s easy to think you need to rent a car to get around in a new city, but do you really? If you’re used to using public transit, biking, and walking at home, you can do the same in most destinations. Before you travel, spend some time getting to know the transit system in your destination. Or see where you can rent a bicycle for local use. There’s no need to throw your values out the window just because you’re in a new place.
Consider Volunteering Abroad
If you want to see the world without destroying it, and don’t have a fortune to spend, volunteer tourism might just be the answer. Companies like International Volunteer HQ, GVI, and Maximo Nivel offer programs to protect wildlife, forests, marine biomes, and plenty of other earth-friendly initiatives. Do be careful, though, and be sure to do your research. Some of these programs end up doing more harm than good for the local ecosystem.
Choose a Sustainable Vacation
Tourist hot spots tend to be devastating to local ecosystems. We take some of the most beautiful places in the world and pave them over, build on them, and erect ghastly billboards. Surely there are better options! Here are a few of our favorites to consider for for your next getaway.
Great Bear Rainforest in Canada – A thriving and biodiverse ecosystem located north of the border, Great Bear offers adventures galore. Stay at local lodges like Nimmo Bay, which features a water-powered electrical system, hydroxyl waste management, and supports investments in local carbon reduction and conservation projects.
Mamirauá in Brazil – This sustainable development reserve covers over 2 million acres deep in the Amazonian jungle. Originally founded as an ecological station aiming to protect the uacari-white monkey, and have since only broadened their goals. It’s regarded by Lonely Planet as “one of the Amazon’s best ecotourism operations”.
Tierra Atacama in Chile – This lodge in the northern deserts of Chile houses its own solar energy plant and their own onsite water treatment plant, used to treat greywater for irrigation of their recovered terrain gardens which are home to plenty of local birds and other wildlife.
Eco-Friendly Travel Sites
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Eat Local
No matter what type of travel you’re planning, remember to do the simple things you do at home. Reduce waste. Choose locally produced food when possible. Recycle. Reduce your energy consumption. And most of all, enjoy getting acquainted with this big, beautiful planet in new and exciting ways!
To better understand CO2 emissions generated by various activities and how to offset them, see our carbon emissions calculator.