One of the unfortunate ironies of travel is that by seeing the world you end up contributing to its demise. It’s no secret that endless plane journeys, hotel stays and activities are likely to leave you with a pretty hefty carbon footprint. But, there are things that you can do while travelling that will help mitigate the problem. I’ve put together this list of ecotravel tips that will help to reduce your carbon footprint on the road.
Firstly, I’m going to start with the obvious major contributor, planes.
Air travel is one of the single biggest contributors to global warming from individuals, accounting for between 4-9% of the human impact of climate change.
1. Ecotravel starts on the plane journey
Imagine the amount of energy that is required to propel an object weighing hundreds of tonnes into the air… It’s therefore no surprise that planes burn the most fuel at take-off. When they reach higher altitudes, and begin cruising (in other words, not gaining more height), the carbon emissions drop.
So, if it’s possible to fly direct rather than have a layover, that’s one easy way to reduce your carbon footprint travelling.
However, sometimes it can work out cheaper to opt for a lay-over, especially on longer haul flights, so what else can you do? This brings me onto my next point.
Reduce your ‘unnecessary’ flights
Some longer distance journeys don’t really offer any viable alternatives to flying, but some do. If it’s possible to swap a 1 hour flight for a train or bus journey, you’ll be reducing your emissions.
As a bonus, it’s nearly always cheaper to travel by land rather than air, so your travelling budget won’t take such a hit.
Explore one place at a time
If you’re flying to a new place every week or so then you definitely aren’t going to be succeeding in ecotravel. Try to stick to a country or area for longer.
Don’t go back on yourself
This refers not just to planes, but to all forms of transport. Plan your route properly!
Plot out all of the places that you want to reach and then map a route that gets you around them all by covering the minimum number of miles. This will dramatically reduce both your carbon emissions and also the actual amount of time you have to spend moving from one place to another.
This is a tip that seems obvious, but in reality, it requires some strong planning and organisational skills. It’s very common for me to not research where I want to go next and then end up finding somewhere that I was much closer to a week ago.
Set off your carbon emissions
If you want to take ecotravel by air a step further and completely neutralise your carbon emissions, you can donate to a company or charity that works to pull carbon out of the atmosphere. A good example is the SeaGrass growing program, which invests your money into planting more seagrass in the ocean.
Seagrass is one of the best defences against global warming. They are up to 35x more effective at storing co2 than the amazon rainforest.
Alternatively, you could check to see if the airline you’re travelling with does a carbon offset program, which works in the same sort of way. This is something many big airlines such as United or Delta offer.
2. Apps to Help With Ecotravel
To some, ecotravel sounds kind of far-fetched, vague and unachievable. Even if you know what you can do, it can still be hard to know how to actually do it. That’s where ecotravel apps come in!
Use this list of apps to help make it easier for you to travel in an environmentally friendly way:
Green Travel Choice – This app is great at helping you keep an eye on your travel emissions. It works by calculating the accumulative level of your carbon emissions from all your journeys, whether that be via plane, car or anything else.
Green Globe – This app makes it easy to find eco-friendly hotels and venues around the world. They have a huge selection of hotels in many locations, all of which are rigorously checked to make sure they meet Green Globe’s high eco standards.
CityMaps2Go – You can download a complete map of the city you’re visiting from this app. This means you don’t have to buy a classic fold-out map, saving paper in the process!
3. Hotels + Accommodation
There are two parts to mastering ecotravel with regards to accommodation. First is picking the right hotel/hostel etc., second is what you do when you’re there.
Picking the right accommodation
I appreciate that this won’t always be possible, but try to stay in more eco-friendly hotels. The hardest thing that I find with this is knowing which hotels are and aren’t following sustainable practises.
The app that I mentioned in my last point will help, but on top of this you can always check the internet. If you’re going somewhere with lots of accommodation options, there are bound to be a few environmentally conscious ones.
If you’re open to different types of accommodation, then an air bnb with a kitchen could be the best option. That way, you are in control of the water and power usage during your trip, which brings me onto my next tip.
What to do in your accommodation.
These points are all fairly obvious, but still worth mentioning. If you’re in a hotel, don’t get your towels washed every day. Around 16% of a hotel’s water usage can be attributed to laundry.
Also, when you go out for the day, turn off your lights, unplug your chargers and turn off your a/c.
Simple things like cutting back on your use of hotel resources will definitely make a difference!
In many parts of the world, water is a scarce resource. It also requires a lot of energy to collect and purify the water that you drink, so don’t waste it!
Take short showers rather than baths, don’t leave the taps running when you brush your teeth.
Finally, make sure you are cutting down on the plastic water bottles you consume! This will not only reduce your water waste, but also your plastic usage. You can do this by using :
Re-usable water bottles – This is probably the easiest way you can make an impact. Get hold of a water bottle and keep it filled up rather than buying new bottles. If you are offered a free water bottle (common on planes/hotels), don’t accept it. Instead, ask them to top up your bottle!
The same goes for coffee cups, always bring your own along to Starbucks etc. You might even get a discounted drink for doing so!
TIP – If you are in a country where bottled water is important (i.e. the tap water isn’t safe to drink), then you can get a special water filter.
One of the best things that you can do for your carbon footprint is consume less animal products, particularly red meat and dairy. In fact, some studies show that just by cutting out red meat a person can reduce their carbon footprint by 50%.
This is therefore a tip that is applicable not just to travel but to all of life.
Plus, if you do this while travelling you will also benefit in two other ways:
Firstly, you will save money, as dishes without meat are nearly always cheaper. Secondly, you will be less prone to getting serious food poisoning if you’re in a place notorious for it.
If you need any proof that it works, I spent 3 months in India where I decided to be 90% vegetarian and I didn’t get ill once. On the flip side, every other traveller that I met that was eating meat had been ill… Make of it what you will, but I think there’s a correlation!
6. Hire a bike
One of the best ways to reduce your carbon footprint once you get somewhere is hire out a bicycle. It’s cheap, easy and healthy! Plus, it will mean that your local travel will be entirely carbon neutral.
It’s not just Amsterdam that’s bike friendly these days, as many cities have started embracing the bicycle as a great way to reduce pollution. It will also save you money, as usually bikes are pretty cheap and simple to rent out.
7. Eco tours and activities
These days there are lots of activities that you can get involved with anywhere in the world that aim to help the planet. Whether it’s helping restore coral reefs or planting new trees in the Amazon.
Wherever you are in the world, look out for ‘ecotourism’ activities and get involved!
Ecotravel Tips Summary
These are just some of the ways that you can help mitigate your impact on the planet from travelling. If you have any more tips that you think should be included you can send them over either in the comments or via email.
One of the founders of People of the Planet. Sharing years of experience in web design, photography and earning on the road! We created People of the Planet to provide a place for all travellers to connect, learn, publish and of course, travel!