Sustainable Travel - Where, When & How

~ Take only memories, leave only footprints

By Katie Pierce

October 22 2022

So you want to go out there and see the world, but you also want to be more sustainable and eco-conscious of your travel decisions. Worry not! It's not as hard or as restricting as you think.  

You don't have to sacrifice your dreams of experiencing new places to lower your environmental impact.

Read on to learn how you can get your travel fix while still doing your part for the planet.

What is Sustainable Travelling? 

Sustainable travelling is when you consider your trip's economic, social, and environmental impact. You make smarter choices in different aspects of your trip.

So not only are you seeking out great local experiences, but you're also more deliberate on how you can channel your tourist money to support the local community best. 

Planning your trip takes a bit more effort and thought, but it does leave a more positive impact wherever you go.

Where to Travel Sustainably 

  • Consider the distance

Generally, short-distance trips have a lower carbon footprint than long-distance ones. But that doesn't mean your options are limited. For example, you can still travel to some far-off lands and still do it sustainably. 

  • Finding local adventures 

If you want to have a go at solo travelling, going off with local adventures is a great way to start. 

You may be surprised at just how many places you have yet to explore in your area. A few hours' car drive, bus, or train trip could bring you to a beach, forest, or even a different town or city.

Don't overlook the excitement of travelling around your area. There is just as much fun and adventure to experience. 

  • Choosing your destination 

But what if you're just itching to leave your city for something new and exciting? Consider looking into sustainable destinations where you can leave as light of a footprint as possible. 

Plenty of beautiful cities and towns are committed to protecting their national resources and managing their tourism efforts sustainably. They might not be the most popular destinations, but they are great hidden travel gems!

If you decide to go to more popular tourist destinations, be mindful of how you spend your time and money in that area. Find local activities that give back to the community rather than falling for tourist traps. 

  • Strategic Itinerary

If you're going on a longer trip, be strategic with your itinerary. Take into account where you're going and how you'll get there. Is it possible to take a bus or a train instead of flying? How long will you be in each area? Are there any destinations in between that are worth exploring? 

When to Travel Sustainably

  • Travelling in off-peak seasons 

Overtourism has been one of the main concerns of many popular travel destinations. The environmental impact left by tourists in destinations with heavy tourist traffic is jarring, and the effects of no tourism during the pandemic made that very clear.  

Besides going to more under-the-radar destinations, consider travelling outside vacation or holiday seasons. Not only will there be fewer tourists during this time of the year, but you'll also be able to support local businesses that may struggle outside peak season. 

  • Choosing non-stop flights when they're available 

Though non-stop flights may not be the most budget-friendly option, they produce fewer carbon emissions than connecting flights. 

Much of the carbon emissions of flights come from take-offs and landings. So by skipping the airport-hopping flights, your trip is slightly more sustainable. 

How to Travel Sustainably

  • Always do your research 

While it may seem fun to be spontaneous with your adventure, researching allows you to be more mindful of how you're spending your time and money. 

Research your destination and other potential destinations and how you can travel there sustainably. Look up eco-conscious accommodations and activities. Learn as much as you can about the culture, the community, and how you can leave a positive or at least neutral impact as a tourist. 

  • Book your trips with an airline investing in biofuels 

Making sustainable choices also means being deliberate about where your money goes. Support businesses that actively invest in sustainability, like flying with airlines that invest in clean biofuel technology. 

  • Travelling by bus or train whenever possible 

If you have the opportunity to fly less, take it. For example, you can take a long plane trip to Portugal; from there, you can take a bus or train to other parts of Europe. Land trips are generally cheaper, have fewer carbon emissions, and you get to enjoy scenic routes. 

  • Support local communities and organizations

 Go to artisans' showrooms and purchase your souvenirs from there. Then, take local tours that involve going to different local businesses and communities. Not only will it be educational, but you're directly contributing to their economy. 

Be sure to choose your community and animal experiences carefully. Some of these activities may actually be harmful or exploitative, so do your research. 

  • Choose eco-conscious businesses 

Whenever possible, opt for eco-conscious accommodations and other businesses. The hospitality and tourism industry is shifting towards more sustainable business models. Supporting these businesses can help make other companies follow suit. 

  • Don't forget your eco-conscious practices

Your eco-friendly lifestyle should follow you wherever you go. 

While your packing list should include some eye drops to prevent dry eyes and your toiletries to protect your skin with natural skincare, remember to include reusable items. Items like cutlery, straw, water bottle, and food containers are great things to have to avoid single-use plastics. 

Final Thoughts

Planning a sustainable trip requires more planning, but it isn't that difficult. Not only will you be able to explore all these new places, but you'll be able to do it with as little carbon footprint as possible and with more positive social and economic impact too!