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Simple Tips to Be a More Sustainable Traveler



For some reason, it seems so easy for travelers to forget their impact on the world when they are busy exploring it. Which, frankly, is kind of crazy.

But consider this: you are on vacation in some exotic, beautiful country but you cannot drink the water - so you have to buy plastic water bottles constantly. Then, because you are in such a magical spot, you feel like you need to go on every single tour possible, including ones that involve “wild” animals (elephants, tigers, etc.) and visits to “local” villages so you can gaze at indigenous tribal members going about their day. Then after all that, you wander around the local cities and towns and barely interact with any of the local citizens or when you do it is only in your native tongue. Finally, after a wonderful week exploring that exotic location you head back home.

Sound like a quintessential fast vacation? We get it. When you are on holiday you don't want to think - you just want to relax and enjoy the fantastic country or place you are in. But what if you could do all of that and still be making a more positive change for the planet?

By making a few small changes you can go from being a run-of-the-mill vacationer, to a more sustainable traveler. Here is how.




\\ Book Flights That Are Greener

Taking a plane is one of the most common forms of transportation when it comes to travel, for there really is no quicker way to get from Point A to Point B, especially when looking at traveling to places far away and when you are on a tight schedule.

While planes do give off a ton of CO2 (carbon dioxide) - there is no denying that - thankfully, many airlines around the world are starting to make necessary changes to ensure they are doing their part to help the planet.

This includes using more environmentally friendly materials, like installing carbon fiber seats, using environmentally friendly paper for items like magazines (or just getting rid of them altogether), serving vegetarian and vegan meals, and using less single-use plastic goods (like cups, silverware, etc.). Similarly, many planes are actually beginning to switch to more eco-friendly fuel (like biofuel) and even changing the design of the planes themselves, so they have less drag - which means less fuel consumption overall.

Today, it is easier than ever for travelers to choose to fly with more eco-conscious airlines. Some of the most common are Alaska Airlines, Delta, KLM, Cathay Pacific and Flybe, just to name a few.

TIP: We book almost all of our flights on Skyscanner. Luckily, they let you know which flights are greener by notating them with a green leaf.

This is another helpful tool to ensure you are booking more eco-friendly flights.

Plane wing during pink sunset.


\\ Offset Your Carbon Emissions

Now, if you don’t have the option to book a greener flight there is still the opportunity to offset your carbon emissions from flying once you land.

There are a couple of ways to do this, including going online and paying for the amount of carbon your flight gave off. That money (usually - definitely do your research) is then used to help environmentally conscious projects around the world, including reforestation efforts, solar panel installations and even distributing more efficient cookstoves for women in Kenya.

See how much you can offset here.

\\ Walk Everywhere You Can and Take Public Transport (or Bikes!) Everywhere Else

Once you arrive at your destination you will likely have an uncontrollable urge to explore everything. Good - that is one of the great perks of travel: exploration. And one of the best ways, and one of the most eco-friendly ways, to do that exploring is on your own two feet.

Most cities are actually pretty walkable. Even ones without clear sidewalks (like Chiang Mai, Thailand) are still very easy to maneuver on your own two feet - just be prepared to maneuver around food stalls (learn more about Chiang Mai here), parked cars and the occasional tuk-tuk.

Walking around a city doesn’t just allow you to explore it more personally (a local shopkeeper won’t be able to show you his crafts if you are in a car…), but it is also a great way to combine curiosity with fitness. Plus, when you walk instead of drive you are also of course doing good for the planet.

Now we totally understand that not every city will be super walkable (here are 10 that are), and that sometimes you simply cannot walk where you need to go (it is too far, it is dark out, etc.), so instead consider taking other forms of eco-friendly focused transportation. Including, bicycles, electric scooters and even public transportation like trains and buses.

Just don’t drive everywhere. Please.

NOTE: We try to walk as much as possible when traveling, so we always have our Allbirds with us. They aren’t only super comfortable, but also super environmentally friendly!

\\ Eat Local Food As Much As Possible

This should not just be the case when you are traveling abroad, but also when you are at home. If given the chance, you should always try to eat as local (and as seasonally) as you can. Why? Because when you eat food that is grown closer to where you live, you drastically cut down on the overall carbon emissions put out to get that item to market.

Plus, isn’t the unique cuisine of the country you are visiting one of the biggest perks of traveling anyway? Why would you want to sacrifice the ability to eat delicious food, especially produce, in the place it is grown. We promise that the local mango, pineapple, and coconuts (and everything else?) tastes much better when it has come from the local farm down the road instead of off a container ship from across an ocean.

While it can sometimes be a bit nerve-wracking trying new foods, to offset that fear, try to do some research before heading out to the market so you have some idea of what each thing is. Or if you are feeling really confident, simply ask the shopkeeper what the items are and what they taste like. Expanding your horizons when it comes to food is not only more eco-conscious, but it also helps you connect so much better with the local culture overall.

Similarly, when out at dinner, if you don't know what each thing is - or where to even start - a great option is to ask the waitress what they would recommend. Because if anyone is going to know what is tasty, it will probably be the people working with it daily.

\\ Shop at Local Markets Instead of Grocery Stores (When You Can)

This very much aligns with the previous point. When you have the option while traveling to get food from either a local market or a big box grocery store, always (always) choose the market.

Yes, we know shopping in local markets can be a bit scary, a bit overwhelming. But we promise it will be worth it when you purchase a piece of fruit from the person who actually grew it in their field!

If you are hoping to connect with the culture, then shopping at the local market and buying directly from the producer is a great place to start. In many places, including our home country of the USA, the opportunity to interact with the people who actually grow the food you eat is very rare, something that research shows leads to less connection with your food overall.

So if you get the opportunity, head to the market - you won’t only walk away with delicious food, you will also likely get a better idea of the country’s culture and how regular people live. Plus, you will probably save a few bucks too.

\\ Use Reusable Containers & Bags

When out shopping, no matter where you are, you should always use reusable shopping bags instead of plastic ones. Now we know that you can’t always get away from plastic bags - trust us, we totally understand. But. When you have the option to substitute using a reusable bag instead of a plastic one, always, always go reusable.

Because consider this:

| It takes the same amount of gas to drive one mile as it does to make about 14 plastic bags.

| 1.9 million grocery bags and other plastic bags were collected in the 2018 International Coastal Cleanup.

| Plastic doesn’t biodegrade. It lasts forever. In the ocean, it breaks down and degrades into little pieces, which are then ingested by marine animals. This often kills them. In fact, these plastic-sized particles outnumber plankton 6-1.

| It is estimated that the world uses between 500 billion and 1 TRILLION plastic bags a year.

\\ Use Less Plastic Overall

But you shouldn’t just give up plastic bags. No, you should try to give up plastic altogether.

While it might sound challenging, in truth, today there are many eco-friendly options available on the market - and many of them are not any more expensive than their plastic counterparts.

Here are some great places to start:

| Switch from plastic straws to a reusable metal one. Like these.

| Use metal or bamboo utensils instead of single-use plastic. We like these.

| Reusable bags for produce instead of those clear plastic ones. These are pretty great.

| Shampoo bars (and other soap bars) instead of plastic containers. Check out these from The Earthling Co.