Sustainable Travel Doesn’t Have to Be Difficult with these Tips

Traveling sustainably is actually quite attainable, and it doesn’t have to cost a fortune!

Man rides his bike as a form of transportation to continue his sustainable travel.

Making a commitment to become as sustainable as you can be is quite a major task. There are a lot of things you have to adjust and change in your day to day life. But what happens when you need to travel? Traveling is oftentimes unsustainable with purchasing water bottles, renting cars, and buying travel size toiletries. However, it doesn’t have to be difficult, or expensive! There are easy ways that you can make your traveling experience as sustainable as possible!

The best tips for sustainable travel are broken down into:

  • Traveling to Your Destination Sustainably
  • Traveling Sustainably within Your Destination
  • Maintaining Sustainable Practices on Your Trip
Airplanes are not the most sustainable ways to travel, but they can be offset.
While it may not be the most sustainable option, there are ways to offset your carbon footprint when you opt to fly!

Traveling to Your Destination Sustainably

Half the battle is being able to find a sustainable way to make it to your location!

The most difficult part about trying to travel sustainably is figuring out how you are going to travel to your chosen destination. While there aren’t exactly sustainable ways of traveling, you are able to make choices that are more sustainable.

Travel Locally, If Possible: When you are first looking to travel, it is best to look at places that you can travel to that are close to where you live. If you choose somewhere that you live by, you will be able to easily drive there, thus eliminating your need to fly. It will also be better for the environment if you are driving only twenty minutes to your destination, rather than five or six hours. So, not only will you be avoiding flying, you will be emitting as few emissions as possible.

Look Into Carbon Offset: Carbon offset is essentially a way for those traveling via airplane to pay the difference of the carbon emissions from their airplane journey. So, if you have no other choice but to fly in an airplane, it could be a good idea to look into different carbon offsetting options. Of course, keep in mind that carbon offsetting can be quite expensive, so prepare for that when making your travel budget!

People walk and bike as a form of transportation for their travels.
Biking and walking are the most sustainable ways that you are able to travel throughout your destination!

Traveling Sustainably within Your Destination

Once you get to your destination, you still have to get to different sights and such. How can you do so sustainably?

The best part of any vacation or trip is being able to visit all of the sights that the location offers. Unfortunately, most travel destinations will not have their sights lined up right outside your hotel room, meaning at some point you’re going to need some form of transportation to get you where you want to go.

Walking Everywhere: If you and your travel companions are able to endure a large amount of walking, it is going to be the most sustainable option you have for your trip! If you do choose to walk, be sure to leave plenty of time to make it to your destination if you are on any sort of schedule. What may look like a short ten minute walk on the map, may end up being an hour long journey.

This is also a great option if you aren’t going to need a car or to travel far if you are going on a business trip and will be in your hotel most of your stay. Utilizing public transit or a ride share service to get to and from the airport is a great alternative if needed. Sometimes hotels even offer shuttle service to and from the airport!

Keep in mind that this option is not going to be entirely possible for every travel destination. If you are planning on utilizing walking as your main form of transportation, be sure to look into the destination before arriving to ensure it is a feasible option.

Bikes and Scooters: Depending on where you are going, using a bike as your main form of transportation could be the best idea! Bikes are ideal for places that are a bit too spread out for walking, but still close enough to not need a car. You can also check for an extensive guide on choosing the perfect bike for you

Nowadays, a lot of cities have electric scooters scattered throughout the streets as an alternate transportation option. This is certainly a sustainable alternative to renting a car or public transportation for your travels! Keep in mind that they do cost money and that anyone is able to use them, so don’t rely on them too much! Most scooter systems have an app that allows you to see where the nearest scooters are to you.

Both bikes and scooters are great, sustainable forms of transportation. Especially for those that may not be able to endure hours of walking everyday, or need a quicker alternative to walking.

Public Transportation: Of course, never forget about public transportation. While the transit itself may not be the most sustainable, most of the time it will be more environmentally friendly to take advantage of the public transportation instead of adding emissions to the air with your own car.

If you plan to utilize public transportation for your trip, be sure to plan ahead and do your research. Every city’s public transportation system is very different from one another. So, be sure to look into how it operates, how often the bus, subway, or train comes, and how long it will take to get to your destination.

Renting Environmentally Friendly Cars: If you have no option or choice as to whether or not you can rent a car, there are still ways you can make sure your car is environmentally friendly!

The first option you have is to opt for an electric or hybrid car. Electric cars are entirely powered by electricity, while hybrid cars use alternatives to gasoline. Both options limit the amount of emissions going into the air. So, if you do not want to get a traditional car, these are great alternatives to use. It could even give you the chance to test drive an electric car before purchasing one for yourself!

If it’s not possible for you to get an electric or hybrid car for your vacation, what you are going to want to look for is a car with a high mpg, or miles per gallon. This number indicates how many miles you can drive on one gallon of gas. The further you can drive, the better. This allows the car to use less gas, and thus having fewer emissions. If none of that makes sense to you, don’t worry! You can always look up eco-friendly vehicles and use what you find as a starting point to see what cars are offered where you are going.

While looking at electric and eco-friendly vehicles is great for those following sustainable practices, also keep in mind that they can be on the expensive side. So, if you are planning on choosing this alternative, make room in your travel budget accordingly.

Reusable bags being used in order to travel more sustainably.
Bringing your own reusable bags is a great way to maintain your sustainable practices while traveling. Even better if you are able to shop locally!

Maintaining Sustainable Practices on Your Trip

By bringing your sustainable practices from home, you might not notice a difference between being home and on vacation!

The idea of traveling and going on vacation is really exciting, as you are able to explore somewhere or just be somewhere that is not your home. However, with that, many feel that they are unable to bring their sustainable practices from home into their trip. That’s not necessarily true, though.

Bring Your Reusables from Home: Chances are if you are sustainably conscious, you already have a reusable water, reusable bags, and even reusable silverware at home! Just because you use these items at home does not mean you can’t bring these items on vacation with you.

By bringing your own reusable water bottle, you can avoid purchasing plastic water bottles, saving both money and the environment! The same goes for plastic bags, there is no point in collecting a ton of plastic bags while on vacation if you have a stash of reusable bags at home.

Avoid Buying Toiletries: For some reason, brands believe it is necessary to sell smaller bottles of their products. Whether it’s shampoo, body wash, or shaving cream, you can find it in a “travel” size. However, bringing these items in a travel size is only necessary if you are flying on an airplane. If you are able to check your bag or are driving, you might as well bring your full size bottles of body wash and shampoo. That way, you also won’t be wasting the hotel's supplies, which also tend to be in a “travel” size.

If you are traveling on an airplane and aren’t able to check a bag, there are reusable bottles that you can find that are in the travel size. By using these, you are able to fill them with the stuff you have at home and can reuse them for multiple trips!

While there is no way for your travels to be entirely sustainable, there are plenty of things that you are able to control while you are traveling! While this is not a complete list of sustainable options for your travels, hopefully you now have a few ideas as to how you can make your next vacation or business trip more sustainable!

Dean Pinnell

Dean Pinnell is a senior at the University of Pittsburgh studying Communication and Fiction Writing.
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