Practical tips for more sustainable travel

A man staring up at tropical forest with the sun hitting the tops of the trees and a path ahead.

There is no denying that air travel and tourism has a significant contribution to our global ecological footprint. Nowadays there is mounting focus on how to be more conscious when travelling to offset the impact of our adventures. When travelling we have the same responsibility to act in a sustainable manner that we have in our own local communities and I would argue even more so as we are guests in someone else’s home. Here are some practical tips I have collected during my years of wandering which I follow to try and be a more sustainable traveller when packing and during my visits abroad.

6 tips for sustainable packing

Use refillable toiletries and/or bar soaps

Use refillable containers for all your toiletries to avoid buying and chucking toiletries with unsustainable packaging that aren’t finished when abroad. If you do buy toiletries, leave your unfinished toiletries in a hostel with a note that they are free for use. If you want to go the extra mile, invest in bar soaps and shampoos to avoid plastic packaging as well as liquid restrictions on hand luggage.

Pack a microfibre towel

If using towels provided by your accommodation, follow instructions to avoid them being washed more than necessary. Go one step further by bringing a microfibre towel (which are super light and take up minimal space) that you can use at your various locations.

Bring your refillable bottle and reusable carrier bag

Pack your refillable bottle and fill with boiled water if you are somewhere where tap water isn’t potable. If you have a light and collapsable cup and like your coffee, bring this along too! Particularly in markets many vendors will give you your goodies to take away in plastic bags, bring your reusable bag with you everywhere so you have it to hand whenever you can avoid plastic use.

Don’t shop just for your trip

Be conscious when you go shopping for clothing and buy things that you can layer so you have options for all possible climates when the time for a trip comes. Avoid buying things just for a trip that you are unlikely to use often even if what you buy is sustainably made. If you do find yourself with excess clothes donate and/or recycle them.

Invest in an ebook, use book swaps, or sign up to your local library

If you read a lot an ebook is your best bet in terms of weight and space in your luggage. If you love your paperbacks, use your local library as a source for you reads. Alternatively, most hostels have a book swap you can use to pass on your book when done and pick up a new gem (even if you are not staying, pop into a hostel that has one).

Take eco friendly or reusable period products

There a various companies making plastic and chemical free tampons and pads nowadays which are great options to avoid the environmental damage the alternatives cause. Want to save more space in you luggage and be less wasteful, then invest in a menstrual cup which is reusable and can last ten years.

6 tips for sustainability during your trip

If you can, choose to stay longer

Staying longer at accommodation offsets the frequency of a full room scrub down and bedding/towel wash before the next tenants come. More time in a country also means you can opt for public transport as opposed to domestic flights to get from point A to B.

Eat local and less meat if possible

Buy things that are sourced regionally and are in season if cooking for yourself. If you eat out, eat local to support the economy and take try the local dishes which are more likely to be made with quality local ingredients. Opt for sustainable eateries if you can. Much like back home, the less meat in your diet, the better for the environment.

Rideshare, trains over planes, and night buses

If you are hiring a car or looking to travel by car, try and fill it through ridesharing apps or Facebook groups if you aren’t travelling with enough people for a more eco-friendly trip, good stories, and the perk of splitting the costs. If you have the time always opt for trains and public transport over planes. Night buses are a great way to get from A to B whilst avoiding traffic and paying a night’s accommodation (some countries have really comfy ones like Peru).

Do NOT litter and pick up litter

I cannot stand people who litter in someone else’s home, don’t do it, even if it is a place where trash is a typical site. Go a step further and actually pick up some of the rubbish you see lying around and dispose of appropriately. If you see someone leave their trash lying around or a plastic bag on the beach, dispose of it appropriately following the recycling nuances wherever you are.

Bin toilet paper if asked and shorten your shower

In many countries the plumbing won’t be capable of dealing with toilet paper waste, respect this and remember to bin not flush! Be conscious and shorten you shower to preserve water, particularly in locations where water is scarce.

Opt for eco-friendly lodging and travel

Many airlines now have carbon offset programs for their flights, details of which are shown on sites like Skyscanner. Try and stay in eco-friendly accommodation, nowadays there are so many unique and quirky options in most locations and you will leave feeling good about your stay.