5 Ways to Travel Green
When it comes to the environment, our travel choices make a huge difference. The rapid growth of tourism is impacting the earth in a big way—and while not flying across the world is the greener choice, that’s probably not going to happen. Rather than beating yourself up and vowing to stay home forever, it’s important to learn how to travel responsibly.
Reduce your carbon footprint as much as possible by embracing green travel.
Here are five ways to do so.
Choose an ethical destination. Here’s the cold, hard truth: Most all-inclusive resorts and cruises, by their very nature, aren’t exactly the most earth-friendly destinations in the world. Instead, go somewhere that ranks high on the environmental protection front. Every year, Ethical Traveler publishes a list of the top 10 countries to visit, based on environmental health and human rights records; the Environmental Performance Index is also a great resource to check out. In general, Switzerland, Denmark, Sweden, France, and Belize all consistently rank at the top of both these lists.
Don’t use plastic. Plastic doesn’t biodegrade, so one of the worst environmental offenses you can commit is using this harmful material in any shape or form. Be prepared wherever you go by bringing a stash of reusable items with you on your trip. For example: Staying at an Airbnb in Nashville and planning to cook some meals while you’re there? Pack reusable grocery bags (including produce bags) to take to the grocery store. Rather than buying plastic water bottles, bring a reusable water bottle to tote along while you’re out exploring. You get the picture.
Walk or bike everywhere. Rather than renting a car or taking cabs when you go somewhere new, plan to walk or bike, instead. Commuting by foot or bicycle has wonderfully positive effects on the environment—most notably, in the reduction of greenhouse gases. Bonus: Eco-friendly modes of transport like walking and biking are cheaper and way more enjoyable than taking cabs or Ubers; plus, since you’ll be getting exercise, you won’t have to feel guilty about consuming endless amounts of pasta and prosecco in Rome or baguettes and cheese in Paris.
Eat local. Always, always, always try to eat locally sourced food when you travel. Not only does eating local ingredients support the local economy and community, but small-scale fishing and farming tends to be much less environmentally destructive than industrial modes of food production. A great idea is to source restaurant recommendations from locals before you go anywhere—rather than reading bland online reviews, source curated suggestions from places like Eater, the New York Times’s Food section, and Bon Appetit, or reach out to foodie friends on Facebook; that way, you can compile a list of awesome farm-to-table, local eateries. And whatever you do: Never eat endangered species like whale, shark, over-fished salmon, or caribou.
Don’t get caught up in voluntourism. Sure, we all want to help make the world a better place. But “voluntourism”—aka the practice of doing a volunteer activity while traveling—typically does more harm than good. (For instance, paying to visit orphanages? Not exactly ethical.) The booming, multi-billion dollar voluntourism industry often doesn’t even benefit the communities it purports to serve, especially when it comes to animal welfare and the environment. Of course, there are exceptions, but they’re few and far between. If you want to volunteer abroad, instead of paying a company, find locals already doing good work and ask them if you can be of assistance.