How to travel sustainably: Top 5 travel destinations and tips
If you’re concerned about your carbon footprint but still want to explore the world and have fun, consider these ways to travel more sustainably
Living sustainably can be daunting, but it doesn’t mean you have to make huge sacrifices. In fact, focusing on sustainable travel can ensure you have a more enjoyable and affordable experience.
Avoiding waste and reducing greenhouse gas emissions will keep the world a beautiful place, but choosing sustainable options can also save you money. For instance, purchasing reusable items like sandwich bags means you don’t have to keep buying disposable ones, and using public transportation will save you a lot of money on gas.
Here are some tips to help you travel more sustainably.
What is the most sustainable way to travel?
1. Use energy-efficient transportation
Driving is actually one of the least energy-efficient ways to travel, so consider skipping the road trip. According to the University of Michigan’s Transportation Research Institute, traveling by plane is almost twice as efficient as traveling by car because of the cost of fuel per passenger.
However, if airline prices are out of your budget and you’re willing to take extra time for travel, consider taking a train to your next destination. According to the International Energy Agency, train travel is the most sustainable option for long-distance travel.
When you arrive at your destination, you can continue to reduce your carbon footprint and save your wallet by using public transportation to get around. It’s cheaper than renting a car or using a taxi or rideshare service, and it also has a lesser impact on the environment, per the United Nations.
2. Choose sustainable lodging
Do some research into accommodations that do their part to save energy, use clean energy or otherwise reduce emissions.
Several hotel chains, such as Hilton and Marriott, have committed to reduce their environmental impact. The Global Sustainable Tourism Council is a great resource for travelers to find additional hotels, hostels and vacation rentals that have committed to sustainability.
No matter where you stay, there are things you can do that will help you use resources wisely just as you would at home. Avoid taking unnecessarily long showers, turn off lights when you leave a room and don’t leave the heater or air conditioning on while you’re away.
3. Don’t go overboard on the souvenirs
Sure, that surfboard-shaped paperweight might be cute, but are you really going to use it? If you will, go for it; if not, put it back. My favorite souvenirs aren’t simply tchotchkes but have a functional use — a print I can hang on my wall, or a nice shirt I can wear on special occasions. Choosing to spend your money carefully and on things you will actually use will save you money and reduce waste by limiting the number of things you end up throwing away.
4. Shop local
While you’re shopping for souvenirs, consider focusing on local businesses. In my experience, the best, most functional souvenirs are found not at souvenir shops with mass-produced shot glasses and magnets but in small stores with crafts from local artisans.
These locally produced goods tell a story and support the local economy, but they also represent fewer emissions, per Sustainable Connections. Mass-produced goods must be shipped, but locally made items do not require the same transportation.
Top 5 sustainable cities to visit in the U.S.
You can make any travel more sustainable by keeping the above tips in mind, but another great way to do so is to visit locations that prioritize sustainability.
If you want to live more sustainably, it’s a good idea to spend time in areas where people are already doing so. You can see how people adapt their lives to reduce waste and emissions in order to learn from their lifestyles.
Rocket Homes analyzed the 66 largest metropolitan areas in the United States and identified the 15 most sustainable cities. Their study looked at factors like green space, production and use of solar energy, use of energy-efficient transportation and composting availability. Here are the top five:
1. Berkely, California.
2. San Diego, California.
3. Portland, Oregon.
4. Washington, D.C.
5. Denver, Colorado.
Whether you visit those locations or somewhere across the globe, keeping sustainability in mind as you travel can help you cut costs and contribute to a more beautiful world.