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Tips for Sustainable Travel

Tips for Sustainability

Travel Facts

Why does travel matter?

  • It is currently 10% of the global GDP.
  • The tourism field is responsible for 235 million jobs worldwide.
  • Many countries have travel and tourism as a main source of income.
  • By 2030, it is expected that there will be 1.8 billion international travelers per year.

Why must travel change?

  • With certain types of tourism, less than 10% of the profits actually benefit and go towards the local community.
  • Tourism is the 4th largest source of pollution in Europe.
  • Close to 8% of the world’s global carbon emissions come from travel and tourism.
  • Programs that promote “western” or “white” saviorism continue to promote systems of social oppression.

Environmental Sustainability Tips


  • It is best to take direct flights. More emissions are given off on take-off and landing as it uses more fuel.
  • Offset your flights with companies like “FlyGreen,” for example; however there are many other options.
  • Bike, walk, or use public transportation.

Things to bring

  • Reusable water bottle with a filter or water purifier. Avoid bottled water as much as possible.
  • Reusable mug for coffee, tea, etc.
  • Reusable toiletries containers (or shampoo and conditioner bars).
  • Reusable shopping bags.
  • Reusable straws and cutlery.
  • Clothes that can be re-worn before being washed. Bring layers.
  • Hand towel in your purse/pocket rather than use paper towels.
  • Eco-friendly soaps, sunscreens, and bug sprays.  The harsh chemicals in these products can contaminate water and hurt local flora, and fauna.
  • Take shorter showers and turn off the tap when you're not using it.
  • A recyclable trash bag in case there are no trash cans around.

To do

  • Eat locally-sourced, organic, seasonal food. Eat plant-based.
  • Reuse hotel towels.  Do not request for your towels to be washed after only one use.
  • Turn off lights/Air/Heat when not in hotel or hostel room.
  • Pick eco-friendly, local tour companies.  Pick those that do not engage in unethical animal or environmental handling.
    • i.e.- Do not feed wildlife, do not touch wildlife, and do not pay to take pictures with wildlife. Be wary of those companies that do those things.
      • Ex.- Do not visit places with “animal selfies” for sale.
      • Ex.- Do not visit tiger temples.
      • Ex.- Do not support animal fighting (animal-to-animal or animal-to-human of any kind).
      • Ex.- Do not swim with dolphins.
      • Ex.- Do not ride elephants.
        • These animals are often beaten into submission or drugged (sedated) for us to be able to do those things.
    • Do not eat or purchase endangered species.
  • Unplug electronics when not in use.
  • Take short(er) showers. Some showers can use 3 gallons of water a minute!
  • Leave no trace.  Do not litter.  Do not vandalize.  Do not carve your name into things. 
  • Treat your travel destination like you would respect your own home.

Not to do

  • Use electronic tickets and not paper tickets whenever possible to save paper.
  • Don’t take paper leaflets or brochures- especially if they are just going to end of in the trash. Take a picture of the information you will need.
  • Do not take flora or fauna as “souvenirs” (this includes seashells). 

Ethical Travel Tips

  • Buy from local artisans
    • Even though it may be common culture in that society, do not haggle too much as this is their livelihood.
  • If volunteering or donating, be sure to go with an ongoing, established project.
  • If you plan to get rid of clothing or supplies after a trip, donate or give them away to someone or a reputable charity, do not throw them away in trash.
  • Do not give money to beggars- including children- as this could contribute to them being abused or trafficked for the money and/or them dropping out of school.
  • If a sign says, “Do Not Enter,” do not enter.  This is for your own safety and/or the safety of locals and the environment.
  • Go off the beaten path.  Increased tourism in developing regions often leads to higher rents and costs of food and other goods.  Try a place not known or go in the off season.
    • Do not take photos of humans without permission. Do not take and post photos of minors.
    • Be mindful of taking photos at religious sites.
    • Be mindful of the photos posted on social media.
  • Be respectful of local religious norms, even if you do not follow that religion and/or it may seem offensive to you.
  • Learn some of the local language.  It is polite to learn how to say “hello,” “thank you,” “please,” etc.
  • Spend more time in one destination.  This allows you to better learn about a culture and reduces your carbon footprint by not going from one place to the next so quickly.
  • Support a local social enterprise organization- a tour company that gives back to the local community somehow.

Looking for further reading on sustainable travel? Check out the links below! Note: this is not a comprehensive list as there are a lot of resources available.


Journals and Articles