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Sustainable travel tip: bring reusable utensils

7 Steps To Make Your Next Vacation Sustainable

It’s time to change the travel industry

It’s close to the end of 2019 and the world has awoken to the impacts of climate change. Big words like “greenhouse gases” and “carbon dioxide” are all over the news and we’re each asking ourselves “are my habits wasteful?” The travel industry is not immune to this question.

Did you know a seven day long cruise generates 210,000 gallons of sewage? And in terms of carbon dioxide emissions, tourism accounts for 5% of emissions globally? Yikes. That sounds like a problem. Sustainable travel adjustments are definitely needed.


But there’s good news

You don’t have to give up travel and adventure in order to live a more frugal and sustainable life, but it does mean adopting some new habits. We’ve put in the research and figured out the 7 steps to make your next vacation sustainable.


1. Opt for “slow travel.”

One international flight uses around 36,000 gallons of fuel, that’s a lot! Air travel, including air freight, has emitted over 900 million tons of CO2 into the atmosphere and the industry is growing. If you’re traveling over land, opt for a train ride to and from your vacation. Go for a seasonal or monthly train pass to add more flexibility to your stops. You might be able to use the pass for travel later in the year. This addition may add a few dollars to your trip, but it will help you avoid unnecessary and wasteful air trips as well as add more adventure!

Sustainable travel tip: Opt for a train ride to cut emissions and add adventure
Opt for a train ride to cut emissions and add adventure

2. Fly smart.

When you do have to fly, make some smart decisions to cut greenhouse gas emissions of that flight. Fly coach. Studies show that due to the size of seats (therefore, the amount of people flown per plane), flying business class is up to 9 times more wasteful than flying coach. Pick planes that fly on biofuels. Biofuel is a great alternative to your typical fuel and is made out of non-toxic materials like seaweed or agriculture waste. 

3. Skip the plastic, mass-produced souvenirs.

It’s tempting to buy a bunch of those cute and funny plastic tacky souvenirs in tourist shops while you’re on vacation, but don’t! Those souvenirs are often made out of petroleum-based plastics that are bad for the environment. Buy those beautiful souvenirs made and sold by locals instead. They may cost a couple more dollars, but the quality will be worth it and your vacation dollars will go right back to the people who live where you vacation. 

4. Bring reusable utensils with you.

Sustainable travel tip: Bring reusable utensils with you to cut your plastic waste while traveling
Bring reusable utensils with you to cut your plastic waste while traveling

This includes bringing a metal straw, utensils, and even mesh grocery bags on your vacation to help avoid any unnecessary plastics on your trip. By far the biggest source of plastic waste while you travel will be from plastic water bottles. It’s true that you probably shouldn’t drink tap water while you’re on vacation. Not every town is lucky enough to have safe tap water and your stomach is adapted to the unique water quality of your area. To both avoid getting sick and avoid the waste of plastic one-use water bottles, bring water filters with you. You can buy water bottles and straws with built-in filters and you can also request filtered tap water at restaurants and hotels. Every time you skip a flimsy one-use plastic you keep more trash out of the ecosystem! 

5. Keep it local.

Following the last step, keep your vacation as “local” as possible. While you’re on vacation eat at locally-owned restaurants, shop at locally-owned stores, buy local produce, etc. This keeps waste produced by transportation low and supports local economies. Helping local economies is key to keeping the natural features we love to explore safe and protected, and stable economies always lead to safer travel!

6. Commit to “ocean safe” sunscreen.

With climate change comes hotter water temperatures, higher levels of water pollution, and bleached coral. Coral is bleached, or dies, when the water temperature reaches 81 degrees Fahrenheit. Incredibly high levels of oxybenzone and octinoxate chemicals build up in our oceans due to sunscreen. Yup, sunscreen. These chemicals protect our skin from harmful UV rays then wash off into the water when we bathe or go swimming outside, and absorb UV while in the water and heat water faster.

Sustainable travel tip: Go for ocean-safe sunscreen to protect coral reefs
Go for ocean-safe sunscreen to protect coral reefs

When you buy sunscreen, go for sunscreen that does not include oxybenzone, octinoxate, parabens, or comes in an aerosol can. You can also skip the higher SPF sunscreens. Any sunscreen over 30 SPF isn’t actually safer for you and in fact contains more harmful chemicals than lower SPF sunscreens. Consider buying swimsuits and cover up clothing with a high Ultraviolet Protection Factor to get UV protection from your swim clothes. Whatever alternative you pick, keep it ocean safe!

7. Offset your travel with carbon credits.

If you’re worried you’re not doing enough to protect the environment while on vacation, offset your environmental impact with carbon credits. Carbon credits are packages you can purchase to help remove carbon from the environment through social, environmental, and governmental programs. Greentripper has provided an awesome tool to calculate the carbon footprint of your last vacation. You can enter in the details of your trip including type of travel (flight, cruise, etc), duration, number of travelers, and get a volume of carbon emitted by your journey. Here you can also offset your carbon easily and donate to one of Greentripper’s own projects including helping avoid deforestation in Ghana and providing safe water in Uganda.

Sustainable travel tip: Offset your carbon emissions by donating to green organizations
Offset your carbon emissions by donating to green organizations

You can also visit Carbonfund to offset your carbon emissions. This website has a bunch of options to help offset your vacation including packages that cover flights up to 100,000 miles. You can also offset based on the type of car you drive, the type of home you live in, as well as purchase annual offsets to cover your day-to-day activities. Purchasing a “gift” package option is a great sustainable alternative to bringing back expensive and wasteful souvenirs for friends and family.


You don’t have to ditch travel

Becoming more eco-friendly isn’t about ditching all the old habits and traditions you love, like traveling. It’s about making sustainable adjustments in our lives to make more room for a healthy environment. Follow these 7 steps to make your next vacation more sustainable and get you closer to an eco-friendly lifestyle.


For more information on why we care about sustainable travel and what you can do to make your vacation sustainable, check out our new sustainable travel page.

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