7 Ways to be a More Conscious Traveler - URBANETTE: Lifestyle Magazine & Blog

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7 Ways to be a More Conscious Traveler

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Ah, travel. A time to relax on sparkling, pristine beaches, hike white-capped majestic mountains, and get lost in evergreen forests.

While you’re jet setting around the world seeing the sights, as a Global Citizen, you’ll want to make sure that those sights remain pristine and majestic. This can sometimes seem like a daunting task.

7 Ways to be a More Conscious Traveler

While it is nearly impossible to travel the globe without tracking around a few carbon footprints, there are certainly a number of things we can do to wipe our boots on the welcome mat of our host country and make for a cleaner trail as we trek the globe.

So, while you’re thinking about which bikinis will give you the least awkward tan lines, and practicing your Dirty Dancing moves for when you meet Rico Suave, start thinking about how you’ll plan to travel with a conscience toward the environment as well. We’ve put a few tips together to get you started!

Transportation

Unfortunately, many times getting from one place to another means stamping your carbon footprints all over the place. So, while traveling, keep in mind that there are a number of methods for setting down fewer footprints.

  • “I really love long layovers,” said no one ever. Luckily for you, you now have an environmental excuse to avoid bash-your-head-against-the-wall boring layovers: a significant amount of carbon emissions come from take-off and landing. Instead, choose a direct flight to not only avoiding long hours staring at Cinnabon in the airport, but to help save the planet too.
  • If your destination is a tad closer (because let’s all admit right now that 40-hour bus rides are not the business) then traveling by land is always a better option. Take a bus or a train for distances that don’t require a flight so there are less vehicles on the road letting out carbon emissions.
  • If you plan on doing some local sight-seeing, take a bike or walk there. This uses no carbon emissions at all and ensures that you get in some cardio to combat all the irresistible local foods that you know you can’t say no to.

7 Ways to be a More Conscious Traveler

Green Lodging

If you’re the type to worry about the eco-footprint of the hotel you’re staying at, you probably already try to book eco-friendly lodging and set your mind at ease.

  • Before you book, you’re totally within your rights to ask what the hotel does to reduce their eco-footprint. Ask questions like what their recycling and composting programs look like. Do they have energy efficient lighting? Do they use solar panels? What about low-flow faucets and shower heads? The more people ask, the more hotels will change their practices based on the perceived demand.
  • Other good marks of a green hotel or resort are the materials they use to build the actual buildings. Are they from local or reused materials? What else is local? Do they hire local employees, or fly in seasonal workers from around the globe? Is the food they prepare from local sources?
  • It’s also important to treat your stay abroad like you would treat your home environment. For example, see if you can opt out of fresh towels and sheets every day. It’s not like you change your towels and sheets every day at home, so why would you do it abroad and waste precious energy and water?
  • To find green hotels, check out Green Hotels Association, or see if the hotel has a Green Globe International certification. But remember to ask questions anyways. Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for hotels or resorts to call themselves eco-friendly, but still mix the composting with the recyclable water bottles. Ug.

Reuse it

Depending on where you’re traveling, finding reusable items can sometimes be a tad difficult, so try to bring along reusable items before you arrive at your destination.

  • Bring reuseable shopping bags. There are a few countries out there that are not on the up-and-up about the environmental dangers of plastic bags. In fact, in many places in Central or South America and Asia, cashiers or market vendors go buck-wild with the plastic bags, putting each separate type of fruit or vegetable in a bag of its own. Remember that plastic bags can take up to 500 years to biodegrade, so bring along your own reusable shopping bag so you won’t be bringing home thousands of years of garbage along with your dinner.
  • Water bottles are also public enemy number one when it comes to the environment. This can be a little tricky, since it’s unadvisable to drink the water in many countries abroad. To combat this, try to stay at a hotel or resort that has a water filtration system. If this is not an option, bring along a portable filtration system, potable water tablets, or even a UV water purifier to fill up your reusable water bottle.

7 Ways to be a More Conscious Traveler

Volunteer at an environmental organization

Volunteering abroad is one of the best ways to save money and have a local experience. It’s also one of the most hands-on ways to care for the environment.

  • One of the best programs for volunteering abroad is Workaway. They have listings in nearly every country around the world and their membership is more than affordable. Many volunteer programs will charge you an arm and a leg to work for free, but Workaway only costs $29 per year for solo travelers and $38 per year for couples/two friends.
  • To find volunteer projects specific to environmental work, create an account on Workaway and click on “Host List” at the top of the page where you’ll be able to search by continent, country, and region. More importantly, you can search for projects by typing in a keyword such as “environment.” If you want to narrow it down even further, click on “More search options” and choose things like farm, sustainable project, or animal welfare. Easy peasy.
  • Read more about volunteering while on vacation in our article about the best voluntourism experiences.

Do your research on animal habitats

It may be super tempting to snuggle up with a tiger cub or ride an elephant, but it’s extremely important to know that these things are not going to earn you your conscientious traveler badge. Sadly, there are too many animal sanctuaries out there that say they’re responsible with their animals, while being the exact opposite.

  • Before you decide to visit or volunteer in an animal sanctuary, do your research. If the sanctuary allows the keepers, or even worse, the visitors, to handle wild animals, this is a big red flag. There’s nothing wrong with interacting with domesticated animals like cows or sheep, but if a sanctuary allows close contact with wild or dangerous animals, this means either that the sanctuary has taken the animal away from its mother when it was young, or that the sanctuary has no intention of rehabilitating and releasing the animal in the future.
  • If the sanctuary offers spectacular tricks performed by the animals, or if you can do activities like riding elephants, this is a really bad sign.
  • On the other hand, it’s a very good omen if the sanctuary offers conservation information or educational opportunities, or if there is evidence that it supports conservation programs.
  • If you’re still uncertain, check to see if the sanctuary is recognized by organizations that monitor the activity of legitimate wildlife facilities such as World Association of Zoos and Aquariums, or the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries.

7 Ways to be a More Conscious Traveler

Shop and eat local

Buying and eating local has a number of benefits. First of all, if you buy local or eat at restaurants that source locally, you know that you’re helping reduce carbon emissions by avoiding long journeys via air, sea, or land. Remember, you’re the traveler, not your food.

If you want to be even more eco-friendly, eat vegan food to dramatically reduce your carbon, pollution and water footprints.

  • Buying local also helps support the resident economy and the people who live there. If you’re a responsible traveler, you want to know that your travels are not negatively impacting the community that you’re visiting. Remember your travel manners and help support your hosts.

Drink local

Local buying doesn’t stop at the food.

  • If you’re in the mood to get a little tipsy (and who wouldn’t be on their travels?) then drink responsibly by buying local brew, liquor, or vino. Not only will you get a taste of the local festive culture by trying new alcoholic beverages, you’ll be reducing carbon emissions by avoiding “beer mileage.”

While it’s nearly impossible to completely avoid leaving a carbon footprint when traveling (or, um, just living in general) you can promise to give the planet – and the people who live there – your best shot by following these seven tips.

Ariana is a writer and world traveler. Her writing covers her three main passions: women’s empowerment, travel, and culture. The beauty of the world is not just in scenic mountain views or turquoise waters; it’s in doing the thing that gets you out of bed in the morning. For Ariana, that thing is stringing words together. Email her at ariana@thewaywardpost.com and follow her journey on Instagram @surrealife.

44 Comments

  1. Maria Bruce

    Now, I’m making my next trip greener. Thanks for this!

  2. Quin Meri

    We can always enjoy and be responsible!

  3. Jackie Lewis

    I feel that there are very few people who think about how green traveling can be–people work so hard to be green in there own homes through cruetly-free products, recycling, and conserving heat, but they never think about it when they go to a foreign area. These are such great tips–I have never even heard of green hotels before this article. I also think it is so interesting that different cultures have different approaches to being environmentally-friendly, so talking to the locals about it would also lead to some more interesting tips!

  4. Jenifer Jeni

    Checking out Workaway!

  5. I eat, drink and shop local!

  6. Candie Monson

    As always, inspiring article from Urbanette. This article proves that we can always enjoy and be responsible at the same time!

  7. Sharlene Robinson

    I always advise my friends to consider traveling to a “green destination.”

    Trivia: Do you know that according to ecowatch.com, Sweden is the greenest country? That’s based on Global Green Economy Index.

  8. Andrea Clark

    Camping can be a “green option.” But make sure to pitch your tent in an approved campsite and make sure to follow the rules 🙂

  9. Elin Hanks

    I believe these tips could be more of handy if the locals lived by these tips too. What’s the point when the locals are ruining their own ecology and nature while the tourists are trying to be more conscious about it? How much could it help?

    • Delilah Peyton

      Okay, I agree that you’re making a good point, but just because the locals are not as caring, it doesn’t mean we have to be careless too.

    • Helena Stevens

      I guess you’d be ok with buying souvenir made out of elephant tooth. ? Cause that’s the kind of vibe I’m getting from your comment Elin. So wrong!

  10. Matilda Parker

    Excellent article! Allover a 10/10! I’ve personally learnt quite a few things reading it too. Big cheers for this killer post! xo

  11. Olivia Peterson

    Love this!!! A lot of important knowledge to learn and practice in this article. Thank you for all the amazing tips.

  12. Amelia Beckons

    This is such a thorough conscious travel guide that needs to viral! Big congrats on yet another amazing piece Ariana. Looking forward to read more from you! 🙂

  13. Conscious traveling is so important in our day, and you have just shared some awesome tips to get people started! Thanks for sharing!

  14. Ada Stevenson

    Such an amazing round up of tips for traveling eco friendly! Very simple yet unfortunately easy to forget by most travelers. I think travel agencies, hotels etc. should print out and give handbooks / brochures about conscious traveling to their visitors & clients. 🙂

  15. This article covers up pretty much everything there’s to conscious travel! Such great tips and advice.

  16. Sonja Fallow

    You have some really great and helpful tips here. I’m alreadyan eco-friendly person but I came across somethings in this article that never crossed my mind before. It seems I needed these tips. Thank you. 🙂

  17. Kimberley Foulkes

    This is the best article on traveling I have ever read! I couldn’t agree more with everything listed here. Learned a few things too. 🙂 If I only had to add one more thing it would be responsible sightseeing. I’m a believer of taking nothing but photographs, and leaving nothing but footprints. 🙂

  18. Joel Bonpensiero

    I always try and buy local products as much as possible instead of the products that have been imported from overseas. I’m a firm believer that supporting the local economy and getting a taste of native cuisine is what makes traveling TRAVELING! However, I strongly suggest not to buy souvenirs or other items which were made from animal tooth, skin, bone, fur etc. That’s downright animal cruelty.

    • True. This also goes for endangered plants! But I don’t think you can get through the customs anyway.

  19. Leslie Williams

    I strongly agree that giving hotels feedback works wonders. Expressing appreciation for their eco-friendly services is just as important as encouraging them go eco-friendly if they’ve not already gone green. 🙂

  20. Pamela Sanabria

    I strongly agree with each point you made, and each tip you gave here, Ariana. But I’d like to mention that finding vegan food in less developed countries is very difficult. Any suggestions about that?

    • Sibel Jenkinson

      That’s just what I was thinking while reading the bottom part of the article. It’s difficult to find vegan restaurants or restaurants that serve vegan food in most (small) towns here in the USA. How are we going to find places that serve vegan food, for example in some tiny Vietnamese town? :/

  21. Ingrid Winston

    I love this article, and will be doing the best I can to travel smarter and more ecofriendly & local friendly. Just need to ask one thing though… Could you please name a few places to travel that are ecofriendly? Thanks 🙂

  22. Hello Ariana, what an amazing article! So insightful and helpful too. Some of these green traveling tips you gave can also be used in daily life. Lowering the usage of electricity, water, and gas is very important as well as using public transportation!

  23. Evelyn Sandler

    When I’m travelling I always choose public transportation. The lesser the amount of the vehicles on the road, the lesser the pollution. This may seem like it doesn’t matter, but every tiny bit of action matters!

  24. Betty O'Leary

    To be honest I feel so embarrassed after reading this. I realized how I’ve been unknowingly harming the environment during my travels. I’ll try and be more conscious and sensitive from now on. It doesn’t even take too much effort. All I have to do is to pay mind. 🙂

  25. My son is dying to swim dolphins and every year for summer vacation he begs us to travel some place where he can swim with dolphins, but according to my husband and I, that’s animal slavery, and we will not partake in that. We don’t even take our children to zoos, let alone swimming with dolphins or riding elephant. Just cam not understand this cruelty, and will not be supporting it!

  26. Brenda Nelson

    This article absolutely resonates with me! I’ve switched to a green life a few years back, and been paying serious attention to carbon footprints, and how to reduce it. I’m doing my best to be more and more ecoconcious everyday, and been trying to get more people to the green side.:)

  27. Deborah Henry

    I’m not any good at planning and arranging my travels. Could you please tell me where I can book a travel as green and eco as it can be?

  28. A big thank you for this wonderful article! I haven’t done much travelling abroad but I’m looking forward to! And your article has just been a great reminder to me that I should be doing it more consciously and ecofriendly!

  29. Lucretia Asher

    Love this post! It gives me hope in humanity to see there are conscious, selfless, and intelligent people like yourself who care about our planet, and trying to spread awareness. Big kudos!

  30. Pearl Nguyen

    Almost as if you knew I was doing a research on eco / green hotels. Hubby and I have just discovered and adapted the vegan life. And we’re not only changing our diet but our lifestyle. Finding out about Green Hotels Association through you has been like a gift! Thanks so much for this incredibly helpful piece. 🙂

  31. Kaitlyn Barrett

    Isn’t it crazy how our governments and the travel agencies tell us to be extra careful and not to leave our hotels if possible just for cautious when travelling places like Africa or South America? From personal experience I can say that there’s nothing to be scared of. Meet the locals. Eat their food. By their products. Suppor them. In my opinion the main point of travelling abroad is to meet people and see their cultures and learn stuff from them. That’s my main goal while travelling.

    • Gwen Keaton

      That’s so true! That’s the difference between travelling and vacationing. Some certain establishments want us vacation, not travel, for whatever reasons. ?

  32. For my luck I haven’t come across anything interesting or a good cause on WorkAway yet. It’s mostly people looking for help with childcare, or gardening etc. 🙁

    • Dorothy Harris

      Really? That’s so odd. I think you’re searching wrong. Try searching using keyboards. I have done 2 volunteer jobs via WorkAway so far, one in China, and the other one in Costa Rica. Best experiences of my life. 🙂

      • So jealous! That’s exactly what I’m looking for. And you’re right… I might have been searching wrong. I was in fact not even searching, but just browsing the newest jobs for a few weeks now, and never came across anything worthy. I’ll try the keyword search. Thanks for the response. 😀

  33. Lynn Hayes

    As an eco-traveller myself, I would suggest camping as a hotel alternative if the weather conditions are good for camping. Not only it’s one of the most eco friendl way to accommodate, but also extremely cheaper compared to hotels. It works perfectly if you’re a nature lover like me. I strongly recommend it.

  34. Dan Vengenz

    Travelling by bike is my number one item on my bucket list! Haven’t had the opportunity to make it happen yet, but it’s been a dream since I met these French couple travelling by bike all the way from France to India. It inspired me more than anything!

  35. Susanna Milton

    I agree, but as far as public transportation, I don’t know about buses, however I’m sure trains aren’t always the most ecofriendly way to to travel. Most of the 3rd world countries still use steam trains. We can’t say a steam train burning tons of coal in the tender is low carbon.

    • Nicky Bryan

      Good point maybe, but that’s still lower carbon than if all the tourists were to take individual cab rides to their destinations. Think about it.

  36. Amanda Roberts

    Yes! I absolutely agree!!! I cannot stress enough how important it is to shop and eat locally. Most of the less developed countries’ locals economy depends tourism. Local restaurants and local shops may not be 5 star quality, but in my opinion always have more to offer than the hotels’ or resorts’ facilities. By buying from the locals not only do you support their economy, you also get to see more of their culture, and meet some really nice beautiful people.

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