How to Travel Green: Responsible & Sustainable Travel

We travel for a number of reasons: to escape, to live, to love. We travel to be reunited with nature, to rekindle my hope in humanity, to get in touch with the world. It’s all for the sake of love for self, for mankind and for the planet. Personally, this connection is priceless: hence I will always decide on getting that one-way ticket over a Prada handbag.

And yet, travel isn’t the most environment-friendly activity. I travel for the purpose of appreciating the world, but I’ve come to realize how much my travels have affected the environment: e.g., my boat trip to Surigao was spewing so much pollution that I could see the black smoke visibly on a starless night sky. I witnessed an increased algae growth in the shoreline during my last Boracay trip.

The Cokaliong boat trip to Siargao. 🙁

And I can’t just blame other people. I don’t want to wash my hands off the problem, being guilty myself as well. I can’t finish my food sometimes. I drink water from plastic bottles. I drive a gas guzzler. I fly–a lot.

Air travel has a significant harmful impact on the environment. Airplanes emit heat, noise and carbon emissions, thus a major contributor to climate change and global dimming. In fact, New York Times has referred to airline travel as ‘the biggest carbon sin’. Despite the recent improvements in aviation efficiency and reduction of emissions, the rapid growth of air travel still offset the technological advances.

It’s a bit too extreme to reject travel altogether for the sake of the planet, so instead we think about how we can reduce our carbon footprint. A green traveler should adhere to responsible travel practices that support environmental sustainability.

Often, these are things that we already knew but forgot along the way. A few reminders are always helpful. These little steps add up especially if more people do it. By being environmentally responsible, we ensure that the places we love to go to will last for a very long time, and hopefully our future grandkids will enjoy it as much as we did during our prime.

Here are some pointers on how you can travel green.

  • Pack light. When we can’t avoid flying, travel light. The more weight cars, trains and planes carry, the more fuel they consume, and the more carbon emissions they produce.
  • Choose the most environmental form of transport available. On shorter trips, travel by land instead of flying. When flying, you emit 3 to 7 times more greenhouse gases than when you take the car, bus or train. If you can avoid land transportation, walk or bike to your destination when possible.
  • Fly the most direct routes. Take off and landing consume the most energy.
  • Fly economy. First class seats take up more space, and thus more energy, up to 9 times larger than economy! Not only is it more budget-friendly to fly economy, but it’s environment-friendly too. (Also Read: Budget Travel Hacks)
  • Offset your travel. We can’t avoid transportation–that’s a bit extreme. But why not offset your carbon emissions by doing something good for the planet. Plant trees, do cleanup drives, and support environmental programs.
Travel light! Bring only what you need

During the trip:

  • Order what you can only finish. I know that Pork Medallion looks really good, but you can’t probably finish it anyway. Order what you can only finish, and take away leftovers. Advocate for zero waste consumption for the good of the community.
  • Use reusable bottles. Cut down wasteful water bottle purchases by using reusable plastic bottles and refilling in water fountains when you can.
  • Reuse hotel sheets and towels. Conserve water and take shorter showers.
  • Skip the groceries, head for the local market. They probably sell the same thing,  but the grocery products are just placed in wasteful branding and packaging.
  • Take or leave your trash back home. Most developing countries don’t have proper recycling centers or proper waste disposal. Old gadgets, batteries, and other synthetic items could be tossed in a landfill that could remain for hundreds of years. Pack them and Take back your trash. Recycle the cardboard boxes of toiletry products before your trip. Delimit your environmental footprint and encourage zero waste.
  • Switch off and unplug unused electronic devices and appliances when not in use. Limit your A/C, thermostat and hot water use only when necessary.
  • Support local. Support locally-owned accommodations, eat at local restaurants, get local tour guides, buy locally grown food.
  • Be responsible with souvenirs. Don’t buy products that potentially endanger local treasures such as endangered species and cultural artifacts. Try not to pick up and bring home natural resources including shells, animal bones, plants and other artifacts.
  • Before doing volunteering efforts, do your research. So many scams and fake charity efforts have sprouted to fool do-gooders. Be responsible and know when and when not to volunteer.

“You become responsible, forever, for what you have tamed.” – Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

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14 thoughts on “How to Travel Green”

    1. Indeed, supporting a cause you believe in will make you a little less guilty, but it shouldn’t serve as a ‘free pass’ to do anything you want. We should practice responsible travel!

  1. When I travel I try to do something for the local children of the places I go to. Regarding food, I always think that the meat I am eating has died for me so I try to finish off the plate, and not go for 2 or 3 courses when I know that my stomach can only handle one.

  2. Hi. I applaud you for this post. If every one of us could do a little, then the sum of all our efforts would have greater value in helping preserve our environment.

    I would also like to point out too, that airplanes are supported and depended on by a lot of other businesses. And all these businesses such as makers of parts, even supplier of food, everything, has a footprint and impact on the environment.

  3. Seriously, thank you for sharing this – it never crossed my mind how much harm we actually do to Earth. I’ll try to follow all of these tips (i already do a lot of these things, but there’s always a room for improvement).

  4. I was with you till you suggested we eat local . I love travelling too and want my kids to explore the length and breadth of the planet. But your fears are too real too ignore.
    Will surely keep you points in mind, next time I travel

  5. You know I read somewhere that you should always invest in memories instead of objects. I am so glad you are one of those people. I am so proud of you for that. I wish I had that much guts to travel the world. Keep it up Girl. You rock. And if I ever do start travelling I will definitely keep your tips in mind especially to pack light while travelling. Thanks for sharing your such wonderful tips 🙂

  6. This is such a wonderful post and rather informative on how to reduce our carbon footprint! We drive to Hungary from the UK when going to visit family and I never knew it had a environmental impact though. When we leave our home for holidays we always unplug everything including our fridge & oven. I either donate food to those in need of even just pass it over to our neighbour. I’ll be sure to read your post again the next time we go away!!

  7. This is a great share – encouraging from one so young. There is so much that just one person can do. When you string those “one person”s together we get a world full of conscience and purposeful living. I like your statement that if you have to do something, reduce from somewhere else to off-set where you can. Great tips!!!

    Bidy @

  8. Pingback: Travel Etiquette Rules to Live By – Postcard Pretty

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