We’re big on becoming more eco-friendly in our travels. It’s why we are active in voicing our opinion about more sustainable travel. In our daily lives, we attempt to maintain a small footprint even when we travel.
Throughout our travels, we often camp, volunteer, participate in cleans, champion conservation, donate to non-profits, or celebrate the eco-lodges around the world making a difference. We make an active effort to reduce our waste and choose companies who strive to do the same.
We’ve talked about the best eco-friendly products and we’re always trying to reduce our own impact. However, there are so many ways you can become a more environmentally conscious traveller. It all starts with simple fixes.
Why Eco-Friendly Travel?
It has to do with what I’ve seen in life and what is left on my “bucket list.” I’ve seen hummingbirds in the Ecuadorian rainforests, followed elephants traversing the desert, dove into the wonders of the Indian Ocean, and wandered serene bamboo forests in Japan. The list could go on. Then I think about what lies for our future generations. Those who may not see the snow fall peacefully in the backyard, go diving in the Great Barrier Reef, or float along the Okavango Delta.
I grew up in Michigan and every year we had snow on Christmas, and winters lasted a little too long for my liking. I even had to move South to escape the cold. The past few years, though? Temperatures during the holiday season are hitting record highs. When I was last home for Christmas the ground was not dusted in white, but instead, they were dead and mushy. I took the snow for granted.
It makes us sad for our planet, for our future generations, and for the naysayers who claim this is all just a “hoax.” However, there are many things that we can collectively do to be more conscious of our world when we are traveling and in our everyday lives.
Eco-Friendly Travel Tips
Turn off the lights
This is probably the most brainless thing to do. Turn off the lights when you are not using them, there’s no reason to have them on. One billion people live without electricity day to day, and that is usually what I think about when I see unneeded lights on. If you’re reading this, my guess is you are not one of those one billion people and can make a push for more eco-friendly travel habits.
Vote with your dollars
This is quite possibly how you can make the largest difference. Whether we want to admit it or not money makes the world go round. Almost all of our most environmentally destructive actions stem from financial gains. There is a flip side here. This means that choosing where you spend your money can make a big difference in how the tourism market grows.
For example, choosing to stay at eco-friendly hotels, participating in conservation efforts, or staying at eco-lodges can make a big difference. A lodge we visited, Wolwedans, was almost entirely self-sufficient in the middle of a desert and had made extraordinary efforts in conservation. They are only one example of many companies that exemplify sustainable travel and make the world a better place.
When you choose to spend your tourism dollars with eco-friendly businesses it paves the way for more businesses to follow suit.
Switch to solar power
We’ve stayed in many lodges that have switched to solar power – and love it! It’s initially very expensive to set up, but the long-term cost is small. The sun rises in most places every day for no charge at all! We should make use of it. We always opt for accommodation with solar panels rather than grid powered if possible.
On a smaller scale try switching to solar powered products. We’ve been traveling with the Little Sun for six months and love it! (The company also gives back). We also like to purchase products like solar powered lanterns instead of flashlights for camping.
Not only are they cheaper than battery operated lanterns, but they are more durable. Now, we don’t have to worry about buying batteries!
Ditch the hair dryer
I haven’t put heat on my hair in over two years and I must say I love how healthy it feels. Aside, from that time a crazy Serbian hairdresser trashed it.
Hair dryers take up a ridiculous amount of electricity, space in your suitcase, and they dry out your hair. Consider ditching them and going all-natural. It’s an easy fix and such a small part to play. It’s not going to save the world, but every single step counts!
Turn off the taps
Turn off the water while brushing your teeth. Many people in the world don’t have the luxury of having water come out of their tap conveniently like we do in the west. Making a conscious effort to conserve water can go a long way. This is a no-brainer when it comes to eco-friendly travel.
Decline plastic bags
Decline plastic bags while shopping. We travel with reusable bags for grocery store trips, or carry it if that is manageable. I love companies like Trader Joes who only use paper bags. I also love how grocery stores across Europe charge you for each plastic bag used, which makes the consumer more conscious.
Until this is implemented across the globe keep resisting that plastic everywhere. In North America, grocers provide you with as many bags as you want when you don’t really need them (and it drives me insane). We personally would rather stuff our hands full and walk out of the store than waste a plastic bags.
Help educate people
Going off this, many people around the world aren’t aware of the effects of plastic, littering, soil degradation. Companies like LUSHdo a great job informing them. But as travelers, we can help too. Next time someone insists on giving you a plastic bag tell them that plastic doesn’t decompose. When you see someone littering
try not to scream inform them of the effect that has on the environment. We all are people of this earth and should work together to protect it.
Travel with a water bottle
We both travel with a Lifestraw Go Waterbottles as they claim to filter out 98.9% of bacteria. These waterbottles greatly limit our plastic water bottle purchases. Saving us money and saving the world from yet another wasteful piece of one-time use plastic.
Unless we are in dire need of some cold water we always refill our Lifestraw right from the taps (and even rivers/lakes in some places). Haven’t gotten sick once! (Knock on wood). If you’re having a tough decision about the best travel water bottle on the market we’ve made a post to help you out!
Always ask for tap water
If we are anywhere outside of North America and ask for water with our meals we are almost always given a bottle of water. This is not only completely wasteful but will also cost us an additional $2-$3 per meal. Always specify that you want tap water at restaurants to avoid this (it’s free!).
Pick up the trash
Pick up any trash that you see floating about. Every little bit counts and it sets an example for others. I can’t even say its the most simple eco-friendly travel tip, but it certainly isn’t hard. Wherever we travel we find ourselves picking up trash even if it’s not ours. You should do the same! Leave a place better than you found it.
Make eco-friendly travel choices at the market
If there is an option then try to avoid any plastic at the grocery store. I usually find it easy with things like milk – where there are plastic and paper containers that the milk is filled in. Paper is degradable, plastic is not. And say NO to businesses that make wasteful decisions. Such as, individually wrapping every single apple/broccoli/pepper in plastic wrap. Ridiculous!
Reduce your beef intake
According to the Worldwatch Institute, 51% of global greenhouse-gas emissions are caused by animal agriculture. The land, water, and all other variables that go into the livestock sector in the US generate as much greenhouse gas emissions as all vehicles combined. In Before the Flood, Leo states that a half pound of beef is the equivalent of 24 hours of air-con – which completely blew my mind. I’m not saying you should go completely vegan but giving up beef and becoming more meat conscious will certainly help (it’s healthier too).
Reuse your towels
Avoid unnecessary washing and reuse the towels you are given in a hotel or guesthouse (or at home!). In most hotels, this simply just means hanging up your towel so the maid knows that you will use it again and not wash it.You can read about the best travel towels on our site as well. We like to travel with the Youphoria Travel Towel, which dries quickly and folds up small when traveling.
It’s dead simple things like packing a travel towel to become more eco-friendly. If we start out with baby steps and we can make big gains in becoming more environmentally friendly travelers.