Sustainable Travel – Tips by an Environmentalist

Sustainability is finally getting the attention it deserves, whether it is for urban development, health, education or tourism. With more and more people getting hooked to traveling almost frequently, it is important to make them aware about sustainable travel and how easy it is to practice.

Since my blog is all about sustainable travel and if you have noticed I leave sustainable travel tips at the end of each post I thought I need to really put down the list of things that will not harm the environment or leave a nasty carbon footprint. Try to check if you travel sustainably. Don’t worry if you don’t, there are tips to improve.

1) Sustainable travel starts with choosing the right transport:

The first thing when one travels is the mode. Depending upon the destination and distance you decide to use train, bus or flight. In case of flight it’s always good to use e-Tickets instead of Paper print outs. Try to book a non-stop flight whenever possible.

Did you know the flight’s takeoffs and landings create most of an airplane’s carbon emissions? Railways are however the best ways to travel comfortably within a country. They are safe, affordable and give you a good chance to have fun on the run. You can also catch up on that much needed sleep. This is by far the best way of sustainable travel.

Sustainable travel mode

Source: Wiki Commons

2) Accommodation (most important for sustainable travel) :

The second step of travel is to look for comfortable and affordable stay. Do some research and check up places that are certified eco-lodges or ecotels. The option of home stay or couch surfing is also a wonderful way to know the foreign land in a local way staying with a local family. The interactions you will have with the family eating a local food will carve a beautiful memory of your stay in foreign locale. This helps a local family to earn some money and you save some!

 Sustainable travel Ecofriendly hotel

3) Pack Light

Now that the tickets and accommodation are booked, its time to pack for the vacation. Give a break to yourself from lugging around the heavy bags. Did you know the heavier the luggage, the more fuel needed in the flight? I know it may become difficult to do so while visiting a cold country and posing in same clothes for photographs but one can always be creative to mix and match clothes to make it look different. Also why not try local shampoo and soap rather than carrying it all the way?

Sustainable travel

4) Pack responsibly

It is always good to be informed about the ingredients of your favorite products. Avoid packing and using shampoo, toothpaste and face packs with microbeads. Try using biodegradable organic products and ensure you leave the place clean for future visitors.

Sustainable travel Organic handmade soaps

5) Carry a water bottle instead of buying PET bottles

In developing counties, the water available at water ports is generally filtered and fit for drinking. In developed countries, tap water is the best choice. Refilling water is now considered cool and saves a lot of money and is environmentally safe.

Sustainable travel - Reusable water bottles

6) Don’t collect souvenirs – yes it is part of sustainable travel

Don’t collect stones, shells or sand. It may be a souvenir for you but when you gift it/share its photo with others you are indirectly implying them to collect when they go. Yes, believe it or not it does leave a little impact. Time to respect the nature!

Sustainable travel - leave the souvenirs

7) Public Transportation for Local Conveyance

Let’s face it, it saves a ton of money and you can get from one place to another in quarter of the cost if you ride a vehicle or hire a cab. Plus you can catch up some sleep, listen to music or read up a blog while commuting.

Sustainable travel

Source: Wiki Commons

8) Volunteer

Volunteering is the best way to enjoy like a local and earn some money. Not to forget the amazing experience you’ll have for the lifetime for helping a community get water tap or roof for their house or biodiversity restoration or teaching kids in remote areas with no school. I personally volunteered for picking waste on a hiking trail on a mountain in India. Read more about it here.

Sustainable travel9) Shop Local

Shopping local products supports local economies which also means encouraging traditional artists and craftsman to continue their creativity. That’s a souvenir you must take back home!

Sustainable travel

10) Give your electronics the much required break

In the world when we are so obsessed with checking into every place we visit and snapchatting our journey and sharing what we ate on instagram, we are putting away our loved ones with whom we are traveling. If you’re traveling alone and need pictures for the blog/social media put them away till you are back home. Save energy by switching off the devices.

Sustainable travel

Read about digital detox here

11) Refuse!

As an Indian, we have this crazy love for plastic – sometimes people shamelessly ask for 2!. We literally wrap everything possible in bags! While traveling refuse to take polybags for shops. Put your shopping stuff in your backpack or eco-friendly bag!Eco friendly bags

12) Turn off all electronic appliances when you leave your hotel room (except the refrigerator)

Hotels use huge amounts of electricity to make their property look beautiful. Let’s be responsible travelers and turn off the air conditioning, lights and fans on the way out of our room.

13) Do not feed wildlife

This includes monkeys, cows, birds in urban areas (yeah, we have them all in developing countries) yes, in the city. Feeding animals makes them habituated to the food (example: pigeon menace across the world) and they do not put efforts to find food for themselves which nature has designed them to do. Leaving food in zoo, national park or any sanctuary is a strict no-no!

Do not feed wild animals

14) Keep distance from wildlife

Yes, we understand you want a selfie with the tiger. But don’t you take selfie in your new dress, new place, with new car, etc? Leave the damn animal alone when you’re in his territory. Respect him enough to only click from distance and not a selfie.

15) Use menstrual cups instead of sanitary napkins

When the PMS has to strike it will strike. It doesn’t matter weather you’re chasing waterfalls in Iceland or climbing the Himalayas or camping in Rishikesh. Menstrual cups are emerging as the most eco-friendly solution as against disposing tampons or sanitary pads which may take years for decomposition.

Menstrual cup

16) Use ecofriendly toiletries and cutlery

Thank god some responsible companies are now producing eco-friendly toiletries. Wooden toothbrush, comb and spoons are the new in thing!

Eco friendly toothbrush

17) Use water instead of tissue paper!

I just had to say this. I read an old article which said world wide 27,000 trees are dumped everyday in landfills which are used for making toilet paper. You can read more here 


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43 thoughts on “Sustainable Travel – Tips by an Environmentalist

  1. I agree that volunteering is good but it must be done *right* after asking all the right questions. Too many organisations are just out to make money without any real benefit to the people/animals/environment they claim to help.

    1. I agree some organizations do that. We need the right research and true testimonials before choosing to volunteer.

  2. Thank you for these ecofriendly tips and suggestions! With climate change and our resources being stretched and pollution worldwide, little things make a big difference. I am a big proponent of buying local and having zero tolerance for plastic (we always use our jute bags for groceries) and pack super light while traveling. Definitely need to improve on disconnecting from social media though.

    1. Thank you Rajni it’s really important we travelers leave less carbon footprint wherever possible.

  3. These are some great tips. The comment about the plastic bags made me laugh a little. I wonder are people in India obsessed with plastic? I so agree with the wildlife. It would be great if people could really keep their distance! Thank you for sharing

  4. I always try and travel sustainably, I just wish there were alternatives to flying! I’m from Australia, so unfortunately, I have to fly to get anywhere. Holding out for teleportation 😛

    1. I think that’s a brilliant idea. Key things could include
      1) having permanent set of crockery – plates, spoons, bowls or even better – asking them to get out from home – that way they’ll care for it better.
      2) no plastic camp/zero waste camp – don’t even allow wafer packets. It’s not like they’ll not survive without it.
      3) eco-toilets/pit toilets – these will use minimum water and can be covered by soil.
      4) make participants to compost food waste – it could be made into fun activity by introducing earthworms
      The list is unending. Let me know if you need more. Can connect over email 🙂

  5. It’s been years and I can’t find a decent water bottle, they all get moldy and the water tastes awful even though I wash them carefully. So I’ve started using a glass bottle – it’s heavier and it could break but it’s still better than the PET bottles.

  6. I always carry the gym type bottle around so I got that covered! But good advice and lots of points to follow. I go crazy about the amount of plastic is used. Everywhere you buy something… do you want a bag? No thank you! I can carry a small thing in my hand or throw it in my backpack.

  7. Very nice points!….It is interesting to read about the plastic bag point you have mentioned :).. But things seem to be slowing changing in India as well.. People are getting out of that craze and are being more eco friendly than ever. Coming from Bangalore, I can tell you more on this starting from stringent waste segregation that we follow :).. Plastics are a definite no no!

    1. Hi Aarti. I definitely agree on waste segregation point especially for Bangalore, Pune and Panjim but other than those cities it’s not happening anywhere else. However i agree to your point that things are changing. And I’m trying to encourage just that 🙂

  8. I live in Banff National Park and it makes me so mad when people feed the wildlife! These are some great tips- I didn’t think of a lot of these and they are so simple to implement into your daily life. Thanks for writing this!

  9. There are some very simple and practical which every one can practise to be responsible during travel. More often, I have also see the local service providers yielding to tourist demands and causing havoc to the nature and environment. One such instance was where a resort in western ghats played very loud music to entertain its guests. As the number of people travelling increases, teh ill effects caused to nature also increases. It is high time each one of us takes care not to cause any damage because of our presence.

  10. These are some great tips for sustainable travel! I always try to pack light, and definitely re-use my water bottle as much as possible. Also, I don’t know who prints out tickets anymore?!

  11. These are some great tips. I never pack shampoo i always use the free sachets that are given in the hotels. I also just invester in a water bottle but left it in the hostel kitchen! Thanks for sharing these tips.

  12. Hi Ketki…Thanks for this great information. This hits kind of hard right now as i just got back from a trip to Indonesia. Although it was incredibly beautiful, we found many places on some of the smaller islands and Bali where there were remnants of travelers left behind as well as tons of trash from the locals. I am putting some thought into going back out there for some time to volunteer and help clean up and educate.. Great article.

    1. Thank you Steve. We really need to be sensitive about trash! Volunteering is great way to help local community. Thank you 😊

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