Sustainable Travel: A Guide for the Earth-Conscious Explorer

Traveling can broaden your mind and your horizons … and if you’re not careful, your carbon footprint. Try our tips for mindful, sustainable travel to leave your destination better than you found it.

Planning Your Trip

Try searching hotels on Google Travel and look for results with an “eco-certified” label. These hotels have reported earning certifications after meeting a third-party agency’s sustainability standards. Click the label in each listing to see that hotel’s certifications and environmentally conscious programs and policies.

At home, you probably don’t wash your towels after every use, throw away your soap or change the sheets each day, so why would you do that elsewhere? Decline daily housekeeping services – or at least laundry – to save water and energy.

Before you buy your ticket, you can check Google to compare carbon emissions between flights. If possible, choose a direct flight; a trip with fewer takeoffs and landings means less carbon burned. Since avoiding flights altogether is the most eco-friendly alternative, Google Flights also lists trains to or from your destination (if available). Sometimes flying can’t be avoided, but you can balance out your environmental impact with carbon offsets.

Most airlines and other transportation companies now offer paperless tickets that can be scanned from your mobile phone. If you’re like most people, you’ll already have your phone with you and won’t have to worry about losing paper tickets or leaving them behind. Not only do paperless tickets offer security and convenience, but you also won’t be adding more paper to the waste stream.

Packing Your Bags

A plane, train or other form of transportation is less fuel-efficient with a heavy load. Choose items and clothing you can use more than once, and remove and recycle unneeded packaging before it goes into your bag. Lightening your baggage load helps reduce fuel consumption, and that means fewer carbon emissions.

If you can avoid single-use containers and bags for souvenirs and leftovers by bringing your own tote bags, containers and utensils, you’ll generate a lot less waste (and keep your room tidier without housekeeping). Keep a reusable water bottle to refill during your trip, and if you’re traveling with pets, remember to pack their food in an eco-friendly container and bring water bowls for them too.

Find reusable containers in travel-friendly sizes and fill them with your favorite products at home. This zero-waste option is good for the environment and your budget.

If you’ll be spending time in the water, look for sun protection that does not contain oxybenzone or octinoxate – two chemicals dangerous to fragile coral reefs.

Enjoying Your Visit

On your way out, remember to unplug home electronics including phone chargers, televisions, gaming systems, media players and computers. These continue to draw energy when not in use, so this good habit will reduce your usage, which means savings on your bill.

Physical activities like walking and biking are better for your health and for the environment when you’re out exploring, and you’ll get to see new people and places along the way. If you need to travel farther, choose public transportation like trains and buses over taxis for a greener trip to your destination.

Shipping food products long distances means burning more carbon, and that can leave a bad taste in your mouth. For the ultimate sustainable dining experience, eat at restaurants and buy from markets that offer locally grown or farmed ingredients. You’ll enjoy fresh, in-season foods that didn’t travel far to your plate.

Offsetting Your Impact

There’s no way to completely avoid the environmental impact of travel, but buying carbon offsets helps to shrink your footprint by funding proven sustainability projects like reforestation and methane capture. For convenience, you can choose a Travel package that balances out the carbon effects of a cross-country drive or round-trip flight.

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