5 ways to limit your travel carbon footprint

If you’re like me, you love traversing the globe.

There’s just something about sampling new foods, soaking up new cultures, and spotting places and faces you’ve never seen before, right?

But if you’re really like me, you’re also cautious about how you travel, opting to tread lightly and reduce your carbon footprint whenever possible. For those of you who love the idea of becoming a more sustainable traveler but aren’t sure where to start, you’re in luck.

Here are five things I try to do each time I travel that allows me to both visit fun and scenic places and help preserve the planet.

Think long and hard about my destination

This one will impact just about every other point on the list, but I’m leading off with it because you can’t properly plan for a place until you pick it. The first thing to consider is how far you’ll travel. Driving your car obviously produces far fewer emissions than an airplane—but if the distance necessitates air travel, there are ways to fly in an Earth-friendly fashion. It’s also a good idea to cross-check SustainableTravel.org, the online presence of Sustainable Travel International, for locales they recommend.

Conscientious about your travel impact? Think Costa Rica

Avoid single-use plastics

I’m sure a lot of us make this a standard practice at home, but steering clear of single-use plastics while on the road can be a bit of a challenge. That said, it’s certainly doable with a little forethought. Some quick-and-easy suggestions to help on this front include packing a reusable bag for shopping trips, reusable water bottles and coffee mugs, and saying “thanks, but no thanks” to plastic straws while dining out.

You, me, the big blue sea (and plastic)

Be cognizant of how I travel while on holiday

We’ve already talked about modes of transportation in getting to your destination, but what about while you’re there? There are a couple different approaches one can take that will do a world of good (pun intended). First, walk, bike, or use public transportation as often as you can. If that’s not possible, inquire about renting a hybrid or electric vehicle (EV). Many of the large rental car agencies have EVs available, and privately-owned EVs can be arranged through car-sharing rental apps as well.

High time for changing flying habits

Select a green hotel

I’m a camper and outdoorsman at heart, but when sleeping under the stars isn’t a possibility, I always look for a green hotel. These hotels are LEED Certified and have practices in place like using renewable energy and environmentally friendly cleaning products, along with offering guests the option to refuse daily turndown service. Don’t think this status is reserved for just lower-tier hotels either. Some of the nicest spots I’ve stayed in have prioritized going green.

5 ways eco-hotels make vacations cleaner and greener 

Calculate my carbon offset and donate

Looking for a simple way to cure those post-vacation blues? Take some time to calculate your travel carbon footprint on this SustainableTravel.org calculator. After you enter in some simple information about how long and far you traveled, the calculator spits out your travel footprint in metric tons, along with the cost to offset what you’ve incurred. If you like, you can donate that amount directly to Sustainable Travel International right from the calculator.

Green travel — Can I fly sustainably?

One other thought, and something I’ve done in the past, is to donate to a worthwhile cause that directly impacts the area I just visited. What better way to repay a beautiful place and its people for hospitably hosting you than by making a meaningful contribution to ensure it remains pristine for the next guests?

It’s obvious that some of these practices are easier than others, and by no means do you have to do them all. In fact, you can try starting with one or two for your next trip and progress from there. Good luck, and happy travels!

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Josh is a copywriter, journalist, fiction writer, and screenwriter. He has written for advertising agencies, newspapers, magazines, and Fortune 500 companies. He lives with his wife, two kids, two cats, and the world’s goofiest mutt. When he’s not writing, he’s reading, traveling, hiking, camping, kayaking, or trying to find his next favorite bottle of wine, which is usually the one right in front of him.