A Guide to Sustainable Travel


Travel has many benefits for both the traveller and the destination. It offers an exchange of cultures, economic benefits and a different perspective on the world around us but this can be at a cost to the planet through CO2 emissions. With over 1,322 million International tourist arrivals in 2017 it’s important to look at how we can make our travel sustainable.

What does sustainable travel mean?

Sustainable travel doesn’t have to mean huge changes to the way you take your holiday. Sustainable travel is about many people adopting many small changes. The overall impact of these changes can be huge.

At its core, sustainable travel is about ensuring you consider the environment when undertaking your trips.

Transportation and Travel

Flights account for a significant proportion of global CO2 emissions. To eliminate flight from international travel is unrealistic but we can change the way we use this form of transport.

Lots of airlines have environmental roadmaps stretching into the future but what can be done right now? Carbon offsetting is the process of undertaking a carbon reduction activity to balance a carbon producing one, such as a holiday flight. Lots of the major European airlines provide the option to donate to a carbon offsetting initiative and this can be a great way to minimise the environmental impact of your flight.

Another way to fly sustainably is to try to fly less. The cheapest way to fly usually involves several flights and connections that add layovers, and in turn fuel, to the journey. It’s possible to spend a little more in order to reduce the time you’re in the air. A more direct flight will inevitably produce less carbon emissions.

Finally, if you can use greener forms of public transport then do so! Cross-continental trains, inner-city trams and even Uber ride sharing are great ways to reduce your carbon footprint.

Pack in image: Ozone 36

Sleeping green

Your accommodation can also offer some sustainability wins.

If you’re looking for traditional accommodation, such as hotels and hostels, you can check to see if they hold one of the trusted Eco Accreditations. Hotels certified by organisations such as Green Tourism Business Scheme, Green Globe and STEP have been evaluated and approved by these recognised environmental bodies.

For the more adventurous sustainable traveler there are plenty of 100% green energy lodgings to be found but you can expect to pay a premium for these. Alternatively, for 100% green on a budget there’s always a tent!

The little things

The small things also add up. Here’s a few final ideas to take your first sustainable travel steps:

  • Go paperless with your itinerary, confirmations and reservations – Your smartphone can even be used to get you through check-in scanners
  • Carry a water bottle with you – Carrying a water bottle while travelling will cut down your reliance on plastics
  • Be sensitive to highly visited areas – Always follow local guidance on how to act in a highly visited tourist location. If there is a sign telling you not to climb to that great photo location then it’s almost certainly for the good of the environment you’re in
  • Walk wherever you can – Walking is a fantastic way to experience your destinations. Where walking isn’t possible, opt for a sustainable public transport
  • Do not disturb – Use the do not disturb sign on your hotel room to avoid unnecessary towel washing and room cleaning
  • Buy local – Wherever you visit, try to buy from local small business owners. This promotes sustainable and localised economic growth

What sustainable travel tips have you used on your holidays? Share your ideas in the comments below.

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3 responses to “A Guide to Sustainable Travel

  • Jule

    2 October 2018

    Quit single use plastic when traveling. Use mesh produce bags for farmers markets, bring a bamboo tooth brush, biodegradable soap and reef safe sun screen with you. I have a few more travel tips on how to reduce trash and plastic usage on my blog.

  • Denys

    30 March 2019

    During our 1 year trip in Europe and Asia we have found some important additional tips:

    • bring your own straw, fork/spoon/chopsticks, and a plate. It often happens that different street food caffes offer only single use, plastic mainly, cutlery. Especially in Asia
    • bring your own cup, ideally half a liter. In Asia it is very popular to drink fresh juices and smoothies, just from the road markets. They always serve in plastic. Make sure your cup is around 0,5 litres, as it is the amount they usually serve
    • do not ride elephants, do not hold baby turtles and do not pay to visit the crocodile farms. usually most of these places are using animals to gain money. Most of them do not protect the animals in reality. But they really know how to convince you in opposite.
    • hitchhiking is very easy in Southeast Asia (SEA), if you plan to share cars, for less CO2 emissions
    • there are numerous local buses and trains in Nepal, India, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Cambodia (places we’ve been until now in Asia), and if you ask locals how to get from one place to another by their transport you will get an interesting experience, and very local one. And also it will be much cheaper than the airplane. In SEA it is easy to cross countries by buses, trains and even ferries. Avoid flying
    • Osprey Europe

      4 April 2019

      Hi Denys,

      There are so many different ways to make your travels more Eco-friendly, and I agree with all of your points:

      • Plastic utensils and cups are a menace to the environment, and with developments to biodegradable materials, there are so many other options, including reusable straws.
      • I am sure that the majority if not all people will be bringing a water bottle so why not have a collapsible cup, they don’t take up much room.
      • Visiting exotic animals is a massive tourist attraction in some south-east Asian countries, but the animals are not always treated the best and conservation is not always considered.
      • Hitchhiking is a great way of keeping your emissions down, but there is always the option is purchasing a motorcycle, these are more fuel efficient than cars and can be relatively inexpensive. When you finish, you can then sell the bike. Some bike shops offer a buyback scheme, but there will most likely be other travellers wanting a cheap bike.
      • Locals will always know the best ways to travel, and cross country trains and busses can be a memorable experience of their own.

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