How to Minimize Your Carbon Footprint While Traveling

Over 1.4 billion people travel somewhere in the world at least once each year. While traveling is a great way to see the world and experience different cultures and environments, it can also contribute to the environmental strain our planet currently faces.

travel footprint
Credit: Philipp Kämmerer, Unsplash

Because of the increasing impact of climate change and other environmental issues, people are becoming more conscious than ever about their carbon footprint. Unfortunately, traveling can be a large contributor to things like greenhouse gases, pollution, and waste. So much so, that many cultures are already starting to make a change. In Sweden, for example, 23% of people have opted to abstain from air travel to reduce their carbon footprint. Unfortunately, traveling by car isn’t much better as the average vehicle releases about six tons of CO2 each year.

Other companies across the globe are putting “carbon neutral” practices in place, where they attempt to balance out the carbon emissions they put out by investing their time, energy, and finances into other environmental initiatives.

Still, some people have to travel for work or to see family and friends. Others just want to see the world, and it’s not a bad thing to have the “travel bug.” But it’s important to be conscious of how traveling can impact the environment, and to know what you can do, personally, to offset your carbon footprint while you’re away from home.

Cutting Down On Carbon Emissions

Obviously, one of the biggest downfalls of traveling by plane is the amount of CO2 released into the atmosphere. In fact, airplanes account for 3% of the U.S.’s total CO2 emissions. Avoiding air travel altogether is one of the best things you can do for the planet, but sometimes you don’t have a choice if you need to travel a long distance or go overseas. So what can you do to assuage your guilt and practice “greener” flying? Try some of these tips:

  • Choose nonstop flights, since most emissions are released during takeoff and landing.
  • Choose an airline invested in improving fuel efficiency.
  • Pack lightly as the more weight on the plane, the more energy is needed to power it.
  • Pack your own snack to reduce food waste and plastic packaging.
  • Offset your travel by donating to an environmental cause.

If you’re traveling by car instead of by plane, you’re automatically cutting down on your emissions, but as stated earlier, vehicles still aren’t exactly environmentally-friendly. If you’re going on a long road trip, you can lessen your carbon emissions while staying safe on the road by making sure your car is properly tuned up, and avoiding heavy traffic times in busy areas, so you don’t contribute to smog and air pollution.

Avoid Single-Use Products

When you’re traveling, you might not want to lug around a bunch of toiletries, food, or other personal products with you. That’s why hotels offer disposable bars of soap and bottles of shampoo. It’s also why airlines give pre-packaged, individually-sized snacks on flights.

While these offerings are convenient, they are not very environmentally-friendly either. The International Air Transport Association estimated that in 2018, roughly 6.7 million tons of waste was generated on airplanes. Cutting back on the food and snacks you eat on airplanes can help.

Bring your own toiletries with you whenever possible as well as a reusable coffee mug and water bottle. These travel essentials are items that typically can’t be recycled, so they’re considered “single-use” products. About 50% of the plastic that is produced each year is used for single-use products. The less we are “using” them, the fewer products will have to be produced.

Eat Locally

Wherever you’re traveling, try eating like a local! So many places around the globe have incredible cuisine, and it’s a great way to fully immerse yourself in a different culture, whether you’re enjoying Nashville hot chicken in Tennessee or authentic Tom Kha Gai in Thailand. The less your food has to “travel,” the fewer carbon emissions will be given off. When food is shipped in from other parts of the world, it has to get there by some form of transportation. By now, you know just how damaging transporting goods is!

So go to restaurants that source local ingredients or hit up area farmers’ markets and produce stands to get a unique view of someone else’s culture. Don’t forget street food, either. Of course, the same goes for drinks if you happen to step into a local pub or brewery!

Traveling is a part of life for so many people. The good news? Because of the heightened awareness of climate change and the environment, more airlines across the globe are taking green initiatives to create a more sustainable future. But, no matter how you travel, you can do your part by minimizing your carbon footprint. By just making a few simple changes in your travel habits, you can have a more positive impact on the planet, so you can continue to enjoy all it has to offer, no matter where you are.