Six Steps To Becoming A More Sustainable Traveler

Woman with backpack standing on the cliff of mountain. Bali island. Indonesia.

Mindful and sustainable living is quite easy to practice at home, where you have full control over everything that happens. The real challenge is committing to the cause when you’re a couple hundred miles from home, in a foreign city or country you’re visiting as a tourist.

Several things that are directly linked to tourism have adverse effects on the planet and some of its inhabitants. To name a few, you have overtourism, greenhouse emissions from aviation, as well as the gentrification of heavily-touristed areas.

However all hope is not lost  if you’re trying to be a more sustainable traveler. Here are some things you can do to minimize the planetary impact of your wanderlust.

1. Explore Sustainable Cities

Sometimes, it’s all about the destination. It becomes way easier to sustain your mindful lifestyle in a city that discourages pollution and protects its natural and cultural heritage. Zurich, Singapore, Vienna, and Seoul are just some of the cities who always make it to the list of most sustainable cities for locals and tourists alike.

Visiting these places will give you a better chance at being a more sustainable traveler. Whether or not you’re going to the top cities on the sustainability index, though, it pays to look up the social responsibility efforts of the place you’re visiting, so you can support them,

2. Support Environmentally Aware Brands

Sustainable tourism requires quite a ton of planning on your part. From choosing an eco-friendly airline to finding a parking management company that puts high premium on sustainability, all the way to finding guest accommodations that do not direct its waste on nearby bodies of water, you’ve got your work cut out for you.

Some brands and firms really do care about the planet more than others, so be sure to proactively seek these businesses for any service or assistance you might need during your travels.

3. Be Mindful of What You Eat

There’s no doubt that a huge part of travelling to a foreign city or country is getting to try their specialty cuisine, but experts would like to remind us all that what we choose to eat ultimately affects the world around us, especially with respect to climate change and biodiversity.

Even if you want to taste everything a certain city has to offer, you must endeavor to achieve a balanced and diverse diet so as not to contribute to the food security and agricultural biodiversity problems that the planet is already facing. 

4. Patronize Small, Local Businesses

In countries that heavily rely on tourism for their economic growth, your foreign-denominated money is worth more than you think. So instead of patronizing big, foreign stores, consider getting your shopping fix from small, local vendors and business owners. Not only is this an excellent way to experience authentic local culture, but this way you can make sure that your foreign monetary contribution actually goes to the economy of the place you’re visiting.

5. Limit Use of Water & Energy

Some people don’t bother turning off the lights and conserving water in short-stays like hotels and inns. They think they’re entitled to waste their resources so they can get their rental money’s worth, but think about what it does to the planet.

Before you let the faucet run all night or when you’re out of the room just to feel like you got way more than you paid for, consider the fact that millions of people in this world still have no access to clean, running water. Be responsible and limit your use of resources that are meant to be conserved.

6. Skip The Straw

Finally, you have to skip the straw, the plastic, and even the extra paper bag in your purchases abroad. If you can, always avoid buying bottled water and think about the fact that adventure travelers account for the use of about 30,000 pet bottles every year. By now, you must already know what plastic does to the environment and it’s oceans.

Bringing your own containers and eco bags for shopping may be less convenient than paying for plastic, but living a sustainable life has never been about what’s easy.

In fact, being a mindful traveler sometimes requires you to choose the path of less convenience. You would sometimes need to go out of your way to land on the more environmentally sound solutions and services, but even that’s a small price to pay in exchange for your substantial contribution to the planet’s recovery and sustenance. With that, have a happy, guilt-free, and sustainable trip, wherever you may be headed next!