Here’s How to Be a Sustainable Traveler When You Fly! Mary Zakheim August 16, 2021 Sustainable Tourism, Travel Tips If you love the environment and you love to travel, you’ve probably already wondered how you can justify taking those long, CO2-emitting plane rides with a green conscience. It used to be that was just the way it was — there were no great options for the eco-friendly traveler to get to a place speedily and in an environmentally responsible way. But it’s the 21st century and things are certainly changing. So if you want to respect the environment and take your dream vacation, read on to see how to be a sustainable traveler! Calculate Your Carbon Footprint (and Try to Reduce It) There are plenty of websites that allow you to calculate your carbon emissions — and then donate the proper amount to offset the impact you’ve made. One of these organizations, Sustainable Travel International, calculates that cheap domestic flights from New York City to Los Angeles would create 1.7884 tons of CO2 — yikes! The good news is that you can pay a cool $45 to let Mother Nature know that you’re on her team. The money can be put toward reforestation efforts or projects that will offset carbon emissions. Pretty cool, eh? Fly With Airlines Committed to Going Green In October 2016, the International Civil Aviation Organization held their annual conference in Montreal where 191 countries agreed to take tangible steps in considerably lowering CO2 emissions from aircraft — starting with market-based measures implemented on a global level. The first airline to take this important step was Alaska Airlines. In November 2016, the airline flew from the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport to the Reagan National Airport in Washington, D.C. with a bio-fuel comprised of reusable forest residuals. Fly the Most Direct Routes Possible By flying on a nonstop route, you’re cutting out tons of pounds of CO2 emissions by eliminating unnecessary stopovers. We know, we know… It’s sometimes impossible or way more expensive to take a nonstop route — but if you’re really committed to going green when you travel, this is certainly something to keep in mind. It’s worthy to note that a large part of emissions come during takeoff and landing — making those extra stopovers really add up. Skip the First Class Seat (and Other Seat Hacks) If you’re wondering how to be a sustainable traveler without changing up your plans too much, this tip is easy and something most of us are doing anyway! By taking a first-class seat, you’re taking up space that could have been used to transport more people — thus creating a larger carbon footprint as those people now have to get on another flight and so on… So next time your airline asks if you want a free upgrade, think twice before fervently agreeing. Also, be aware of how many passengers your flight can hold compared to other airlines on the same route — if one can carry more passengers, opt for that one, as it spreads the emissions between more people. Related: Do You Know How to Travel Sustainably? Take This Quiz and Find Out! BYO… Everything Yup, by bringing a reusable water bottle and filling it up in the airport as well as packing your own snacks, you’ll be making another small — but positive — difference aboard the plane! Think of all those plastic cups that are wasted each flight (not the mention the stacks of napkins and crinkly snack packs) that you’ll be saving. Take the little bit of extra effort and throw it back to high school by packing a meal for yourself (the embarrassing love note from your parent is unfortunately not included). Another easy thing that you can do is start using your mobile phone’s option for e-tickets. Lots of airlines and travel agencies have a feature on their app that gives you an electronic ticket — use it! By not printing off your ticket on paper every time you fly, you really are making a small positive difference. Research and Choose the Right Destinations for Your Trip When it comes to choosing destinations for your trip, do a little bit of research about the places that you want to visit. Is there a hotel chain or travel company that is more environmentally friendly than others? What modes of transportation are available in the city/town you’re visiting and their environmental impacts? These questions will help you determine if you need to make any changes to your itinerary. For example, research the environmental impact of driving versus taking a bus or train. This could affect where you travel and how you get around town. If you’re doing business travel, choose destinations with public transportation like buses or trains, or choose to fly into an airport that is easily accessible by public transport. Practice Slow Travel and Respect the Locals Traveling slowly can have many benefits, including being able to enjoy every moment of your trip. Slow travel is also much more environmentally friendly than quick, rushed trips because you’re spending less money on transportation and conserving time and energy that would be wasted in a short trip. When visiting any new place, it’s important to respect the local people and not be an obnoxious tourist! Locals will appreciate your interest in their community and culture. Think about how you can support local businesses, talk to the locals instead of staying holed up at your hotel, volunteer, or give generously when visiting religious sites. These are just a few ways that you can show respect for other cultures while traveling. Use Sustainable Transport at Your Destination When you arrive at your destination, think about sustainable ways to get around town. Do you have a car that needs to be parked? Try getting around by foot or public transportation instead of driving. When taking the bus, walk, or train, make sure that it’s running on clean energy! If you absolutely must rent a car when visiting your destination, opt for an electric vehicle. If you have to take a flight or your destination does not have public transportation options, try to offset the environmental impact of your travel by choosing carbon-neutral forms of transport like train travel that are powered by clean energy. Eat and Shop Local on Your Trip Your trip won’t be very sustainable if you’re eating and shopping the same way you do at home. Try to find small local businesses instead of big chains, visit farmers markets or shops where you can buy local goods directly from the producers. These types of purchases will give your money directly to the people who are making your food or crafting your souvenirs. Eat at local restaurants with authentic menus and learn about the food from your hosts! For example, during a business trip to northern Vietnam, we had the opportunity to visit a beautiful organic farm. The host’s mother made us a fantastic lunch of fresh vegetables that we picked that morning! Avoid Animal Attractions Visiting animal attractions can be an incredible experience when well-managed, but many animal attractions are irresponsible and cruel to the animals that they keep. If you do decide to visit a tourist attraction with wildlife on-site, make sure that it’s run responsibly and ethically! By doing your research about the company or zoo/park that you plan on visiting, it’ll be easier to decide whether or not this attraction is good for the environment. Also, it’s a good idea to avoid places like zoos or aquariums that use animals for entertainment. Not only are many of these attractions inhumane, but they also damage the environment when animals are shipped from place to place and kept in unnatural environments. The world is changing, and we’re all becoming more aware of the importance of preserving our environment for future generations. So, do you know how to be a sustainable traveler? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below!