Ten ways to travel green

The more I travel this big beautiful world, the more I want to protect it. Thankfully, today eco-travel is a veritable buzzword and there are as many ways to make a difference as there are shades of green. Read on for ten ways we can all conserve resources, show respect to local culture and environments, minimize our impact on our destinations, and ultimately “green” our travels.

Beach in Thailand

1. Say Goodbye to Plastic Water Bottles

You might be surprised by how many destinations offer safe drinking water straight from the tap – check before your departure and if it’s all clear, simply pack a reusable bottle. Otherwise, add a SteriPEN Handheld UV Water Purifier into the mix. After 90 seconds of agitation, tap water in locations from Thailand to Tunisia is safe to drink, saving the world from yet another single-use plastic water bottle being chucked into a landfill.

Bonus: You’ll spend less of your travel budget on buying water, and this purchase will eventually pay for itself.

Steripen Water Purifier

2. Transport Yourself Thoughtfully

Flying in and out of international destinations is often unavoidable, though you might consider a carbon emission offset program. Once you’ve arrived, walk or bike when possible and take public transportation when it’s not. If you must rent a car, look into renting a hybrid.

3. Shower Yourself Green

Hauling heavy liquids is not just bad for your back, it’s bad for the environment, too. Lush solid shampoo bars are as light as a feather and the equivalent of three bottles of the liquid stuff! The convenient tin holders are endlessly reusable, unlike plastic shampoo bottles you have to hunt down a recycling center for. Best of all, Lush is committed to using environmentally-friendly, ethically-sourced ingredients, eliminating unnecessary packaging, and fighting animal testing.

Bonus: No more exploded sticky shampoo seeping through your suitcase after a flight.

Lush Solid Shampoo

4. Go Paperless

In today’s digital world, there is little reason to waste ink and paper on information that could easily live inside our smartphones. Mobile boarding passes mean one less thing to lose in the airport scramble, online banking means you’ll never miss a bill abroad, and digital guidebooks mean a much lighter daypack.

5. Take Away the Take Out Guilt

Eating take-out is an unavoidable aspect of travel, whether you’re grabbing lunch to eat on a train or spending a night in after an exhausting stretch of sightseeing. Eliminate the guilt associated with styrofoam boxes and plastic forks by packing your own supplies. Collapsible tupperware, lunch skins and travel bamboo utensils take up little room and make the perfect to-go dining set – just hand them over while your meal is being made.

Bonus: You’re all set to go for a trip to the market followed by a picnic in the park.

Reefs in the Panama

6. Shop Responsibly

In general, it’s best to focus on collecting memories instead of stuff. But if you can’t resist the lure of the souvenir, focus on buying local and supporting native artisans. Also, stay away from items made from endangered plant and animal parts, or scarce natural resources – they’ll likely be scooped up at customs anyway.

7. Carry with Care

Avoid single-use plastic bags by always having a reusable one at hand. Eagle Creek Packables fold up to the size of your palm and come in tote, duffel, and backpack form. Stash one in your day bag, rental car or purse to avoid headslaps at the checkout counter when you unexpectedly decide to stock up on souvenirs or sundries.

Bonus: Packable totes can double as a beach bag, packable duffles can double for the gym, and packable backpacks can be used on day hikes or bike rides.

8. Protect Yourself and Others

Heading somewhere tropical? Avoid a sunburn and a guilty conscience by looking for a sunscreen free of CFCs, the harmful toxin still found in many aerosols. Florida-based brand Sunbum’s Continuous Spray Sunscreens, Face Sticks, and SPF Lip Balms are three products that are animal testing-free, environmentally friendly, and stylishly packaged to boot.

Bonus: You’ll smell amazing even after a long day at the beach.

Sunbum Sunscreen

9. App Up

There are plenty of eco-friendly apps out there just waiting to help you green your travels at the swipe of an index finger. Green Travel Choice lets you see the different carbon emission outputs that various transportation methods will produce based on your destination, Green Map shows you nearby hotels, restaurants, and other business committed to sustainability, and Seafood Watch helps you make eco-friendly seafood choices based on your location (here’s an easy one: don’t eat whale meat in Iceland.)

10. Talk Green

Remember that your voice is the most powerful tool you can pack for traveling green. Thank tour operators for using environmentally-friendly practices, ask your hotel to start a recycling program, let housekeeping know they don’t need to change your sheets and towels everyday, and when you refuse a plastic bag in the checkout line, tell the cashier why. Good decisions are infectious!

Banaue Rice Terraces

What do you do to travel green?

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Alexandra Baackes is a travel writer and blogger with a passion for aquatic adventures. A New York native with a background in design, she's spent the past three years living nomadically and sharing her stories of hopping across the globe. You can find her spilling secrets on Alex in Wanderland, talking sea creatures and security lines on Facebook, and posting photos of fried rice and festivals on Instagram. Read more by Alex Baackes and connect on Google Plus.

38 Responses to “Ten ways to travel green” Subscribe

  1. Mark April 10, 2014 at 10:27 am #

    I am always on the lookout for ways to go green. One product I like to use is the Dr. Bronner’s which I am sure you have heard of. But I haven’t heard of lush.

    I am curious, do you find it easy to find these eco-soaps in countries other than your own? I switched from liquid to bar soap for my longer trips because of this reason but never thought to look for them in stores because I alway see the commercial brands.

    • Alex April 15, 2014 at 5:03 pm #

      Lush is actually available in many countries — on my recent Latin America trip I was able to stock back up right in time in Panama! They don’t have any shops in Southeast Asia yet but as they are lightweight and long lasting I will probably just pack several.

  2. Raphael Alexander Zoren April 10, 2014 at 11:31 am #

    Very good solid advice, I would like to add that sometimes it is also our responsibility to go against local practices (such as the Indian tradition of throwing garbage in the floor) and try to teach people the right way!

    • Alex April 15, 2014 at 5:04 pm #

      That is definitely a tough balance and it’s important to be delicate. However I do agree with you, leading by example is the best way!

  3. Rebecca April 10, 2014 at 5:25 pm #

    some fantastic advice! the more people who start to think like you the better

    • Alex April 15, 2014 at 5:05 pm #

      Thanks Rebecca! We can all do our part.

  4. Michael April 10, 2014 at 9:09 pm #

    Some great advice here. I have no doubt that is where travel will go. Hopefully governments offer more/some tax concessions in the future for it.

    • Alex April 15, 2014 at 5:06 pm #

      That would certainly be a great help! However until governments make big changes we can just keep making small ones 🙂

  5. Arti April 12, 2014 at 9:52 pm #

    Some simple tips, which can really help in the long run sustaining our planet. I like walking so instead of hailing cabs at every given opportunity, I try to take walking tours. Also since I am a pure vegetarian, I do not consume meat.

    • Alex April 15, 2014 at 5:06 pm #

      The other benefit to walking is for your waistline and your wallet 🙂 Not a bad deal!

  6. jocky April 12, 2014 at 10:20 pm #

    Really all the place is so beautiful place.I want to visit this place.Thanks for your travel news.Thanks

    • Alex April 15, 2014 at 5:07 pm #

      You’re welcome Jocky! Thanks for reading!

  7. Renuka April 13, 2014 at 8:06 am #

    Helpful tips! Promoting sustainable and green travel is important because slowly our environment is becoming more and more polluted. Thus, it should our motto to talk green and live green.

    • Alex April 15, 2014 at 5:07 pm #

      Couldn’t agree more Renuka. Thanks for reading!

  8. Akshay Rawat April 16, 2014 at 6:34 am #

    At Barefoot Scuba, your preferred scuba diving operation on Havelock Island With sound knowledge of the marine life in the Andaman ecosystem and excellent training in emergency first-aid and rescue techniques, our staff is committed to showing you a wonderful time

  9. Melissa April 16, 2014 at 9:38 am #

    Great, practical tips! I do a lot of these already, but I had never heard of Lush shampoo bars. Will definitely check them out. Thank you.

    • Alex April 21, 2014 at 10:13 am #

      Good for you, Melissa! I’m still working on being a greener traveler all the time, but I love finding products like these that make it easier.

  10. Greta April 16, 2014 at 11:32 am #

    These are fantastic tips! I am always looking for new ways to be environmentally friendly, and it’s especially hard when traveling (and being in places that aren’t perhaps the most eco friendly). Everyone should read this- whether traveling or not. Thanks for the great advice!

    • Alex April 21, 2014 at 10:13 am #

      Thanks Greta! The very act of traveling is pretty environmentally unfriendly (from a carbon output point of view, anyway!) So I do try to offset that however I can.

  11. Claire @ ZigZag On Earth April 16, 2014 at 12:49 pm #

    Great post!
    I always tell hotels which are not yet using the cards to let the staff know when not to change the sheets that they are crazy.
    And I feel so bad every time I forget my reusable bag…

    Thanks for the apps. I will have a look!

    • Alex April 21, 2014 at 10:14 am #

      I know! It’s such a win-win for everyone, hotels included, for them to have those! I don’t get why anyone wouldn’t…

  12. Rachel of Hippie in Heels April 17, 2014 at 12:27 am #

    I think I’m going to finally give in and get the Lush shampoo. When traveling in India last time, I bought a french verision and after 2 months my hair still hadn’t “adjusted” to the new way of washing and I was a greasy mess. How many washes with Lush until your hair seems the same as with normal shampoo?

    Also, the diva cup is a great way to save on waste although I didn’t love using it– I think it’s more for the extreme!

    • Alex April 21, 2014 at 10:16 am #

      I don’t know if it was just my hair type of the bar I tried (go for the lavender if you tend towards greasy!) but it worked fantastically right off the bat! The conditioner unfortunately didn’t work out so well… I’m sticking to the liquid for now :-/

      I just can’t get into the Diva Cup, though I do use the tiny OB applicator-free tampons. They are SO tiny I can pack like a billion and they take up no space — plus no plastic waste!

  13. Magic in the world blog April 17, 2014 at 4:25 am #

    Good post, I loved it!

    • Alex April 21, 2014 at 10:16 am #

      Thanks so much!

  14. Ryan April 17, 2014 at 9:22 pm #

    Awesome guide sir, would have never even thought of taking collapsable tupperware, makes complete sense!

    • Alex April 21, 2014 at 10:16 am #

      In Thailand I think it is an especially important thing to pack considering all the street food that is served in styrofoam!

  15. John Smeeth April 18, 2014 at 3:55 am #

    Great photos guys. I’ve never given Tasmania much thought even though everyone that visits loves it there. Keep on posting…
    Everest Trekking

  16. Susan @ Travel Junkette April 18, 2014 at 2:56 pm #

    Great ideas, Alex! I tried Lush Shampoo several years ago and wasn’t a fan, but I’ve been meaning to give it another shot. And a Steripen is definitely on my lust list!

    • Alex April 21, 2014 at 10:18 am #

      You know, while I loved the shampoo insanely I just couldn’t get the conditioner to work for me. I guess it depends on hair type! Although if you give it another shot you might want to try a different type of bar… the purple lavender bar is perfect for me while one of the green ones wasn’t as nice.

  17. SnarkyNomad April 21, 2014 at 1:14 am #

    Ha! Showering. The greenest way to shower is to embrace the darkness of sweltering heat eliminating the purpose of a shower to begin with. It’s called working smarter.

    • Alex Baackes April 21, 2014 at 10:11 am #

      Hm, not sure I’m ready to give up showering altogether just yet 🙂 But I applaud your lack of vanity!

  18. Henry April 22, 2014 at 3:07 am #

    Woww.. Just awesome. 🙂 Helpful also for traveling.. Thanks for ur awesome post

  19. Karyn @ Not Done Travelling May 6, 2014 at 1:50 am #

    Thanks so much for this entry! I am a travel greenie always looking for ways to reduce my impact, but I feel like everything I say falls on deaf ears a lot of the time. Even in the awesome RTW community I feel like people don’t get concerned enough about eco-friendly travel. In particular the issue of plastic – in countries where weather is hot and tap water cannot be drunk, tourists go through so much plastic every day just in drinking water alone, and don’t always dispose of it properly. It’s really scary.

  20. Brad Bernard May 18, 2014 at 5:09 pm #

    This is a good list, Michael. I’m not sure I had considered the true extent of my impact while traveling.
    I just went paperless in India, although not the way it is described here, haha! The lack of eating utensils there required a bit of coordination, but I actually came to appreciate a trip without toilet paper.


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