How to be more sustainable while summer traveling

By Trevor McDonald

If you’re like most of us on the planet today, you’re becoming increasingly aware of your impact on the environment. But you still want to enjoy yourself, travel and see new parts of our world. And the good news is that you can have it all.

The key is to make positive choices and not to stress about it a lot.

Here are a few easy tips to be more sustainable while traveling.

Choose accommodations wisely

Staying at a standard hotel is a quick way to increase your carbon footprint, unfortunately. It may be convenient, but hotels are notorious for wasting energy and resources. But there are a few exceptions, so you if you want to stay at a hotel, choose a place with high environmental standards.

For the most sustainable experience, consider a volunteer vacation or a farm stay where you work for your lodging, and sometimes for your meals. You can find these opportunities in almost every country, and they’re also a great opportunity to save money while traveling.

Stay put

When you travel, it’s tempting to want to see every corner of the world, but this can waste more energy than necessary. Just think about how much energy you’ll expend traveling from city to city on a European vacation. Instead, consider staying in one place. You can have an amazing vacation and experience a city fully this way.

Live like a local

While you're enjoying one city, it's much easier to live like a local. Since you'll be staying put, you can spend a more relaxing time enjoying local haunts like restaurants, bars, and venues.

This is a great tip for when you’re traveling in a safe place. If you’re at a location where you’re uncertain about your surroundings, you may not want to spend so much free time in local areas.

But if you can, spend time getting to know the local people and find out about their favorite places.

Bring reusable cups and flatware

If you really want to make an environmental impact, bring along your own flatware and water bottles. You may worry about how it would weigh you down, but think about how the impact of your choices can weigh on the planet. For example, a plastic bottle can take up to 450 years to biodegrade. Just imagine the impact of one family drinking out of plastic water bottles all week.

Pack light

Not only will packing light reduce the overall weight on the plane (by a very tiny fraction), but you’ll be lighter and free to make better choices. When you’re light on luggage, you can get around easier and easily stay at small B&Bs, hostels or apartments. If you need a luggage rack to get from point A to point B, you might be limited to a hotel stay.

Avoid unnecessary purchases

We all love souvenirs, don't we? But you might want to reconsider buying something for the sake of giving a gift. Things like T-shirts, keychains, and magnets that don't get used are only contributing to the world's trash problem. So if you don't know what to get someone, consider something edible or something recycled (and locally made).

Your goal is to support the local economy and avoid buying any souvenir that was made in a foreign country. If you see the label “Made in China,” it’s best to walk away – unless, of course, you’re visiting China.

Enjoy the outdoors

Just like when you’re at home, you can reduce your carbon footprint by spending more time outdoors. Instead of visiting a movie theater or museum, consider outdoor activities like hiking, biking or whitewater rafting. And for an added bonus, set up camp in your park of choice instead of staying indoors. You’ll get to connect with nature while being kind to it at the same time.

If you’re looking for a sustainable vacation, you’re going to want to do some research on destinations and choose wisely. Generally speaking, you should avoid major cities (like New York or Chicago) and opt for a more rural experience. This way, you can find more opportunities to live like a local and enjoy an outdoor experience.

What’s your favorite sustainable vacation spot?