Would you believe that one of the most common questions I get from globetrotters is
how to travel more responsibly? Unsurprisingly, responsible tourism isn’t something
that every traveler practices. To increase awareness, I’ve been sharing tips about
eco-friendly and sustainable travel habits on my blog and YouTube page—and I’m
happy to say the responses have been great!
What is sustainable travel exactly? To put it simply—it means that when we travel,
we are showing respect to the environment, local culture, and wildlife of the places
we visit. Contrary to what some assume, living a sustainable travel lifestyle is not
that hard. It just takes awareness and practice.
Here are 10 eco-friendly habits I’ve developed to help me travel sustainably—many
of which were inspired by various trips I’ve taken around the world, where I have
witnessed the horrors of plastic waste, animal cruelty, poverty, and dying cultures.
WATCH MY VIDEO:
1. Recycle and Don’t Litter
I’ve gotten some backlash from a controversial article I wrote on The Huffington
Post highlighting the horrific litter problem I witnessed on a beach in Bali. Although
there are many factors that contribute to waste issues around the world, it cannot be
denied that tourism is one of them. Just a few months ago, I went to Machu Picchu in
Peru and saw people carelessly leaving empty water bottles lying around—not cool!
Respect the country you’re visiting and do not litter, EVER. Take it a step further and
recycle what you can, when you can. Inquire about your hotel’s recycling
program—in Bali, every hotel we stayed in offered to recycle any bottles we had.
Some cities are really eco-friendly and make it easy for you to be too. In Canada, I
saw recycling bins everywhere, even in each of my hotel rooms.
2. Pack a Refillable Water Bottle
My stomach turns anytime I see the ocean being used as a giant garbage can—that’s
exactly what happens when plastic gets dumped instead of recycled. Plastic bottles
often end up polluting the land and sea, so bring your own water bottle and refill it
Just The Flight put together that shows you which countries have safe tap water and which ones don’t. Here are two ways to handle traveling to a
destination with unsafe tap water:
Buy Water in Bulk: Shop for large jugs of water at a local grocery store, keep them
in your hotel room, and use them to refill your personal water bottle every day. Ask
your hotel if they can recycle the jugs once they’re empty.
TIP: The less bulk, the better, so get a lightweight, collapsible water bottle that you
Buy a Filtration Water Bottle: Bypass having to buy any plastic water bottles at all
when you purchase a special water bottle that can filter out waterborne bacteria.
stream, or even a puddle and it will filtrate it for you!
3. Carry Reusable Shopping Bags
Plastic bags end up in waterways and landfills where they don’t break down for
years, so pack a reusable shopping bag. Buying food at an outdoor market in Lima?
Planning a picnic on the coast of Barcelona? Determined to haggle your way through
a bazaar in Cairo? A reusable bag is perfect for any of those scenarios.
TIP: I found a stylish reusable bag I liked online and bought one. I chose BAGGU for a
few reasons; the compact bags I saw were all under $10, they came in a wide variety
4. Find Alternatives to Driving
There are a ton of options, depending on where you visit:
• Public transit: busses, trains, trams etc.
• Share a Ride with Someone
• Walking Tours
• Bike Tours
• If you do rent a car, consider hybrid or electric if available
5. Support the Locals, Not Big Corporations
This is especially important when visiting developing countries. Would you rather
help the local economy thrive or contribute to a big corporation’s piggy bank? Buy
locally made souvenirs, dine at local restaurants, use local tour operators, and stay
in locally owned hotels.
6. Purchase Directly from the Source
When shopping, try to go straight to the source to make purchases. That way you
know your souvenirs are ethically sourced vs. produced in a sweatshop somewhere.
In Bali, I visited craftspeople in their studios, where I could buy directly from the
batik painters, wood carvers, and jewelry makers. In Peru, I went to the Center of
Traditional Textiles where they weave their products right in front of you.
7. Book Unique Cultural Experiences
Be sure to include unique cultural experiences in your itinerary. Cultural tourism can
help you better understand the lifestyle of the people in the regions you are
visiting—their history, art, architecture, religion, and any other cultural aspects that
shape their way of life. Learn to be aware of your destination and how to help it
sustain its unique character.
8. Conserve Water and Save Energy
These are pretty straightforward—reduce your shower time, turn off the lights in
your hotel room when you leave, and unplug any electronics you aren’t using. Utilize
natural light sometimes.
9. Don’t Support Cruel Animal Tourist Attractions
Ripping a wild animal out of its natural habitat for the sole purpose of entertaining
humans is NOT OK. When you participate in most animal tourist attractions, that’s
exactly what you’re supporting, and extreme animal abuse is often happening
Here are the 10 cruelest animal tourist traps to avoid, based on a study
1. Riding Elephants
2. Taking Tiger Selfies
3. Walking with Lions
4. Visiting Bear Parks
5. Holding Sea Turtles
6. Performing Dolphins
7. Dancing Monkeys
8. Touring Civet Cat Coffee Plantations
9. Charming Snakes and Kissing Cobras
10. Farming Crocodiles
10. Buy Eco-Friendly Products
When you are packing items to bring along, consider whether they are good for the
environment or not. Take sunscreen for example. Many brands of sunblock may
protect you from the sun, but the environment—not so much. When it washes off in
oceans, it leaves chemical residues behind that are harmful to marine life. So opt for
non-toxic sunblock and pay attention to any other products you pack as well.
Also, even when you’re not traveling, keep the momentum going. Adopt an
eco-friendly lifestyle and it won’t be hard to adopt eco-friendly travel habits!
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