How to reduce your carbon footprint

Modified on Thu, Aug 10, 2023 at 1:15 AM

How can I limit my impact on the environment when I travel?

There are plenty of steps you can take to limit your environmental impact before, during, and after your travels.


Before traveling:

  • Select your destination wisely:

    • Some destinations are more sustainable than others. Exploring lesser-known places or traveling during less busy times makes less of an impact on local ecology, increases traffic to businesses that aren't located in popular tourist areas, and helps strengthen and support a sense of community for locals.

    • Look up a location's walkability score. Doing so will help you choose accommodations that are within walking distance to nearby amenities such as restaurants, shops, and cafés. You might also want to consider the distance to public transit stops as well as bike-share and electric scooter-share pick-up points, as these are all eco-friendly options for getting around your destination.

  • Reconsider when you travel:
    • Just like choosing where to travel, choosing when to travel can have a big impact too. Traveling during off-peak seasons means fewer tourists and lower prices, more flexibility and options, and it’s better for destinations that are historically overrun during the busy season. You’re also more likely to experience a place like the locals do—with only a few more people than the locals, too.

  • Be intentional about your accommodations:
    • Book an accommodation with a green building certification. Third-party certifications, such as Leadership in Energy Efficiency and Design (LEED), provide travelers with the peace of mind that the building—whether it be a hotel, house, apartment building, or any form of accommodation in between—meets the standards for sustainable and renewable energy initiatives.
    • Look for vacation rentals that offer or support eco-friendly practices, such as using green cleaning products, providing recycling or composting, encouraging guests to use public transportation or providing bicycles, or utilizing green energy (e.g., solar panels).

  • Plan what you pack:
    • Try not to overdo it! Less weight on the airplane equals less gas used to get from point A to point B.
    • Pack sustainable products: such as biodegradable soap, reef-safe sunscreen, reusable bottles, tote bags to carry purchased items, etc.

    • All sunscreens are not created equally. If you’re traveling to a tropical area, consider purchasing reef-safe sunscreen that is specially made to take less of a toll on the local ecosystems.


 While traveling:

  • Shopping:

    • Consider the souvenirs you purchase. Will it have lasting use, or will it end up in the landfill in a year’s time? Instead of buying a cheap key chain, shot glass, or trinket, invest in higher quality products that will last.

    • Shopping in locally owned stores will not only help curb your climate impact by creating less need for products to be shipped around the world but will also help support the local economy.

    • Support local businesses that partake in sustainable practices. Eat at restaurants that compost their food scraps. Check out local farmers markets for freshly grown and locally sourced items.

  • Getting around:
    • Walk or take public transportation. Not only will walking lessen your carbon footprint, it will also help you become more familiar with the destination you are visiting.

  • Activities:
    • Seek out opportunities to support your destination’s sustainable tourism efforts. For example, choose to support eco-conscious tour companies that employ local, full-time staff and highlight local businesses along your tour.
    • Be kind to the local ecology by opting for activities that support and promote environmental well-being. Skip the motorized boat and opt for a kayak or canoe if you’re staying near a body of water. Likewise, opt for a bike, e-bike, or electric scooter instead of renting a moped.
    • Going hiking? Remember to leave the trails better than you found them; bring home any trash and stick to the marked trails to protect the area’s plant and animal life.

  • Reduce waste:
    • Make a positive environmental impact during your stay by limiting your water consumption. This includes reusing towels and sleeping on the same bed linens for the duration of your stay. Keeping your showers short can help to conserve water. Likewise, protect the groundwater table by using biodegradable soaps, shampoos, and detergents.

After traveling:

  • Offset your carbon emissions:

    • Organizations like Jet-Set Offset can help fight climate change every time you fly.

    • Non-profit organizations like the Gold Standard also vet and recommend high-quality offset projects you can donate to. Check out their current projects here.


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