Sustainable Travel: 8 Top Tips for more Eco-Friendly Adventures

Sustainable Travel: 8 Top Tips for more Eco-Friendly Adventures

Travelling is so much more than just a couple of weeks off work – it is an amazing adventure that lets you experience different cultures, see different natural habitats and try new things.

Our travels come with their own carbon footprints and can have a very real impact on our planet. Climate change is a growing problem and already causing problems around the world. As such it can be a challenge to combine a love of travel with a desire to live more sustainably.

Here at Ohelo HQ we love to travel, to get out into the natural world and see new things. So these are our handy tips to make your travels a bit more sustainable:

1. Choose a sustainable resort

When you choose a resort or destination, make sure it has a sustainability policy. You can find out if they do by looking at their website or sending them a friendly email. Eco-friendly certifications and standards can vary depending on your destination, so this is something that may take a little homework.

When it comes to hospitality, sustainability policies and practices can be wide ranging – from water preservation to reducing waste by eliminating single use products from the property, from programmes to protect local cultural heritage to employing local communities to ensure they benefit from the revenue that tourism is creating, from using green energy at the property to actively working to protect the surrounding flora and fauna. Look to see what your resort is doing in each of these areas.

If you are looking to enjoy some nature on your trip, choose a resort that is working hard to conserve their local environment and keep native animals safe from threats. This could be a coastal resort with an active programme to protect the local sea grass forests that provide an important habitat for marine wildlife, or a hotel that gives back to a local national park. Also look for hotels with guest participation programmes, where you can learn about the natural environment they are in and what they are doing to protect it.  

Sustainable lodge image

2. Pack your reusable water bottle

A reusable water bottle is a great way to reduce the amount of single-use plastic you use.

Every year an estimated 500 billion plastic bottles are produced - enough to circle the globe 4,200 times! Plastic bottles make up 1/3 of all plastic waste in the sea. In the UK only 57% of single use bottles are currently recycled – leaving a lot going to landfill. Single use plastic bottles are a nightmare for our planet and should be avoided when travelling (and when at home).

Luckily for us travellers who want to be more sustainable without sacrificing convenience on our adventures: reusable water bottles are easy enough for anyone (even kids) who wants one! They can be used both hot or cold drinks; they fit easily into bags; they're lightweight so they won't weigh down your pack too much while hiking through nature; and best of all they can be refilled again and again, so no need to buy single use plastic bottles every day.

For truly sustainable travel make sure your reusable water bottle is ethically made and free from toxic materials (did you know most insulated bottles still contain toxic lead?). We know you won’t mind a little self-promotion here, but Ohelo bottles are lead free and ethically made – perfect to keep you hydrated whether you are hiking in the Peak District or exploring the vineyards of Italy – you could even refill that insulated bottle with wine while you’re there!

travel image of Ohelo dark blue water bottle in bag on man

3. Avoiding flying if you can

Avoid flying if you can. Taking just one long haul flight a year can create more emissions than any other activity. The aviation industry accounts for 10% of all CO2 emissions in the UK. For shorter trips, consider whether driving or taking the train would be an eco-friendlier option for your trip – after all, the carbon footprint of flying can be 80% higher than taking a train!

Before you travel it is a great idea to check out the public transportation options of your destination. Do they have local bus systems, ferries or trains that are easily used? Can you get a local transport map and timetable before heading off on your travels? Are you going to a bike friendly destination where you can hire yourself 2 wheels for your stay? Or maybe there are local walking tours to take advantage of? Looking into these options before you travel makes them a lot easier to use when you finally arrive on your holidays.

Bike in scenic street

4. Buy local

We always love trying the local foods and flavours on our travels – it’s a great way of experiencing the local culture. Eating locally and seasonally is a great way to reduce your carbon footprint whether at home or on your travels.

When looking to buy gifts for those at home or a little souvenir for yourself try to buy local if possible. That way you will support local businesses and the communities you visit will benefit from the money that tourism can bring to an area.

5. Avoid unnecessary travel waste

There can be a lot of paperwork that goes with taking a trip – travel tickets, dinner reservations, pre-booked outings, currency exchange booking and many more. If you can, save these in a handy digital folder to your phone rather than printing them out. Just remember to keep that phone battery charged so you can access your documents when you need to.

It is not always necessary to take your own toiletries – many hotels will provide the basic shampoo, conditioner and shower gel for you to use there. If you do need to take your own, consider either refillable bottles that you can pre-fill at home and use each time you travel, or plastic free soap bars instead of liquid soaps.

natural soap

6. Think twice about taking a cruise

Going by boat surely must be better than taking a flight, right? Perhaps not. Channel 4 Dispatches looked into the secrets of taking a cruise with some startling revelations. One shocking find was that one cruise ship emits as much particulate matter every day as 1 million cars. Parts of a cruise ship deck have more pollution than the most densely populated cities in the world – not quite the fresh ocean air you were thinking of. Sewage dumping is another problem with cruising –with the impacts that dumping both sewage and grey water (from showers, dish water etc) has on the ocean habitats. Think of what Nemo and his friends are swimming around in underneath that ship!

7. Support ethical travel companies

If you're looking for a way to travel more sustainably, support ethical travel companies. The term "ethical" can be a bit confusing when it comes to travel, but the most important thing about an ethical company is that its operations are conducted responsibly--that means respecting local customs, minimizing waste and pollution, and treating employees fairly.

Using an ethical travel company to plan, book and oversee your trip can be a helpful way to travel more sustainably. From flight free vacations to eco-tourism specialists, from small eco tours that give back to local communities to carbon neutral travel companies there is a wide selection for the sustainably minded traveller.

8. Offset your carbon footprint

If you're still concerned about the impact of your travel on the environment and have reduced the carbon footprint of your trip as much as possible, then you can look at carbon offsetting what’s left.

Now offsetting the carbon footprint of your trip will generally involve paying a company to plant trees or do another carbon capture action to offset your emissions. The exact amount that you will need to make your trip “Carbon Neutral” will vary depending on how far you have travelled and what methods of transport you have taken.

A few words of warning about carbon offsetting:

• Not all carbon offsetting is equal – make sure you use a company who is operating responsibly – for instance, planting a native tree species in an appropriate area – planting the wrong tree in the wrong place can be harmful to native species and natural habitats and may not be as eco-friendly as it first appears.

• Offsetting your carbon to make your trip “carbon neutral” is not a neutral activity. The carbon has still been created and released to the atmosphere. So many companies, from travel to food, offer “carbon neutral” options now – but this does not address the initial damaging carbon footprint being there to begin with. Think of this: you could walk to work, or you could take your car and pay to offset the carbon emissions of that car trip. Both are now technically “carbon neutral”, but that is not really a fair comparison. The car is still burning petrol. Planting some trees or supporting a conservation project does not undo that damage. The walk is still the better option. This is why we all need to be mindful of how much carbon we are creating and try to minimise that first.

It can be hard to know where to start when it comes to sustainable travel. After all, we're all busy people with busy lives! And there's a lot of conflicting information out there about what is truly "green." But by following these easy tips and tricks, you'll be on your way toward making a difference in no time at all. Happy travels!

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News and insights from the Ohelo HQ