5 Ways to Travel More Sustainably in 2021

traveling sustainably

Photo Credit: Artem Beliaikin/Pexels

More and more people are beginning to travel again as they are getting vaccinated. I’m as eager as the rest to get out there and see the world again, but I know I have a responsibility to preserve the environments I visit. The most sustainable form of travel is actually to not travel at all. Flying, dining out, taking a road trip, and more, all increase our carbon footprint in different ways. But cutting out travel completely is not realistic for me and many others. What I can do, however, is travel more sustainably. 

Here are my five tips on how to be a more sustainable traveler. 

1. Connect with locals before you arrive

I love reaching out to locals before I take a trip. It makes me feel more secure because I can ask questions and get their perspective on the place I'm visiting. More often than not, those people end up as friends. I also join Facebook groups for local communities to learn how to prepare for a destination.

Locals can give me all kinds of tips and tricks on how to maximize my time and support the community, like which markets to buy from that support small farms in the area, how to navigate my way from the airport to my hotel without using a cab, and more. 

2. Stick to one location

If my itinerary is too packed and I'm racing through cities, I usually accumulate more products and waste along the way. I might be picking up water bottles more often, getting more food to go in plastic containers, etc. Staying in one location helps me limit my carbon footprint. 

3. Buy local

This is important because it supports the local economy. Fast-fashion stores like H&M might be in almost every country, but their goods are often imported and not made sustainably. 

Buying a wool sweater knit by a local Icelandic granny who sheared her own sheep and spun her own wool is not only better for the local economy and the environment but better for consumers — I can take home a one-of-kind item that will likely last longer than a fast-fashion sweater.

4. Use public transportation whenever possible

I love using public transportation in general. It’s so much nicer having someone else drive, so I can daydream and watch the city go by. But using mass transit is also better for the environment, as it keeps cars off the road, limiting gas emissions. 

Many destinations, especially outside of the USA, have well-equipped, public transportation systems. A lot of European countries are well connected by rail, and Japan has high-speed electric trains. It’s often less expensive to take public transportation, and less stressful than having to always find a parking space.

5. Leave no trace 

One of the more positive outcomes of the global pandemic was that some areas of the world, like hiking trails, forests, and more, began to regenerate naturally without humans stomping all over them. Connecting with the outdoors is important, but more important than that is ensuring a place remains exactly the way you found it. Leaving no trace means staying on trails, picking up after yourself, and being sure others can enjoy it for decades to come.

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