Sustainable Travel Tips for Beginners

I like to think of myself as a sustainable traveler; I try to minimize my impact on the planet by reducing my waste, supporting local businesses, and offsetting my carbon footprint. And I want to inspire others to do the same! 

Karen Chow Salt Spring Island, BC, Canada
Enjoying Salt Spring Island in BC, Canada

Why Sustainable Travel?

As a sustainable traveler, I am always looking for ways to reduce my impact on the planet. For me, that means reducing my waste, supporting local businesses, enjoying slow travel, and offsetting my carbon footprint. Here are some of the reasons why I choose to travel sustainably: 

Reducing My Waste

One of the biggest problems facing our planet today is plastic pollution. Every year, millions of tons of plastic end up in our oceans, where it harms marine life and pollutes our waters. By reducing my use of disposable plastics while traveling, I can help make a small dent in this global problem. I bring an empty water bottle with me (empty to pass through security at the airport), then fill inside the airport. This is a great way to reduce the use of plastics.

plastic waste in ocean
300 million tons of plastic waste are produced every year, and the United States is the highest consumer of plastics.

Supporting Local Businesses

When you buy from locally-owned businesses, more of your money stays within the local economy and benefits people who live there. That’s why I always try to eat at locally-owned restaurants and buy souvenirs from small businesses when I’m traveling. 

handmade soap
Buying handmade soap from local artisans. Photo by Karen Chow

Enjoying Slow Travel

Slow travel is a way of travel that emphasizes immersing oneself in the local culture and savoring the journey, rather than rushing to tick off as many tourist destinations as possible. Slow travel can take many different forms, from spending months living in one place to taking day trips from a basecamp instead of always being on the go. One of the great things about slow travel is that it can be adapted to any budget and travel style. Whether you’re roughing it in hostels or staying in luxury hotels, there’s a way to slow down your travels and make the most of your trip.

wildflowers in the Alps
Enjoying slow travel by spending time in the Alps, staying in one location to really enjoy it.

There are many benefits to slow travel, both for your mental and physical health. When you’re constantly on the go, it’s easy to get caught up in the rat race and forget what’s important in life. Slowing down gives you time to appreciate the little things and connect with the people and places around you. It also allows you to more fully experience a destination, rather than just seeing it through a tour guide’s lens. It is a more sustainable way to travel since you’re spreading your transportation costs over weeks or months. Plus, taking things slow can help reduce stress levels, giving you a much needed break from everyday life. So next time you’re planning a trip, consider trade those packed itineraries for some relaxed slow travel instead – your mind and body will thank you for it!

Offsetting My Carbon Footprint

Another way to reduce your impact on the planet is by offsetting your carbon footprint. This means neutralizing the greenhouse gases emitted by your activities (like flying) by investing in eco-friendly projects (like planting trees). For example, you can offset your carbon footprint while traveling buy purchasing carbon offsets, like from Terra Pass for example. 

Sustainable Travel Tips for Beginners

If you’re interested in sustainable travel but not sure where to start, here are some simple tips that anyone can do: 

What does it mean to travel sustainably? For some people, it might mean offsetting their carbon emissions from flying by planting trees. For others, it could be about choosing accommodations that are eco-friendly and support local communities. No matter what sustainable travel looks like to you, there are plenty of easy ways to make your next trip a little bit more sustainable. Here are five of our favorites.

1. Choose public transportation whenever possible. 

This is an easy one—whenever you have the option to take the bus, train, or another form of public transportation instead of driving or flying, go for it! Not only is public transportation more environmentally friendly, but it also gives you a chance to slow down and experience your destination in a different way.

I always take the bus or subway or train when I travel. Photo by Ant Rozetsky on Unsplash

2. Do some research before you go. 

Before booking your tickets, take some time to learn about the culture and local customs of your destination. This will help you avoid doing anything that could be perceived as disrespectful, and it will also make your trip more enjoyable overall.

3. Pack light. 

One of the best ways to reduce your carbon footprint while traveling is to pack light and only bring what you need. Not only will this save you money on baggage fees, but it will also make getting around a lot easier—especially if you’re taking public transportation or walking most of the time. I always travel just with a carry on, even if my trip is long, like two months for example.

4. Stay in eco-friendly accommodations. 

There are now more options than ever for eco-friendly accommodations, from Airbnbs with solar panels to hotels made entirely out of recycled materials. Do some research to find lodgings that align with your sustainability values, and then enjoy guilt-free relaxation knowing that you’re supporting a good cause. 

5. Offset your carbon emissions. 

If you’re flying somewhere, consider purchasing carbon offsets to balance out the emissions from your flight. There are tons of programs out there that allow you to do this, and many airlines offer the option to purchase offsets directly through them as well. And that’s it! Just by following these five simple tips, you can make a big difference in the sustainability of your next trip—and have a great time doing it, too. The whole world is waiting for you—go explore! (Just not all at once.)

carbon offset forest
When you buy carbon offsets, trees are planted, which helps to absorb the carbon dioxide.


These days, there’s no excuse not to travel sustainably—and with these five tips, sustainable travel has never been easier! From choosing eco-friendly accommodations to packing light and taking public transportation whenever possible, there are plenty of easy ways to make your next trip a little bit greener—and just as enjoyable as ever. So what are you waiting for? The world is waiting for you!

beach sunset

For more travel ideas, here are 40 best vacation destinations for nature lovers.

How do you try to be more sustainable when you travel? Let me know in the comments.

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  1. I love this! This really challenged me to think more sustainably as I travel which I am embarrassed to admit I haven’t really done before. I am totally going to Implemente these tips for my next big trip in January. Public transport here I come!😆

  2. Very well said! Even starting out implementing one of these tips is a great way to get started on a more sustainable path!

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