Monday, 26 August 2013

Sustainable Travel: Easy Tips to Minimize Your Eco-Footprint

With summer officially upon us many of us are thinking of our next travel adventure. When booking your great escape, take a moment to consider your vacation’s environmental impact. With sustainable travel a rapidly growing industry there are ample resources for travellers seeking ways to trek lightly. Here we outline easily implemented yet valuable steps to reduce your ecological footprint, whether touring a remote island or relaxing in your own backyard.

Before Leaving Home

Before heading off on your trip unplug appliances to reduce Standby Power, energy used when appliances are in standby mode. (Global Standby Power consumes up to 480 TWh/year, nearly triple Mexico’s total electricity consumption.) Turn off or lower thermostat and water heater settings and suspend newspaper delivery. Such measures will help you save energy and money. Lastly, leave pets at a shelter or with a sitter.


Vacationing need not be distant or exotic to be memorable and fun. “Staycationing” is the easiest way to save money and the environment. By vacationing within driving distance and overnighting at home you not only support your local economy and save money on accommodation but also help the environment by reducing your carbon footprint.

But whether home or away, try to opt for greener or shared modes of transportation such as trains or buses. If renting a vehicle select a hybrid or low emissions compact model. Compared to other forms of transportation, planes produce the most emissions. To reduce your travel footprint, fly in the daytime, fly direct or combine flights and pack light. Finally, purchase carbon offsets to counteract the environmental impact of your plane’s emissions.
(Learn more about airplane emissions in our article about The Green Passport Initiative!)


In selecting accommodation, look for certified green hotels that carry Green Seal, LEED, Blue Flag or equivalent designation. Holiday Inn Express & Suites in Saint-Hyacinthe, Quebec provide a visual breakdown of criteria that make them LEED certified.

Travel websites like Travelocity maintain a directory of certified green accommodation and multiple ecotourism websites like the Rain Forest Alliance, Green Globe and Sustainable Travel International list earth-friendly tour operators and travel companies.  

While staying in a hotel there are several simple steps to you can take to reduce your footprint. Be active in your hotel’s environmental conservation program. When out the room, turn lights off and lower your room’s thermostat. Close drapes and blinds in warmer climates to keep the room cool and the opposite in cold climates. Leave unopened bathroom amenities in the hotel.

Conserve water by turning off taps when not in use and taking shorter showers. Hand wash clothes in the bathroom sink and hang to dry.

Many hotel bathrooms include retractable clotheslines mounted between bathtub walls for this express purpose! When shopping for souvenirs buy locally produced goods and avoid goods made from endangered species or valuable, historical or cultural artifacts.      


Local, sustainable tourist activities support the environment and local economies. Visit farms, participate in guided walking tours or wine tasting, hike local park trails or take a cooking class. Gather activity ideas from travel guides like Lonely Planet that are available in digital format and use digital maps or applications. As much as possible self-propel: walk, rent a bicycle, or support a community bike-share program like Bixi. Alternatively, use local public transit systems, many of which now have real-time schedules available via mobile app.

Reduce plastic waste by carrying a reusable water bottle. Use local recycling facilities and carry trash until you can properly dispose of it – i.e. pack out what you pack in! Stay on marked trails when hiking or camping and refrain from disturbing local flora and fauna.

Regardless of your destination be mindful of your impact both culturally and environmentally. Seek to educate yourself on local traditions, practices, and culture and environment; limit any negative impacts you may have on the local environment.

Practicing any of these simple measures you will easily have a fun, memorable and sustainable vacation. Happy travels!