Five Unique Ways to Travel Sustainably

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In today's world, sustainable travel has become a major priority for many globetrotters. According to a 2023 Statista report, 80% of travellers worldwide recognize the importance of sustainable travel. As our awareness of environmental impact grows, more people are looking for ways to explore the world. They aim to keep their carbon footprints in check. Whether you're plotting a weekend escape or a lengthy adventure, there are plenty of unique and effective strategies to travel sustainably. Here are five ways to help you journey with a lighter impact on our planet.

Embrace Slow Travel!

Slow travel is all about savouring the journey, focusing on quality over quantity by spending more time in fewer places. This approach reduces the carbon footprint that comes from frequent flights and other transportation and offers a richer travel experience. Did you know that air travel is responsible for 3.5% of the effective radiative forcing impacts contributing significantly to global warming? It also accounts for 2.5% of annual global CO2 emissions, according to Earth911.

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To put it in perspective, a round-trip flight from Seattle to Washington, D.C., generates about 1,155 pounds of CO2 per passenger. That's roughly equal to what the average person emits in a whole month!Beyond the environmental perks, slow travel allows for a deeper connection with the places you visit. You'll have the chance to uncover hidden gems and perhaps find a new favourite spot, all while enjoying a more tranquil and immersive experience.

How can slow travel help me save money?

Slow travel can save money by reducing expenses related to transportation and accommodation. By spending more time in fewer locations, you avoid the costs of frequent travel. This also allows you to find more affordable lodging options, such as vacation rentals or budget-friendly accommodations.

How to Practice Slow Travel

  • Extended stays: Opt for longer stays in one location instead of hopping from city to city. 
  • Local experiences: Engage in local activities, such as cooking classes, guided nature hikes, or cultural workshops. 
  • Sustainable Accommodation: Choose eco-friendly accommodations like hostels, homestays (or house sitting!), or hotels with green certifications.

Opt for Eco-Friendly Transportation

One of the best ways to shrink your travel carbon footprint is by choosing eco-friendly transportation. For instance, biking and walking are fantastic for getting around cities and towns, benefiting both the environment and your health. Public transit options like buses, trams, and trains are usually much more energy-efficient compared to cars, making them a great choice for longer distances.

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And if you do need a car, think about renting an electric vehicle (EV). LilyPad EV notes that many cities now have plenty of EV charging stations, making it easier than ever to travel green. According to the Pew Research Center, as of February 2024, there are over 61,000 publicly accessible electric vehicle charging stations in the U.S. These stations include both Level 2 and DC Fast chargers. This is more than double the roughly 29,000 stations available in 2020. So, if you're travelling around the U.S., finding an EV charging station should be a breeze!

Choose Sustainable Accommodations

Not all accommodations are equal when it comes to sustainability, so it’s worth doing a bit of homework before booking. Look for places that use renewable energy sources, like solar or wind power. Opt for accommodations that focus on water conservation with low-flow fixtures and other eco-friendly practices. Also, choose hotels that actively reduce waste by minimizing single-use plastics and recycling as much as possible. If you’re staying at a resort, consider eco-resorts that are built with sustainability in mind, using local materials and supporting conservation efforts. In bustling cities, where carbon emissions are already high, green hotels can make a big difference.

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Image Credits: OCG Saving The Ocean

For example, Chicago is leading the way in sustainable lodging. According to CN Traveller, hotels like Kimpton’s chic Hotel Allegro and the elegant InterContinental Chicago have been certified by Green Seal. If you’re travelling to Chicago, make sure to ask your Chicago travel agency for a stay at one of these eco-friendly hotels. Windy City Travel notes that a good agency will offer a tailor-made experience and personal service. They will also provide exclusive privileges to make your stay both sustainable and memorable.

What is a Green Seal rating?

A Green Seal rating is a certification awarded to products and services that meet specific environmental and performance standards. Green Seal is a non-profit organization that provides this certification to help consumers identify products that are environmentally responsible and sustainable.

Support Local Economies

Supporting local economies is a great way to cut down on the carbon footprint tied to the production and transportation of goods. Plus, it ensures that your spending directly benefits the local community. To make a difference, choose restaurants that use locally sourced ingredients and buy handcrafted souvenirs from local artisans instead of mass-produced items. Also, consider joining tours led by local guides. By doing so, you'll help sustain small businesses and celebrate the cultural heritage of your destination. This not only makes your travel experience more authentic but also more responsible.

Offset Your Carbon Footprint

Carbon offsetting means counterbalancing your own emissions by investing in initiatives that lower greenhouse gases in other areas. This might involve supporting projects like renewable energy, tree planting, or capturing methane.

How to Offset

  • Calculate Your Footprint: Use online calculators to determine your travel emissions. 
  • Choose a Reputable Program: Invest in certified offset programs such as Gold Standard or Verified Carbon Standard (VCS). 
  • Contribute: Make a financial contribution based on your calculated footprint.

Why should I consider buying carbon offsets?

Buying carbon offsets is a way to take responsibility for your carbon footprint. They are especially useful if you can't eliminate all your emissions through direct actions. This includes steps like reducing energy use or switching to renewable energy sources. Offsets help fund projects that contribute to environmental and social benefits. Overall, travelling sustainably is not just about reducing your environmental impact. It’s all about choosing options that help local communities and protect natural resources for the future.

By following these tips, you can enjoy your trips knowing you're making a positive impact. Remember, sustainable travel isn’t just about the destinations; it's a rewarding journey that benefits both you and the places you visit.

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We overland. We eat plants and fungi. We live outside as much as possible. We are all connected. A female travel blogger overlanding and writing about ecotourism, ethical and sustainable travel, socially conscious travel and housesitting. An online travel magazine since 2015.


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