Conscious: How to travel more thoughtfully

Conscious // Culture // 6th September 2021

Finally, after what seems like a century, we’re double vaccinated and ready to travel (within country restriction measures). Although we’ve had enough to think about with which tests to buy or locator forms to fill out, there’s also a guilt feeling arising when it comes to travelling more consciously. How do we go about navigating this space and what steps can we take to limit the impact on the environment? To make your life easier we’ve put together a list of 10 things you can do to be a more thoughtful traveller:

1. Book direct flights

In an ideal world, aeroplanes would emit nothing but good vibes into the air. But in reality, you’ve got to get to where you’re going somehow, and for many, flying is the best option. Being a conscious traveller is about realising that not every industry is perfect, but it’s about doing what you can within restrictions to lessen your environmental impact.

With around 2.4% of global CO2 emissions coming from aviation – book direct flights when you can. The fewer flights you take, the fewer takeoffs and landings, the fewer fuel emissions that are seeping into the air. Here’s a helpful guide to fuel efficiency broken down by airline.

2. Offset your emissions

Airlines like Delta, United and JetBlue offer the option to purchase a “carbon offset” which essentially takes the carbon dioxide emissions you’ve contributed to as a passenger out of the air through a variety of ways such as planting a tree. However, not all airlines offer this so you may have to do your own research, to name a few, there’s Ecologi, Earthly and One Tree Planted.

3. Pack lightly and efficiently

Although most of the weight of the plane is from the infrastructure itself, every little helps. Make it a goal to get everything you need into one carry-on suitcase. Few tips:

– Wear your bulkiest clothing on the plane to make room in your carry on.

– Say no to travel-sized items and go waterless if you can. Use a shampoo bar and/or a bar of soap instead of mini bottles of shampoo, conditioner and body wash. Try Rowse Beauty and Everist for solid shampoo bars and waterless beauty options.

– Instead of single-use makeup remover wipes try reusable cotton pads.

4. Do your homework

The reality of finding a hotel or tour operator that has earned a sustainability label isn’t that simple with around 180 certification labels in the tourism industry, each claiming to certify the green credentials of a hotel, restaurant, tour operator or destination. Whilst some are credible, others might fall down the greenwashing trap – portraying themselves as environmental stewards, but with little or no action in doing so.

It’s always best to start by looking closely at the websites of the tour operators, hotels and destinations and if they don’t use any language about sustainability, then it’s a red flag.

Here is a list of resources from New York Times on, ‘How to Travel More Sustainably’ to help you navigate this space:

– Check out the Green Key label — a certification program that is headquartered in Copenhagen. This 2016 guide to some of the major tourism certifications can be a good starting point.

– Use Responsible Travel’s list of responsible travel tips, which include recommendations like hiring local guides, asking permission before taking photos of people, staying on designated trails in natural areas and thinking twice about handing out money to children.

– Here’s a list of the more than 230 travel organizations that have joined the Tourism Declares initiative, members of which have pledged to publish a climate action plan and cut their carbon emissions.

– ​​Another reliable indicator is whether a company has been classified as a “B Corporation” — a rigorous sustainability standard that’s not limited to the tourism industry. The B Corporation website lists some three dozen companies in the “travel and leisure” sector — from a paddle sports company in Hawaii to an Ecuadorean tour bus operator.

5. Choose to walk or cycle

To cut down on the vast amounts of emissions coming from transportation every day, choose to walk or cycle instead of getting a taxi or bus. You’ll also get more out of the place that you’re visiting and likely get lost or stumble across some local or hidden treasures.

6. Bring your reusables

Don’t forget to bring a reusable water bottle, coffee cup and utensils. Travel utensils are great if you’re staying at a hotel and complimentary breakfast only has plastic cutlery.

7. Go paperless

Download your airline app and add to your apple wallet to save on paper. Then when you’re at the check-in counter, tell them straight away that you don’t need a printed boarding pass or flight itinerary as many people will automatically just print one for you.

8. Say no to daily fresh bed linen and towels

More hotels are opting to change them every few days or on request which saves both water and energy so it’s probably worth letting reception know that you don’t need your bedding and towels changed daily.

9. Slow down and do less

Be realistic with your time and don’t over plan. If you are only away for a short time, it might be better to stay in one area as opposed to jumping around for one night only. Not only will it be more enriching but it is also one of the most sustainable ways to travel.

10. Go offline

For both your mental health and for ecological reasons – go offline. Immerse yourself in the culture and experience the place, people and food. And most importantly, awaken your inner flaneur, and get lost!





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