16 Ways to Travel Greener

Just because you’re on vacation, doesn’t mean you can stop being nice to our planet! Here are 17 tips to help you be the most energy efficient traveler you can be!

1) Reusable straws: As you might have heard, Starbucks is phasing out plastic straws! I am hoping that this is a trend that pressures other major companies to say “adios” to the one-use straw. In the meantime, consumers can focus their efforts on buying reusable ones instead. You can buy reusable glass, plastic, or steel straws. They are inexpensive and convenient enough to fit in a purse or backpack. Unfortunately, these seemingly harmless pieces of plastic will end up in a turtle’s throat. I know I don’t want that on my conscience. Do you?

They're so cute! But resist. I repeat... RESIST.

2) Don’t stop for the monkeys: Ok, ok. I fell for this one! I was in China and stumbled across a group of adorable little monkeys in costumes. I took pictures with them for only a dollar, but now I feel so guilty. I am a huge animal person, so I’m not gonna lie… I had a blast playing with the tiny monkeys and still have fond memories of them; however, please, do NOT make the mistake I did! Do not fall for these monkeys. Although they may look adorable, the way they were (probably) taken from their natural habitat and their mothers as infants is not as cute.

You just gotta put mind over matter and resist the monkeys!

3) Nonstop flights: Takeoff and landing are where the most significant amount of fuel is spent. If you can, try to avoid connecting flights. This will save you time and you won’t be trippin’ over your luggage trying to run to your next flight.

4) Try ecotourism: Best explained as, “Responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and improves the well-being of local people.” (TIES) 

Costa Rica is a country booming with ecotourism opportunities. A little notification popped up on my phone the other day saying that Costa Rica spent the last 300 days only using solar energy. YOU GO, COSTA RICA!

The most successful economic industry in the country is (eco) tourism. Many visitors to Costa Rica usually visit wildlife reserves, preserved natural areas, and national parks. The monies spent usually go back to their environmental programs.  

5) Walk, bike, or use public transportation: Enjoy the journey! Some of the best memories come from alternate modes of transportation. I am a public transportation aficionado and will take the “L” in Chicago anywhere. Also, walking or biking allows you to exercise, see much more of a city, and save money in comparison to driving a car.

The Lakefront Trail, in the Chicago-area

6) Long-distance travel: Supposedly, buses and trains emit less CO2 than planes. When traveling long-distance, buses and trains are the way to go if possible. Also, who doesn’t love kickin’ their feet up and catching up on their summer reading list (that most of us haven’t had the time to touch)? 

7) Be mindful of which airlines you fly: Airlines are 2-3 percent of greenhouse gas emissions! Make sure to thoroughly research the environmental standards of each airline. Some are more fuel efficient than others and invest in greener aircrafts. Of course, most of us have a budget, but if it’s the difference of only a few bucks, then you might as well choose the greener airline. Check here for the best flight deals, and while you’re at it, you can even choose which airlines you want to see during your search. 

8) Add a small amount of money to your flight purchase to offset CO2 emissions: When I booked my flight to Barcelona through Ryanair, there was a small voluntary fee I chose to pay to offset the price of CO2 emissions. Not all airlines have this feature. To be entirely honest, I am not sure what this does, but it was not more than three dollars and I know it helps Earth, so I’m all for it!

9) Bring a reusable water bottle: Not only will this reduce waste, but it will save you loads of money! Think about that four dollar, plastic water bottle at the airport that you don’t really wanna spend your paycheck on, but end up reluctantly paying for anyway because you have no other choice. LITERALLY, ONE OF THE WORST FEELINGS. 

Most airports have water refill stations, so you can just bring your empty water bottle in your carry-on. I have my trusty, old, purple Contigo water bottle, but you could take this one step further and get a recycled bottle! I don’t leave home without my reusable water bottle, and my conscience feels just a little cleaner because of it.

10) Eat locally grown food & support local businesses: Sometimes, the best way to understand a place is through the food. Support local farms instead of factory farms by buying from the local markets and stores. Take advantage of the food you can get based on where you are in the world. A little goes a long way to small businesses, but to big companies, it barely makes a dent.

11) Pack light: Forget the checked bag or the second carry-on. If you pack light, you can save yourself and the planet from trouble. The more a plane weighs, the more energy it takes to fly. You will also thank yourself later for not having to lug a heavy suitcase around. When you travel, bring some items of clothing that you can repurpose for different outfits. This will help you to pack lighter and use fewer resources.

There’s no shame in wearing the same shirt or pants twice! You might even be able to find a washing machine nearby.

12) If you’re staying in a hotel, do not get your sheets changed every day: Most hotels do not do this anyway, but some do. My guess is that you probably do not change your sheets more than once a week at home, so why would you do it once a day at a hotel? You can save water, energy, and labor if you don’t change your sheets daily. Also, do you really want someone banging on your door, yelling “HOUSEKEEPING” every morning? No thank you. 

13) LEED-certified hotels: If you do choose to stay in a hotel, LEED-certified hotels are the most sustainable. Read more about them here

14) Take a hike, but stay on the trail: Hiking is one of the best, most raw ways to truly appreciate nature. If you find yourself on a hike, stay on the trail. Even if your adventurous side is begging you to stray from the path, you should consider what is at stake. You risk harming wildlife, plants, and yourself when you wander away from the trail.

15) Visit national parks: Support national parks by paying a visit. Not only will your money go to support the maintenance of the park, but you will get to see some of the most beautiful spots in the natural world.

16) Get involved in volunteer work:

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    Peace Corps: This organization has been around since the 1960’s. They send volunteers from the United States to developing countries around the globe! Most assignments last around two years. Environmental and agricultural volunteers are only a fraction of the people in the Peace Corps. There are also health, education, youth development, and community economic development volunteers. You have the option to choose where you serve and whatever interests you. My dream is to serve in the health sector of the Peace Corps after graduation!

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    WWOOF: There is a program in which you can work on a farm anywhere in the world in exchange for accommodation. This is a great way to learn about agriculture, ecology, and another culture! You arrange your own stay with a host and can volunteer anywhere from a day to months or even years (long-term).


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    National Park Service: There are various volunteer job postings in the National Parks. You can choose the location and length of time that works best for you.

In a few years, many of the natural sites, that make us question leaving home and living off the land, will be gone (the Everglades, the Dead Sea, glaciers, the list goes on and on). Even some cities such as Miami and Venice are expected to be underwater in the near future. So, Shut Up and GO! See it before it’s gone!

Just use common sense! Turn off lights you are not using, only run AC when you need it, take shorter showers, and do what you can to help. You know the drill! Basically, just do whatever you would do to preserve resources at home.

Side note: I mastered the 2.5-minute shower and have never felt more accomplished.

Sources/ More Resources

The Cleanest Airline

How to Go Green When You Travel

Top 10 Green Airlines

How to Go Green When You Travel

Top 10 Green Travel Tips


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