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Eco-Friendly and Sustainable Tips for Travelers


Eco-Friendly and Sustainable Tips for Travelers

Now that it’s April, Earth day is just around corner. I am of the belief that we should celebrate our planet more than just on one day a year, and in honor of that, I wanted to write about ways you can be eco-minded and sustainable while traveling.

The definition of being a “sustainable” traveler fluctuates depending on who you ask. To some, it’s being “green” and limiting your water use, using clean energy, and eliminating use of extra waste. In the tourism and hospitality industry, being sustainable also takes into consideration the resources used in a hotel, the local economy, and the population in the area, and the working conditions of staff in restaurants, hotels, and tourist excursions. That is to say, where the food and products in hotels and restaurants come from matters, the wages and accommodations of employees matters, the locals matter, where the money tourists spend in the community goes matters, and the size of the town or city matters (just to name a few).

When considering these additional factors of sustainability that go beyond thinking “green”, questions that sustainable travelers might ask themselves are “Am I spending money that contributes to the local economy?”, “Am I traveling during a peak time or the off-season?” and “Where can I find fresh and sustainable meals?”.

With that being said, here are 5 tips for eco-friendly and sustainable traveling.

1.) Supporting Local Business

One way to ensure that the money you spend stays in the local economy is by shopping local. Whether it’s food and beverage, entertainment, or leisurely shopping, you can find unique small businesses to support. Chances are, if you eat at a local restaurant, the ingredients they use are locally resourced, and furthermore, shopping at a small business reinforces the economy and tourism business in the immediate area. Tourism is an important business for everyone in this sense, because you help contribute to a cycle of wellbeing for those who live in and near the area you travel to, and you are contributing to future tourism in that area. So be mindful when traveling of who you are giving your business to, is it a chain, a tourist trap, or a genuine locally owned business.

2.) Protected Areas

Each region of the world has a unique environment and biodiversity. That being said, it’s important to protect it, because without protection, these environments slowly cease to exist and we lose biodiversity. State and National Parks as well as nature sanctuaries are important for both the environment and tourism as attractions and experiences. Billions of people visit protected natural areas around the world each year, which generates enough money for these parks to continue to be protected, while also providing income for the local communities in the area. It is vital that visitors of these protected areas respect the land and the rules that are enforced in order to conserve the environment. In Sheboygan, one of the most important rules at various parks is to stay on trails, not only for your own safety, but for the ecosystem to thrive. The shoes you wear can introduce harmful bacteria, invasive species, and can damage life that you might not notice trying to grow. So when in doubt, always stick to the trails!

3.) Conserving Resources

On average, tourists tend to use significantly more water, waste, and energy while traveling. Which makes sense, you’re away from home and working with limited resources you could pack and bring with you yourself. This demand for extra resources takes a toll on the Earth, residents of the area, and businesses in tourism such as hotels. The best thing you can do to help decrease the amount of resources you’re using while traveling is to be mindful of your usage. Remember to turn off TVs, unplug unused cords from outlets, turn off lights and AC when you aren’t in your room, air dry laundry, and put up your Do Not Disturb sign to decrease extra laundering. Blue Harbor Resort in Sheboygan, WI uses the Go Blue Program to help conserve water on the shores of Lake Michigan. By hanging your Go Blue door hanger outside your room, you can forgo your stayover service, therefore saving amenities, reducing unnecessary laundry and plastic use during your stay.

4.) Limit Your Use of Disposable Plastic

Okay, I’ll admit, you probably saw this tip coming a mile away. It’s one we are used to hearing, but it’s significant enough to still deserve its own spot on this list. One of the easiest ways to limit your disposable plastic use is by packing a water bottle for your trip. I get that bringing a water bottle can be cumbersome, clunky, and difficult. I use a collapsible water bottle when I travel, and it’s been a game changer. It’s much easier to pack, make space for, and accommodates its size as you empty its contents. Carrying your own refillable water bottle (especially a collapsible one) not only saves plastic, but it will save you TONS of money. Mine was attached to my hip (sometimes literally) while traveling in Europe this past summer. You can see it here in this photo, in my hands along with a bunch of roses that a woman in Athens, Greece was selling.

Another huge pro to carrying this everywhere I went was that I could fit it into this cross-body travel bag that I wore every day while traveling. Here I am sporting it in front of a telephone box in London.

5.) Consider Donating to a Local Charity

Another very sustainable effort tourists can make while travelling is a donation to a local cause or charity. This can look like many things; like suggested in tip 2, if you’re visiting a nature park or protected area, there are often donation boxes that ask for donations to help keep the park/area conserved. In some protected areas, this is completely in lieu of an admission cost. You could also attend a local event, such as a sporting event, festival, or fundraiser. Even some restaurants will participate in local fundraisers by asking for a donation when you pay, or including a special item on their menu that gives back to a cause. No matter where you are visiting, it’s important to remember that for as many tourists as the area might attract, there are locals too who are sharing the place they call home as well as their time, energy, and resources with strangers from far and wide. It’s pretty cool to be able to think that you’ve contributed to a community outside your own while exploring new places.

So there you have it, my top 5 tips for sustainable and eco-friendly traveling. As someone who loves to travel myself, these are things I always am mindful of wherever I visit. I hope you adapt some of these ideas into your own travels if you hasn’t already.


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