Sustainable Travel? Tips for a more eco-friendly vacation

A sustainable eco-friendly family vacation is possible. Try these 5+ tips!

Credit: iStock / Celso Pupo

Davin and Emily’s posts about the eco-concerns with all-inclusive travel got me thinking. I think travel is essential – to our environment, to us. Without it we are less compassionate, and although there is an environmental cost – I think the payoff is we become better people. As Maya Angelou said, “Perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry, but by demonstrating that all peoples cry, laugh, eat, worry, and die, it can introduce the idea that if we try and understand each other, we may even become friends.”

I have to say though, I’ve always mocked the whole resort thing, declaring it’s not the same as real travel, at all. But that was before a kid and those experience-restricting two-week holidays entered our lives. Now that we have those limits – it’s a lot less appealing to grab the cheapest flight and show up in a foreign city with a backpack and a Lonely Planet.

These days, not only do I want to know that the hotel I choose will actually be a hotel and not a brothel (one problem that can come with using a secondhand guidebook) I also need to know how to make the trip fun for my little person. What I don’t want is for our holiday to be at the expensive of another country’s environment. And I also don’t want us to lose out on the whole point of travel by isolating ourselves in a gated resort.

So for our last trip (to an all-inclusive actually…) I did some research and found some tips for making our trip as sustainable as possible. Maybe they’ll work for you:

1) Not all destinations are environmentally equal so chose to travel to places that are doing their bit for the environment. Check out locations with National Geographic’s Centre for Sustainable Destinations or read through tourism websites for an indication about how the local people and environment are treated.

2) You may not be able to find or afford an eco-certified hotel but there are some questions you can ask before booking that will improve the chance the hotel is doing good:

  • Is the hotel locally owned, operated and staffed?
  • Does the hotel try to reduce consumption? (Limiting sheet/towel washing, energy-efficient lighting, low-flow showers, composting.)
  • Does the hotel contribute to the local community? (Highlighting local cuisine, recommending local guides/activities)

3) Flying creates about 2 percent of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions, so jetting off for fun in the sun isn’t the most earth-friendly vacation plan. Some airlines offer carbon offsetswhen you book a flight. But even if your airline doesn’t offer offsets, you can still go through the simple process yourself.

4) Make your stay greener by keeping the same habits you have at home.

  • Bring your reusable water bottle (I fill mine in the airport before boarding to start off on the right foot), to-go mug and a reusable shopping bag.
  • Conserve water with short showers and by shutting off the water while brushing your teeth.
  • Turn off the air conditioning, heat, television and lights when you leave your room.
  • Reuse your sheets and towels.

5) Choose activities that sustain and protect the local people and environment. Stick to local products from small vendors or co-ops and avoid buying stuff that has been flown or shipped in. Learn a few words in the local language, educate yourself about cultural differences and enjoy all the fabulous regional cuisine – because really, isn’t this what travel is all about?

Do you have any tips of your own?