Summer Vacation: 8 Ways to Reduce Your Environmental Impact While Traveling

Posted by – July 12, 2016
Categories: Ecology & Sustainability

For many of us, summer means it’s time to pack our bags and head out for the great unknown—or, maybe just to the nearest large body of water for a soak. Wherever this summer takes you, be sure to bring your sense of adventure and a healthy dose of admiration for our incredible planet. Below you’ll find a few ideas to help reduce your environmental impact while you’re on the go.

With its focus on ecology and sustainability, and on alternative health and plant medicines, NAB has attracted authors with a unique perspective on mindful travel. Stay tuned to the Summer Vacation Series for travel tips and philosophies from authors and seasoned travelers Liz Cunningham and Uwe Blesching.


1. Fly direct.

Air travel is the most convenient transit option for those looking to enjoy distant destinations. It’s also the least ecofriendly. Try to fly only when necessary—opting to take trains, buses, and boats for shorter trips—and when you do, fly direct. A sizeable amount of an aircraft’s carbon emissions occur during takeoff and landing, so booking nonstop flights is as much easier on the environment as it is on you.

2. Pack light.

The more weight a vehicle carries, the more fuel it needs. By reducing the amount of luggage you pack, you can help reduce the amount of greenhouse gas emitted en route to your destination.

3. Walk, bike, or take the bus.

Consider walking, biking, and using public transportation to get around once you’re on the ground. These fun and affordable alternatives to driving are not only environmentally friendly, but they allow you to experience the daily bustle unique to your destination.

4. Eat locally.

Patronizing small businesses is a great way to learn traditional customs, experience regional cuisines, and support local economies while travelling green. On your next getaway, visit a farmer’s market, buy fresh from a local vendor, and duck into a mom and pop shop to enjoy locally and responsibly sourced fare.

5. Carry a daypack.

Packing a bag with your daily essentials before you leave your hotel will help you avoid buying wasteful products throughout the day. Carrying refillable water bottles and snacks in reusable containers will help you cut back on the amount of plastic you use in day.

6. Be a green guest.

Hotels around the world are pledging commitments to environmentally responsible practices like water conservation, renewable energy use, and recycling. If you aren’t able to book at a green hotel, be a green guest by taking the following measures: reuse bedding and towels, take short showers, turn off lights and unplug electronics before leaving a room, and always ask about your hotel’s trash and recycling programs.

7. Stay on the trail.

Veering off the beaten path is a natural temptation for many travelers. When it comes to exploring a natural habitat, you should always stick to the marked trail. Signs that restrict access to certain areas and interaction with plants and animals are there to protect the environment, not the people, and it’s important to abide by any posted warnings or requests.

8. Choose your souvenirs wisely.

Opt for mementos that won’t exacerbate issues like plastic waste or environmental degradation. Commercial harvesting of coral, for example, has lead to decimated reefs around the world.

Tags: Travel

About the Author

After graduating from UC Berkeley in 2007, Julia was delighted to find out that “professional book recommender” was a job. She has been working in marketing and publicity with independent Bay Area publishers ever since. She joined North Atlantic Books in 2014. She lives with her husband and two very nice cats in Oakland.