As we become increasingly aware of the impact our actions have on the environment, more and more people seek ways to reduce their carbon footprint. This approach is important both in our everyday routines and during the times when we deviate ― like when we’re on vacation.
Fortunately, there are ways to travel more sustainably and minimize the negative effects of our tourism on the environment. It’s all part of a growing lifestyle movement called “green travel.”
HuffPost spoke to experts in tourism and sustainability about the growing world of “green travel” and how to incorporate this approach into your next itinerary.
What is green travel?
“Green travel is traveling in a way which is more sustainable than conventional travel,” said Anna Decam, environment program manager at the Sustainable Hospitality Alliance. “It’s about minimizing the negative impacts on the natural environment as much as possible.”
She noted that taking a green approach to travel might entail curbing your carbon footprint, the amount of water you use, the waste you generate or any impact on local species and ecosystems.
“At its best, green travel goes beyond just minimizing harm, to actively contribute to the prosperity of people, planet and place,” Decam said.
Indeed, this type of tourism is about thoughtfulness. It’s seeking to lessen your environmental footprint while positively impacting the local communities you visit during your travels.
“Travel can negatively impact local communities in destinations by driving up costs of living, promoting cultural commodification, or causing congestion at popular sites,” said Kaitlyn Brajcich, senior manager of communications and training at Sustainable Travel International. “Sustainable travel aims to minimize any negative impacts and maximize the positive by improving career opportunities, promoting the equitable distribution of tourism benefits, improving local quality of life, ensuring respectful interactions and celebrating the local culture.”
Make sure your tourism dollars go to the people and ecosystems most impacted by your presence. Focus on how your travels can help fund conservation efforts, raise environmental awareness and support the restoration of vulnerable habitats.
“There are many words to describe sustainable tourism these days,” noted Rachel Dodds, a sustainable travel expert and professor at Toronto Metropolitan University’s Ted Rogers School of Hospitality and Tourism Management. “Green travel is one of them.”
She explained that terms like “regenerative travel” or “sustainable travel” have come into popular usage in recent years, as experts emphasize going beyond reducing harm and actually benefiting the environment and locals during your visit. But nomenclature aside, the message of highly conscious, eco-friendly tourism is consistent.
“Green travel should really be thought of more holistically as ‘responsible travel,’ taking into account not just the environment but also the local community, the economy, and travel culture,” said Brian McMahon, travel curator at Origin. “They’re all interconnected, so you can’t talk about one without discussing the others. Thankfully, travel is trending more and more in this direction and it’s now commonplace to see hotels, airlines and travel companies proudly show off their sustainability commitments. The hard part for travelers is sifting through all of that information and deciphering between real action and lofty language.”
Green travel is about taking a mindful, sustainable approach to your vacations.
Why is it getting so popular?
“Green travel in various forms has been around for a long time ― there were ecotourism lodges as far back as the 1980s,” said Rebecca Benner, deputy director of the global climate team at The Nature Conservancy. “But there is now an increasing focus on the many aspects of the environment that travel can impact.It is hard to ignore the twin crises for climate change and biodiversity loss.The public consciousness about humans’ impact on nature has risen substantially in the last few years as has considerations of sustainability.”
For this reason, she believes green travel has become even more popular in recent years and will continue to grow in prominence.
“Humanity is facing some huge challenges,” Decam said. “Fossil fuel usage, globalization and mass production have reached a point where humans are using far more of the Earth’s resources than can be replenished, generating greenhouse gases which are warming the planet.The tourism industry is no exception, contributing roughly 8% of global emissions each year.Climate change is causing increasingly extreme weather, rising sea levels and ecosystem breakdown.”
This reality is particularly relevant to tourism, which relies on the existence of safe, diverse, accessible destinations that attract people from all over the world.
“As the impacts of these actions begins to become more visible, individuals and businesses are increasingly waking up to the need to act now, to address the impacts we’re already experiencing and to safeguard future generations,” Decam added.
She pointed to a 2023 report from Booking.com that found 76% of travelers say they want to travel more sustainably over the coming 12 months. Compared to the 2022 report, there were also big increases in the percentage of travelers taking sustainable steps on vacation, like turning off air conditioning when they aren’t at their accommodations, reusing the same towels and bringing their own refillable water bottles.
As travelers seek to minimize their negative environmental impact, many tourism-related businesses are working to make sustainability a major focus.
“Destinations trying to attract visitors realize that eco-aware consumers have the same concerns when they travel as they do at home, so work with hotels, restaurants, tour and transport operators to have high environmental standards in place,” said Tom Hall, vice president of Lonely Planet. “Of course, in many cases host communities already have specific programs in place, so it is a matter of communicating them to visitors.”
Recent inflation and economic woes also play a role in the rise of more sustainable travel.
“Things are getting more expensive, which often helps encourage more low-carbon activities,” said Charlie Cotton, founder of the carbon consultancyecollective. “Lastly, there is better understanding that travel done well can have a lower carbon footprint and be a more authentic, enjoyable experience.”
Consider visiting a local farmers market or farm-to-table restaurant, rather than eating at establishments with a larger environmental footprint.
How can I engage with green travel?
“The first thing is to know why you’d like to take a greener approach to travel,” said Paula Espinoza, creative director atNaya Traveler. “By making this personal to you and your values, you will be more inclined to research and make decisions that will positively impact the environment.”
Commit to planning ahead so that you can learn about your options for eco-friendly lodging, transit, food and more and choose the ones that will minimize your negative impact. Espinoza also recommended purchasing carbon offsets to mitigate potentially unavoidable emissions like air travel.
“When you’re packing your bag, consider what you put inside,” advised Eloisa Lewis, the founder of New Climate Culture. “Are you traveling with reusable options, or single use? Do the single-use items have biodegradable options?”
Again, a little research goes a long way, especially in the area of sustainability.
“If plastic waste is difficult to avoid, for example, come prepared with reusable eating utensils and other items,” said writer and sustainable travel expertSarah Reid. “If local tap water isn’t potable, pack a water-purifying device. Once you start taking these small steps, it soon becomes second nature.”
Try to pack reusable toiletry bottles, bring your own tote bag as you shop, turn off the air conditioning and any electronics when they’re not in use and pick up litter you see.
“Every effort, no matter how big or small, can make a difference,” said Jan Louise Jones, coordinator for hospitality and tourism management at the University of New Haven. “Choose companies that include sustainability in their mission and goals. Recycle when you can, choose transportation with low carbon emissions, spend money at local businesses and interact with locals in a positive and meaningful way.”
Select activities with minimal carbon footprints, like hiking, biking and kayaking. Ensure any interactions with wildlife are handled responsibly. Take public transit.
“Think local,” echoed Theresa Jackson of Enlightened Journeys Travel. “Really explore in depth one region, or combine two destinations in one trans-Atlantic or -Pacific flight.I think an approach of contributing to culture, conservation and community through commerce, wisely placed, is the best way to go. Choose accommodations that practice environment-regenerating measures, support micro enterprises to raise up women to economic parity ― which, in turn, builds community and educates children ― and make sure your money is correctly going to support local people or conservation efforts.”
Prioritize hotels and activities that directly support the community and environment, like restaurants that source local food or tour operators that promote authentic cultural exchange.
“Be careful to look out for greenwashing ― claims that a company is ‘green’ or ‘sustainable’ which are not supported by robust action,” Decam said.
When booking hotels, she recommended looking out for environmental certifications from trusted providers like EarthCheck, Green Key, and LEED. Major platforms like Booking.comare increasingly displaying sustainability information, and there are also a number of smaller booking companies with an eco-conscious mission.
If all this research and pre-planning seems daunting, there are also green-mindedtravelagenciesthat can help you find and book accommodations, activities and other impactful aspects of your next trip.
“Communication is key,” Decam added. “Hotels are more likely to embrace sustainability if they know that customers are interested in it. If you come across a particular measure that you are impressed by ― e.g. the property collects and reuses rainwater for the garden ― let the hotel know that you’re impressed by it. This will motivate them to embrace further measures.”
Similarly, you can offer feedback to hotels, tour operators or other travel companies you encounter on ways they might improve their sustainability.
“My advice would be to really consider the destinations we visit as places we hope future generations can visit,” said Kelly Bricker, director of the Center for Sustainable Tourism at Arizona State University.
She called on travelers to support local businesses, respect every destination’s culture and contribute to protect the natural environment and thus help people live healthier and more fulfilling lives.
“Our dollars that support travel should benefit local communities and cultural and natural assets for the long term,” Bricker added. “We are all stewards of this planet, and therefore must think about how we move about and how we can work to support amazing places around the world.”
This Travel Trend Is The Key To A Guilt-Free Vacation. Travel and environmental experts break down the rise of the "green travel" movement and how to incorporate it into your next vacation.Why do people travel more and more? ›
Travel takes us out of our comfort zones and inspires us to see, taste and try new things. It constantly challenges us, not only to adapt to and explore new surroundings, but also to engage with different people, to embrace adventures as they come and to share new and meaningful experiences with friends and loved ones.What makes a trip sustainable? ›
So, what actually is sustainable travel? According to the UNWTO, it's: Travel that takes full account of its current and future economic, social and environmental impacts, addressing the needs of visitors, the industry, the environment, and host communities.What are the main 5 reasons for people to travel? ›
- To Visit Family. Some family members move to another country. ...
- To Spend Time With friends. A Gap Year or world trip can be described as the best time of your life. ...
- To Find Better Weather! ...
- To Discover New Cultures. ...
- To Find Themselves. ...
- To Find Love. ...
- Wanderlust. ...
- You Won the Lottery.
What motivates millennials to travel. “Millennials tend to be driven very much by experiences,” said Roeschke. Millennials, along with Gen Zs, are more likely to spend money on experiences than on consumer goods (46% vs.What are the three pillars of sustainable travel? ›
The three pillars of sustainable travel: environmental, economic, and socio-cultural.What is the most sustainable form of travel? ›
Cycling and Walking
It comes as no surprise that bicycles and walking are the most sustainable methods of transportation.
Wanderlust: n. A Strong Desire For Or Impulse To Wander Or Travel And Explore The World.What motivates people to travel? ›
In many cases, travel can be the answer for a person who feels that their day-to-day routine has become stale and unimaginative. Traveling allows a person to experience a change of atmosphere that often reinvigorates their thinking.What type of people travel the most? ›
What age group travels the most? Millennials between 23-38 seem to be the age group that travels the most with an average of 35 vacation days a year.
American millennials are reported to travel an average of 35 days per year, significantly more than other generations. Meanwhile, the average travel days for other generations in the US are 26 for Gen X, 27 for baby boomers, and 29 for Gen Z.Which generation spends the most on travel? ›
Drilling into the survey data shows that on average, baby boomers and those age 65+ spend the most on travel.What are the 4 A's of tourism? ›
The 4 A's are four components of a destination that the tourism marketer should ensure the existence of and maximization in order to provide visitors with the best experience. They are Attraction, Accessibility, Amenity, and Ancillary Services.What are the 4 principles of sustainable tourism? ›
The preservation and economic growth of regional communities and protected areas are fundamental tenets of sustainable tourism. Education, readiness, and knowledge. Improving the tourist's attitude toward the environment. Minimizing the damage through better awareness and consideration of the impact he creates.What are the 4 components of sustainable tourism? ›
- Enviromental Pillar: Enviromental Responsibility. ...
- Social Pillar: Social Equity. ...
- Economic Pillar: Economic Health. ...
- Cultural Pillar: Cultural Vitality.
By Train. By most accounts, trains as a form of travel emit the lowest levels of greenhouse gases and other harmful pollutants, whether they are electric or diesel-powered. They also offer an opportunity for slow travel: Take in the landscape, read a book, and arrive at your destination refreshed and ready to explore.What is the biggest barrier of sustainable tourism? ›
Seasonality in tourism is one of the major problems which needs to be overcome and is also one of the challenges in sustainable tourism.What is the greenest form of transportation? ›
More efficient modes of transport
The most environmentally friendly and sustainable ways of travelling are walking, cycling and rail. According to research from Our World in Data: Cycling instead of driving a car for short trips would cut travel emissions by ~75%.
Tourism forms identified by the literature as being “sustainable” are numerous: ecological tourism (ecotourism), green tourism, soft, rural tourism and agrotourism, community tourism, solidarity and responsible tourism, all these opposing to the traditional, mass tourism.What is the most sustainable tourism destination? ›
Rhodes is the world's most sustainable tourism destination, according to a survey by DiscoverCars.com, with Santorini coming in fourth.
It is much less crowded in the country than in cities. Besides, the pace of life in the countryside is slow while people living in big cities always seem to be in a hurry. Also, it is much more healthy to live out of big cities because the air in the country is fresher and there is not as much noise.How many times does the average person travel? ›
Number of domestic trips taken per year
Overall, 60 percent of respondents travel domestically one to two times a year.
Every day traveling brings a new set of issues and opportunities. The way you handle those also gives you insight into who you are. You'll come home knowing yourself better, and with a fresh perspective on what you want out of life. The experience will change your life.When people travel most? ›
"But, many don't realize the busiest travel period of the year is the week between Christmas and New Years." AAA estimates about 55 million Americans travel over 50 miles from home for the Thanksgiving holiday compared to nearly 120 million traveling during Christmas and New Year's Day.Why has it become easier for people to travel around the world? ›
Travelling these days has become really simple and effortless. You can search for all the information online, book tickets, and choose hotels in no time. The connectivity and widespread network has made the entire charade smooth. Earlier people use to take the help of travel agents for any foreign trip they planned.What factors affect how people feel about traveling? ›
many factors including environment, infrastructure, time, cost and others. characteristic because their home and workplace are at two different locations. in a non-linear way. People tend to feel tired and bored in long distance daily travel...How many miles a day can a person travel? ›
With training, many walkers can finish a 26.2-mile walker-friendly marathon in about seven hours, with no breaks. That suggests that If a walker is well-trained and takes breaks, they can walk 20 miles in a day. If a walker doesn't take breaks and is going fast, they may be able to cover 30 miles in a day.How much money do you need to travel often? ›
In general, you should expect it to cost between $25,000 to $35,000 per person to travel around the world for a year. This rough estimate comes from reading travel budgets of other bloggers, various travel planning resources, and our own experience. This is just the midrange.How many vacations a year is normal? ›
However, most studies agree that at least two vacations a year can do wonders for your mental and physical health. Two vacations a year might seem like a lot to some and not enough to others, but that's truly the minimum number of vacations we're talking about here.What do you call the person who loves to travel? ›
Hodophile (n.): One who loves to travel; a traveler with a special affinity for roads. Wayfarer (n.): A traveler, especially on foot. Livsnjutare (n.): One who loves life deeply and lives it to the extreme. Thalassophile (n.): A lover of the sea; someone who loves the sea, ocean.
Travelling also keeps away stress, depression, and anxiety. It provides a new atmosphere taking out a person from their comfort zone. Overall, traveling broadens the horizon of a person.What month do most Americans go on vacation? ›
American families make the most of spring, summer, and Christmas school and college breaks to go abroad. As the seasons in America line up with the European year, the most common times to travel are: Spring break: March- April (depending on the date of Easter) Summer break: mid-June to late August/early September.What is the most popular week for vacation? ›
Most popular travel weeks begin June 21 and June 28, timed around Independence Day. Summer splurge: Over half (53%) of Americans plan to spend more on trips this year vs. last summer, rising to 66% for millennials.