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A Checklist for Sustainable Travel

What to do before setting off on a sustainable trip?

Nowadays, the phrase “sustainable travel” is becoming increasingly more frequent, since people have started to become aware of the negative impact tourism has on the world we live in. If you, too, care about the locals you meet during your travels, or the environment in which you live, for that matter, but don’t know how to make your trips as sustainable as possible, you should read the following article, which should bring inspiration for new and eco-friendly travels.


1. Looking for sustainable transport

The first step after knowing where you’re going to travel is finding sustainable mode of transport. The most sustainable option would be setting off on a bike, but since that isn’t going to take you far, you should read on for a comparison of various modes of transport. Airplanes produce the highest amount of CO2 and also burn the most fuel. Travelling by bus produces thirteen times less CO2 emissions than travelling by plane. Travelling by train is also recommended and, in addition to a cleaner environmental conscience, it offers an opportunity to observe the landscape passing by. Nowadays, one can go almost anywhere by train or bus. But it’s still impossible to avoid airplanes sometimes, so it’s important to follow a few rules when travelling by air. Take-offs and landings produce the highest amount of emissions, so you should book direct flights.

Cruise ships are major polluters and they produce the most greenhouse gases per kilometre. Cruises also produce large amounts of food leftovers and the locals don’t benefit at all from them. You can read more about choosing the best sustainable mode of transport in this article. You’ll also find out how to offset your carbon footprint when using air travel.


2. Choosing sustainable accommodation

For the most sustainable accommodation, you should search out one that has certificates. There are lots of international ones and each country also has their specific certificates. Some of the most well-known ones for sustainable accommodation are Green Globe, Green Key and ECOCamping, which mostly applies for camps. These certificates have strict criteria and encompass everything, from hostel management to water and electricity consumption. One of the strictest certificates is BIO HOTELS, which ensures everything is sustainable, from your stay to the food and drinks you consume. Hostelling International also has its own environmental certification and the most eco-friendly HI hostels have the HI-Q&S certificate. Hostelling International also offers you a chance to offset your carbon footprint during your stay at a hostel. You can read more about it here. Donations are put toward sustainable projects in hostels through this sustainability fund. And that’s not all. All HI members get 10% off their HI hostel bookings. You can read more about it here.

However, I don’t recommend staying at large hotel complexes with an all-inclusive offer, which can be found along the coasts everywhere, from the Caribbean to Thailand. They have a negative impact on the environment and the local living standard. Scientists have calculated that more than 80% of the money a tourist spends in the Caribbean ends outside the destination country, which means that while tourists have a blast at private beaches, consuming excessive amounts of food and drinks, the locals work hard in bad working conditions in order to earn a small amount of money. Tourists also use up a large amount of water and energy, even in areas where the two resources aren’t even available.


3. Exploring the destination country’s cultural feature

You should familiarise yourself with the country you’re travelling to and its people. When trying to experience a new culture it really helps if you already know something about it. That way you can prepare for the foreign culture in time, which will pave the way to meeting the locals and making new friends in a foreign land. The path to the hearts of the locals will become accessible when you learn their language or at least a couple of the phrases. But there are also other things you need to take into account. If you’re travelling to Muslim countries during Ramadan, it’s good to know what that means for your visit. In the Mediterranean, it’s difficult to find an open restaurant during the hottest time of the day, as everyone hides from the scorching sun. And since we’re talking about food – you shouldn’t finish your meal completely in Egypt because that’s a sign your host didn’t provide enough food for you. There are also special rules for entering sacred buildings, so pay attention to how the locals are dressed. You should also keep up-to-date with the political situations and what kind of attitude the locals show towards tourists. Respecting foreign customs and traditions is a form of respect. After all, we’re only guests in foreign countries.


4. Looking for hidden tourist gems

Make a plan of everything you want to see before you begin your trip. Make a list of all the major landmarks. You can find tips for those on our travel map. You need to keep in mind that there will be crowds of tourists at these attractions, which means the pressure on the environment will be the biggest there. You also can’t really experience the true soul of the land through these major attractions, since their original appearance has already been altered. Temples, for example, often turn into souvenir shops. So, distance yourself from the major landmarks instead and explore the true gems. That way you’ll also make sure your money reaches the remote villages. True gems usually can’t be found on a list of attractions. You need to discover them yourself. You can ask the locals about them or set off into the unknown. There’s no doubt you’ll find something interesting. You can also visit national parks and other protected areas that play an important role in the preservation of natural resources and the protection of biodiversity of our planet. Many countries depend on tourist taxes in order to preserve special places and animals.


5. How to pack sustainably

The only thing left to do is to pack your things. Sustainable principles can apply here as well. Approximately one million plastic bottles are sold around the world each minute. Be the change and carry your own reusable water bottle with you. But you’ll probably need to do some shopping, too. You should carry a tote bag with you, so you can always proudly tell the cashier you don’t need a plastic bag.

Another thing that will definitely come in handy and can be reused is a travel mug for your coffee or mulled wine. With it, you won’t have to constantly buy coffee in those single-use plastic or paper cups. And it’s even better if you decide to take your time and drink your coffee at a café. But we all know sometimes there’s just not enough time.


There are lots of shampoos and soaps that come in small travel packaging, but these aren’t a solution to reducing the amount of waste, including plastics. You should buy soap bars instead. You can bring them on the plane in your hand luggage. Also, you should check whether your sunscreen contains any ingredients that might harm the fresh and saltwater environments. This is especially important when going diving in coral reefs. It’s best to buy mineral sunscreen, which is made using zinc oxide and titanium dioxide.

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