How to Travel Sustainably in 2021

Kauai, Hawaii site for sustainable travel
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What is Sustainability

Sustainability is built on the topics three pillars – economics, society, and the environment. While many are currently focusing on how these pillars work in the corporate world, all three translate directly into sustainable travel.

Sustainability has been thrown around in recent years and taken on a large following, with new career paths in the industry and every business learning how to become more sustainable.

Let’s make 2021 the most sustainable travel year yet with the tips below!

Reusable Water Bottle

It is 2021 and somehow this still needs to be mentioned. The amount of water bottles I still see scattered on hiking trails and people stocking up on loads of plastic water bottles for their trip is a little outrageous.

One reusable water bottle can go a long way – in your backpack and wallet.

Reusable water bottles hit on two pillars of sustainability, economics and environment. By using one – or multiple – reusable water bottles you don’t need to constantly buy new water bottles, one can last you through years of adventures. Also, you will cut down on plastic waste infinitely by using a reusable bottle.

If you’re worried about the purity and cleanliness of the water where you’ll be traveling, look for a water bottle with a filter or purifier. They may seem pricey at first, but they can save you hundreds of water bottles bought at gas stations.

Water bottle suggestions:

Immerse Yourself in Culture

Take off the beaten path excursions while traveling and experiencing tours and cuisine by local business owners.

Steer clear of global chain restaurants and touring companies. Look to try the local street foods, restaurants, and companies that are part of the community you’re visiting.

By using these tour groups and seeking out local chefs, you are boosting the economy of your destination and host city. When using global chains, only a small portion goes back to that city and the rest goes to the corporation as a whole.

Experiencing local fare and activities also helps to create a diverse and inclusive trip. When going to an international destination, you should learn about their culture and society from their own people, not others.

Blue Ridge Mountain View for sustainable travel
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Pack Versatile Clothing

There are pros and cons to packing heavy and packing lightly when traveling sustainably. Packing heavy means you have enough outfits so you don’t need to do laundry for a small amount of clothing. Plus, most laundromats only have old, inefficient washers. But you waste more space and may need to bring extra luggage. Packing light, you can size down to one bag but you will need to do laundry during your trip.

Find the middle ground by investing clothes that can serve multiple purposes or reversible pieces. This can help you save money by carrying less bags and can be better for the environment.

To pack for even more sustainable travel, purchase from brands that invest their time and money into sustainability. Sustainable fashion can include brands that use recycled materials, pay fair wages, and donate back to their community.

Brands to look for when traveling sustainably:

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Travel Sustainably with an Eco Travel Provider

With sustainable travel on the rise, more and more companies are offering eco tours.

Traveling to another country can be scary, so check reviews on all tours, how they give back to the community, what they’re doing to better the planet, and check their affiliations and certifications.

A good place to start when looking for sustainable travel tours is looking for Certified B Corporations. Certified B Corporations “are businesses that meet the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability to balance profit and purpose. B Corps are accelerating a global culture shift to redefine success in business and build a more inclusive and sustainable economy.” (B Corps)

Sustainable travel programs hit on all three aspects of sustainability. They educate travelers on the importance of conservation and the culture they are visiting while giving back to the community by bringing in business.

Sustainable and green travel tours and destinations:

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Ditch the Travel Size Toiletries

You read that right. You may be thinking, ‘but what about freeing up space in my bag to lighten the load?’ Yes, there is a balance between travel accessibility and sustainability.

While the travel size toiletries are nice and compact – and carry on compatible – they add up in dollars and plastic over time.

If you want compact and sustainable, try out one of the many options for shampoo bars and toothpaste tablets. Not all toiletries have been made to be as sustainable – like saline solution for contact wearers – so be sure to balance your bag with sustainable options and the lesser of two evils with the bulk size items.

Get out in nature with sustainable travel
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Follow Leave No Trace Principles

This one is may be common knowledge at this point, but always worthy of a mention.

Leave No Trace is an organization dedicated to the education and conservation of the Earth. The organization educates others on sustainability through The 7 Principles seen below.

1 – Plan ahead and prepare

When you plan ahead and prepare all you need, you minimize your surpluses and non-necessities. It also helps ensure a safe trip and minimizes environmental impact.

2 – Travel and camp on durable surfaces

Always find durable surfaces to travel on camp on to reduce damage and erosion to that trail or campsite.

3 – Dispose of waste properly

Always securely dispose of waste so it does not find its way back into the environment and trail.

4 – Leave what you find

All rocks, flowers, and animals have a purpose in their environment and ecosystem. While you may think removing only one may not affect the environment, a hundred people believing only one does no harm, does do harm.

5 – Minimize campfire impacts

Overuse of campfires have degraded and eroded forests and wild lands. Invest in a lightweight portable stove if you are planning on cooking while on your trip. A portable stove leaves no traces, does no damage to the land, and eliminates the need of fire wood. Save the campfires for the emergencies.

6 – Respect wildlife

You are visiting the home of the wildlife inhabitants. Do not follow or harass them to obtain a better view or the perfect shot. Leave wildlife and plant life to themselves and observe and respect from afar.

7 – Be considerate of other visitors

Welcome everyone into the outdoors and respect their space and wishes.

Smoky Mountain Hike
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What Sustainable Travel is Not

Sustainable travel is not the exploitation of people, land, or animals. Sustainable travel is not traveling to another country and disregarding that cultures values. Nor is it paying to take pictures with wildlife. It is the conservation of the land and animals. When traveling, be mindful of these factors and make sure your trip is truly sustainable and avoids exploitations of all things.

Why Sustainable Travel Matters

Sustainable travel matters because climate change and social injustices are real. By making travel more sustainable through its three pillars, humanity as a whole is taking one more step towards a brighter future.

Bonus Hits

Some of my favorite destinations with green tourism:

Pin me for sustainable travel
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Great Smoky Mountains National Park
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