Hey there, I’m Daniela and this is the Science of Travel Blog + Podcast! Here, geosciences, traveling and environmental protection and preservation collide.
Topics range from geoscientific stories about the formation and history of Earth, and the formation of specific landscapes to sustainable, respectful, conscious, and regenerative traveling to philosophical contemplations about living life as an Earthling.
This is a 3-part blog series that covers what sustainable traveling is, why it is important, and how you can travel sustainably. These tips are for affluent and budget travelers alike. Sustainable traveling is not a matter of money, but of goodwill, common sense, values and responsibility. It is neither expensive, complicated, nor difficult to travel sustainably.
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Listen to the episode or read the transcript below.
This is what the individual parts are about:
This is part 3
Build your ecofriendly itinerary: 25+ Sustainable travel tips for before, during and after your trip
We’ll now explore a few things you can do before, during and after your trip to contribute to sustainable and respectful traveling.
Before we start: Beware of greenwashing
Be aware that there are black sheep among the tourism providers who claim to be green but that relentlessly take advantage of your good intentions. Please vet your chosen offers to ensure you give your money to trustworthy companies, products, and services that are actually and honestly committed to sustainable practices.
Before your trip
- Educate yourself
- Choose eco-friendly accommodations
- Choose eco-friendly transportation
- Choose eco-friendly activities
- Choose green destinations
- Offset carbon emissions
- Travel less frequently...
- ... and stay longer
- Value over volume
- Travel off-season, if possible
- Pack smartly
I’ll talk a bit more about this first point "Educate yourself" than about the others because I think it’s the most important thing you can do.
Educate yourself about your destination means learning about anything that you want before you leave.
Learn about the geology, geography, nature, history, culture, mythology, traditions or language. If you learn about more than one aspect, even better. Most of the time, the language, the history, the culture and the nature and geology are connected anyways. This way, you’d get a complete, holistic understanding of your destination and its people. Hawai’i is a great example for that.
Why should you educate yourself about your destination?
We explored the answer to this question in part 2 of this Sustainable Travel Series in depth. But here is a brief version:
- By educating yourself, you'll show respect and appreciation.
- By educating yourself, you'll automatically contribute to the preservation of the local nature, culture and community.
- By simply educating yourself you will gain a new perspective and see your travel destination with new eyes. I can't tell you enough how important I think this step is.
- Knowing just a little bit more about a destination increases your appreciation for it and you feel much more connected.
- By educating yourself about the destination you will gain a holistic understanding of the place which entails the realization that everything is connected and that your interactions with the destination have impacts, too. You'll be aware that you as well as the destination are part of a natural, living system. You'll not only want to mitigate your negative impact but also maximize your positive impact – and leave the place better than you found it and you'll actively find ways to contribute and give back to the land and the people. This next step in the evolution of sustainable traveling is called regenerative traveling.   
Educating yourself about a travel destination is like getting to know a friend! And then, automatically, you want to care for your travel destination.
Education is the absolute foundation that will prepare you for a meaningful, connected and respectful stay. You will understand much better how your behavior impacts the destination and you’ll want to think of ways to minimize negative effects. And of course by doing that you’re going to maximize the positive effects that your trip has on you and your host community. If you learn about your travel destination, then you’ll want to do good.
You’ll want to
- visit destinations that commit to resources-protecting and environment-friendly practices
- visit destinations that embody the green lifestyle, and destinations that truly need your support
- book only ecofriendly accommodation, transportation, and activities
- traveling less frequently and staying longer,
- if you feel compelled, buying carbon offsets (I personally have mixed feelings about that last point).
Add the following items to your travel pack list:
- eco-friendly shampoo
- eco-friendly laundry detergent
- eco-friendly and reef-safe sunscreen
- eco-friendly insect repellent
- eco-friendly soaps
- eco-friendly toothbrushes and toothpaste
- tote bags
- refillable water bottle (with filter and purifier if needed)
- food containers
- as well as any other practical reusable items you can think of
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During your trip
- Remember and be aware: You are a guest.
- Use reef-safe sunscreen
- Use eco-friendly insect repellent
- Volunteer and join voluntourism opportunities
- Take part in educational activities
- Use and carry a refillable water bottle
- Avoid single-use plastics
- Carry your own cutlery in your backpack
- Don't pick or injure plants
- Don't take rocks, sand, coral etc. with you
- Never ever touch coral or other animals
- Keep your distance to animals
- Partake in sustainable and ethical wildlife viewing
- Stay on tracks when hiking
- Support local communities and businesses
- Avoid eating or buying produce made from endangered animals
- Clean up
- Save water
Know: You are a guest
During your vacation, while you’re in the destination, the most important thing to do is to remember that you are a guest.
And remember the analogy from part 1 of this blog series: Treat your destination like you treat the home of a friend.
Always be aware that you're a visitor to your travel country. Always remember to treat it like the home of a friend. Show respect, appreciation, be friendly and have the best intentions in maintaining a good relationship. This is perhaps the most important point, as it primes you to treat your travel destination with respect from the get-go.
Ask yourself these questions: How do I behave when I visit a friend's home? Do I litter their house or backyard, do I take their belongings as souvenirs – or do I accept and respect their house rules, am I kind and generous, show interest in their lives, appreciate their way of living and beautiful garden?
Basically, this is all you need to know for during your stay. Because with that knowledge, mindset, and awareness, respectful behavior follows automatically.
However, I will now talk about the other points from the summary in a little more detail:
Sunscreen and insect repellent
Use reef-safe sunscreen and eco-friendly insect repellent. Purchase only reef-safe sunscreen, eco-friendly insect repellent and other products you use when staying outside. Sprays and cremes oftentimes contain harmful chemicals that pose a threat the health of wildlife.
Research on the internet and find out if there is an opportunity for you to volunteer in your destination, even if it’s only 1 or 2 hours. When taking part in local clean ups, volunteering at animal or homeless shelters or any other place you want to support, you're taking care of the country and the people you visit and contribute to a more friendly, healthy environment for everybody.
Take part in educational activities that combine exploration and education, where you learn about the local nature, culture, traditions, arts and crafts, or the language of your destination.
TransportationWalk, hike, ride a bike, use public transportation (trains, buses), carsharing or carpooling offers to get around. When renting a car, opt for fuel-efficient or electric cars.
Avoid plastic (water) bottles
Ignore plastic (water) bottles and instead use a refillable water bottle. In destinations where tap water is non-potable, use water bottles with integrated filters and purifiers.
Avoid single-use plastics
- Bring your own refillable water bottle or coffee mug
- Use tote bags when shopping
- Choose products not wrapped in plastic foil
- Don't drink from plastic straws
Reducing the use of plastic products in general will result in less trash and less environmental pollution and less (micro)plastic in our oceans. Destinations have to get rid of the trash the tourists produce and this isn’t always easy and unproblematic.
Make only memories, take only photographs and leave only footprints
- Don’t take rocks, coral, sand etc. with you – I know it’s tempting, but we should leave these things were they belong. Please leave all sand, all rocks and all coral fragments at the beach or in the water. Don't take anything with you.
- Never pick or injure flowers, plants or trees.
- Never touch coral or other animals and always keep your distance. View nature with your eyes, and smell it with your nose – but never take a piece of nature from where it belongs. Never touch animals or approach them too closely. You could startle them, harm them, scare them, offend them, be seen as an intruder, risk your health or well-being. Enjoy the animals' presence from a distance and everybody will stay happy and safe.
- Stay on the designated trails, tracks and roads to prevent trampling plants. Not only for your own health and safety, but for the sake of the health of wild animals and plants, you are strongly encouraged to stay on the designated hiking trails prepared by local or state authorities.
Ethical wildlife viewing
Avoid eating or buying produce made from endangered animalsPlease never ever buy souvenirs, food or other products made from wild animals such as sharks (e.g. shark fin soup), whales, sea turtles (e.g. eggs), dogs, cats, puffins and others. By purchasing those products, you directly support poaching and hunting of these precious animals that keep our world in balance.
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After your trip
- Inspire others
After your trip, back home, advocate for sustainable, respectful , conscious and educated traveling.
Inspire and become an advocate
Inspire others and share your valuable experiences with them. Be a role model.
And last but not least: continue. Continue with this respectful, conscious, mindful, environmental friendly way of living and traveling. Extend your caring attitude to your own home, to your home city or home country. Because the truth is: sustainable tourism and sustainable living are not separate, but interwoven.
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Sustainable traveling equals respectful traveling.
In our everyday lives, striving to follow a zero-waste or low-waste lifestyle, reducing the use of plastic products and refraining from using single-use plastics overall is an honorable trait.
Eating less meat and dairy products, incorporating more vegetarian or vegan meals into your diet and riding the bike more often are also ways to live a more eco-friendly, healthy life and to reduce your carbon footprint. But you know all this already.
When it comes to traveling, all of these measures are valid as well.
What I want you to take away from this article and this Sustainable Travel Series is: It’s your mindset, attitude, that matters. You can create a caring attitude by being conscious of the fact that you are a guest. Then, you’ll find your own ways to contribute to sustainable, respectful, conscious traveling. Mine is to educate myself about travel destinations, preferably their natural history, to emotionally connect with them.
Remember: It’s your mindset, attitude, that matters. The rest will follow automatically.
The Sustainable Travel Checklist
I've summed up all of these points in a practical 4-page checklist you can bring on your next trip. Download it here:
About the author
Daniela is convinced that by gaining deep insights into planet Earth and travel destinations you’ll create meaningful, grounding and memorable life and travel experiences. She explains fundamental geological processes that form and shape landscapes and combines these insights with philosophical and philanthropical views in her online courses, articles, podcast and newsletter. She holds two bachelor's degrees in geosciences (B.Sc.) and business administration with tourism (B.A.). She is the owner and founder of EarthyMe, EarthyUniversity and the Science of Travel blog and podcast and the STORIES OF EARTH newsletter.
 Linking Regenerative Travel and Residents’ Support for Tourism Development in Kaua’i Island (Hawaii): Moderating-Mediating Effects of Travel-Shaming and Foreign Tourist Attractiveness - Umer Zaman, Murat Aktan, Jerome Agrusa, Muddasar Ghani Khwaja, 2022 (sagepub.com)
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