10 Ways to Travel Sustainably

Traveling is a wonderful way to understand our interconnectedness and shared responsibility for this one planet we call home. It's a bridge to experiencing people, cultures, and landscapes. It enriches our lives and ideally, makes us better stewards of the Earth. Yet, it's important to acknowledge that tourism can sometimes strain the local environment. So, I want to share ten considerations with you for your next trip, along with some of my personal tips for responsible traveling! 

1. Do Some Research—A Little Goes A Long Way

I always look for destinations known for sustainable practices and environmental conservation—and places that genuinely welcome tourists. I make it a point to understand the environmental justice issues of the places I visit and respect local customs and advice. When traveling to a place where the native language is different from mine, I always try to learn common phrases to show respect and facilitate communication.

2. Pack Light

Try to fit everything into one carry-on bag if possible. Lighter luggage means less fuel for the plane or car and lets you be more nimble at your destination. I pack my toiletries in reusable, refillable 3oz bottles to avoid single-use plastic, and choose sustainable products that won't harm wildlife like Zinc sunscreen and citronella oil insect repellent.

3. Offset Your Flight

Air travel is a significant contributor to global greenhouse gas emissions. Only 10% of the world’s population is able to travel by plane, making it an extreme privilege! Whenever I fly, I offset my flight through platforms like Commons and Cool Effect.

4. Take Public Transportation

I wish we had a more robust public transport system in the US, because I freaking. love. trains. So I always take the train when I’m abroad. It's not just cost and fuel-efficient compared to renting a car; it also offers opportunities for people-watching or making new friends. Whenever possible, I also use trains, buses, bikes, or simply walk. 

5. Volunteer For Environmental Causes

Consider contributing to local conservation or community projects if possible. Robin Wall Kimmerer, author of "Braiding Sweetgrass," discusses reciprocity in her book. Travel is no exception. We receive so much from these places we visit, making it our duty to reciprocate the generosity. This might involve volunteering or finding ways to authentically serve and support the communities. I helped out on a trail restoration project on a hiking trip I went on, and it was amazing! 

6. Choose An Eco-Friendly Stay

I prefer locally operated lodgings over large hotel chains to keep money within the community. Before booking, you can always check a lodging website for their sustainability commitments like water and electricity usage, ways they’re contributing to the biodiversity in the area, and any certifications they may have received. Some of the best experiences I've had were in locally-owned treehouses, farm stays, and guest houses. You can check out platforms like WWOOF or WorkAway, where you can exchange work for room and board, which offers unique experiences. 

7. Try Local Food And Ordering

Try choosing local restaurants over international chains that you might have in your hometown. Visiting local eateries allows you to enjoy the authentic cuisine and perhaps try some of the local and seasonal produce that is grown in that area! When ordering, only request food you'll finish, especially if you can't store leftovers. Respect the chefs, as many local restaurants are family-owned—you might even meet the chef who prepared your meal!

8. Shop Local

When it comes to souvenirs and gifts, instead of buying the mass-manufactured items you could find in an airport or train station, try checking out an artisan market in town! Supporting local artists is always a good idea.

9. Avoid Plastics

To reduce single-use plastics while traveling, consider carrying reusable items like water bottles, coffee mugs, and shopping bags. Also, remember that plastic usage varies by country, certain areas may depend heavily on food and water in plastic packaging, and sometimes it's unavoidable—so don’t be too hard on yourself if you find yourself in this situation. Organisations like Break Free From Plastic consider "plastic as colonisation" because it originates in the global north and pollutes the global south. Do your best with what you have, wherever you are.

10. Leave No Trace

And lastly, this should go without saying, but be a respectful visitor to your destination, honoring nature, wildlife, and local cultures. Follow the seven principles of “leave no trace” to ensure that you leave places as you found them or better, bring all your trash with you, and don’t disturb the natural environment. 

Traveling sustainably is not just a choice; it's a responsibility. I hope you have a beautiful adventure out there, create lifelong lasting memories, and experience all the beauty that our wonderful planet has to offer! 


Lauren Bash aka @ReLauren (she/her) is a climate optimist, activist, and storyteller from Los Angeles. Her social channels offer a mix of silliness and sustainability, featuring skits, DIYs, and educational content centered around the principles of climate action, connection, and community. Outside of her online presence, you can find her cooking yummy plant-based meals, surfing, and playing with her pup, Sonny.