Sustainable Travel in an Uncertain World

picture of the wing of a plane above clouds

By Karlee Siepierski

As the world tries to return to normal, many people find themselves traveling again. Whether you’re taking a short work trip or a long-awaited family vacation, it may feel strange and unfamiliar to walk through an airport or check into a hotel. As I have begun to (finally) leave my house again, I find myself concerned not only for my health, but also for traveling sustainably. Our planet had the opportunity to breathe while the world was in lockdown. Air pollution cleared and global emissions dropped.  If you’re getting ready to embark on an adventure, be sure to follow these tips:

Traveling by plane?

  • Use a reusable cloth mask to help keep you and others around you safe, while also cutting down on waste from disposable PPE. Be sure to wash your cloth masks often.
  • Bring an empty reusable water bottle with you through security and fill it at a refill station near your gate. Be sure to also pack a reusable utensil set to cut down on single use plastic utensils. Bring your own snacks on the plane to avoid unnecessary single use items and food packaging. By bringing your own supplies, you are also keeping contact with others at a minimum.
  • If you want to offset your carbon emissions from flying, check out offset programs such as Terrapass, The Arbor Day Foundation, and Green-E.

Checking into a hotel?

  • Many hotels are suspending housekeeping services during your stay as a COVID-19 precaution. This also has a sustainability benefit, cutting down on water used to wash linens and towels. Often times hotels will offer a ‘green’ housekeeping option, where you will receive rewards points for refusing housekeeping during your stay.
  • If a digital key is available for your stay, be sure to use it. Regular hotel room keys are made from PVC plastic, which is not easily recycled.
  • Bring your own water bottle to avoid drinking from plastic bottles provided in the room. (and save money!)
  • Bring your own toiletries in reusable travel bottles to cut down on plastic waste from single-use toiletries provided.
  • Search out certified B-Corporation accommodations. This ensures the hotel is meeting the highest sustainability standards, and will be held accountable through reporting and transparency.

Taking a road trip into the great outdoors?

  • Similar to traveling by plane, pack a cooler with drinks and snacks to avoid buying items from convenience stores.
  • Pack a zero-waste car kit to keep in your trunk. Be sure to include flatware, cloth napkins and hand towels, reusable straws, and extra reusable, re-sealable bags.
  • Check for sustainable local tour packages. Eco-conscious tourism is a fast-growing industry. Kynder and Earthchangers are online eco-travel platforms, and you should check with your local travel agency for eco-conscious packages.
  • If you want to offset your gas usage, see carbon offset programs above.