08/15/2014 12:04 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

10 Steps to Sustainable Travel

Our Saavy Traveler series for tips and tricks to travel like an expert.


We travel because we love to see the world -- but what are the ways that we can sustain the world as we see it? One part of being a sustainable traveler is just being aware of our surroundings, but there are a few key tips and tricks to reducing your carbon footprint while maintaining your access to local culture.

1. Eat like a local, live like a local.

Going to the big grocery store chain and looking for your familiar food staples means buying food that has been shipped long distances. Instead try going to the local markets and street stands for some local eats. Savour Siem Reap, Eating Istanbul Out, and Essaouira Food & Culture are great examples of some experiences that can get you acquainted with great local food.

2. Reduce your water use.

There are many places where water is much more finite resource. So if you're used to taking 30 minute showers be mindful that this can be an unnecessary luxury and water usage may cost a lot more wherever you are staying. Bring a water bottle, wash your clothes in the sink (rather than doing laundry) and don't let water run while shaving. Dry shampoos are also a great way to reduce your shower time.


3. If possible, use public transportation.

Not only will you be reducing your carbon footprint by taking the bus, but you'll get more acquainted with the local culture by traveling around with natives. Some cities, like Dublin and Budapest have super accessible public transportation systems.

4. Find a sustainable accommodation.

The best way to do this is to live with a local. But there are plenty of hotels that also engage in sustainable practices. You can also do your part with small practices, like using your towel more than once, which can make a big difference in preserving resources.


5. Know your destination

Depending on where you're going, you may want to do some research to find out more about your destination's ecosystem. It is important to be mindful of a country's natural environment, customs and culture. The more you know before you go, the less of a chance there is for you to purchase items derived from endangered species, and you can fund businesses that help the local economy.

6. Shut down your home base.

No matter where you are traveling, sustainability begins at home. Make sure to unplug all your devices and home appliances before leaving as these are a big drain on electricity.


7. Travel during festivals.

The easiest way to support local cultures and also reduce your negative impact as a tourist is to travel during a big festival. Traveling with a local can ensure that you don't fall into the tourist traps that befall any celebrations; such as other foreigners performing or capitalizing on a festival in ways that go against the celebration's original intent and culture. The Ras Mahotsav Festival in India and the Medieval Festival in Romania are some must see fun festivals.

8. Take the road less traveled.

A big part of harmful tourism is that it creates areas that are well beaten by travelers. It is hard for these places to bounce back to their natural states and they can suffer some ecological decay from so much exposure. You can reduce this impact by going to more secluded corners of the world, where tourism hasn't worn away the natural beauty of a place.


9. Volunteer abroad.

If you are truly dedicated to serving the places you visit then you can volunteer at a local organization. There are so many perks to this such as learning new skills, meeting new people, and truly becoming integrated into the environment you are exploring.

10. Travel more when you fly.

Make the most of your time abroad. Rather than taking plenty of small vacations, find a way to create a long term trip that incorporates different locations. When you take your time to travel you can enjoy the journey more by taking the train or hitchhiking across a country rather than flying all the time.