With the winter holidays now right around the corner, many of us are putting the final touches on our travel plans. Whether you’re heading home to visit family and friends, or you’ve got a full-scale holiday adventure in the works, there’s always room to make your upcoming trips and travels more eco-friendly.

Green travel is all about minimizing your impact on the local environment and culture. That may sound like a big ask, but a few mindful decisions can make a big difference. From unplugging appliances before you leave, to using more fuel-efficient transit options, to supporting local artisans as you shop for gifts and souvenirs, here are six green travel tips to inspire you this holiday season.

1. Choose public transportation whenever possible.

Public transportation is generally much better for the environment than cars and planes. So if your travel destination is reachable by train, bus, or ship, opt for one of these more sustainable transportation options over a flight. If your destination is within driving distance, consider carpooling with friends or family who are heading to the same destination and renting a hybrid or electric vehicle. 

Once you’ve arrived at your destination, use the city’s public transit system to get around, whether that’s subway, bus, light rail, or ferry. The best options, however, are walking or biking, both of which produce zero emissions and are also great ways to get to know a new place.

2. Reduce your carbon footprint when flying.

Flying is by far the least environmentally-friendly travel method. But sometimes it’s unavoidable. If you need to travel by air, aim to choose an airline that has a good track record for environmental sustainability. Look for airlines that have implemented fuel-efficient technologies and are actively working to reduce their carbon emissions. 

Delta, a Global Citizen partner, for example, is working to reach net zero emissions by 2050. To do so, the airline is in the process of onboarding a more fuel-efficient fleet and is committed to replacing 10% of its jet fuel with sustainable aviation fuel by 2030. It has also made strides in reducing single-use plastics and opting for more eco-friendly food packaging.

Other ways to reduce your carbon footprint during air travel include flying direct and purchasing carbon offsets. Planes produce significant emissions during takeoff and landing, so choosing a nonstop flight helps to reduce your environmental impact. Purchasing carbon offsets, an option that many airlines offer, allows you to neutralize your emissions by funding projects around renewable energy and carbon reduction.

3. Make your stay as eco-friendly as possible.

Choose an accommodation that aligns with your values and makes an effort to be sustainable. If you’re looking into hotels, book one that is approved by a LEED certification program, such as the U.S. Green Building Council, Green Key, and the Global Sustainable Tourism Council. Check if the hotel has a linen-and-towel-reuse program, uses low-energy light bulbs, and is committed to recycling and composting.

You can also make your trip more eco-friendly through your own actions. Before you leave home, make sure you turn off all the lights and unplug electronics. If you’re staying at a hotel, flick off the lights and turn off the air conditioning or heating whenever you leave. Conserve water by taking shorter showers. Don’t use the hotel's laundry service — wash your clothes as you shower and hang them up overnight to dry. Skip housekeeping if you can. Use towels and linens for more than one day. Ask the hotel about its recycling program and sustainability initiatives.

4. Bring your own reusable water bottle.

Avoid disposable products, such as single-use water bottles and plastic utensils, when traveling. Instead, bring your own reusable water bottle, utensils, straws, toothbrush, and shopping bag to reduce waste. If you’re worried about drinking tap water at your destination, consider buying a portable water filter or a water bottle with a built-in filter.

5. Buy local.

Shopping at farmers markets and locally-owned stores while traveling helps boost the local economy and reduces the environmental impact of transporting goods from faraway places. Instead of buying mass-produced souvenirs and trinkets like shells and coral that contribute to environmental degradation, instead support local artisans and businesses. Otherwise, taking photos and videos is a great no-waste way to memorialize your trip.

6. Respect the natural environment and wildlife.

Before you head to your destination, do some research on the local environmental laws and regulations. Understand what risks humans pose to the natural environment and wildlife so that you can mindfully minimize your impact while you’re there. Some basic rules to follow include properly disposing of trash, never touching or feeding wildlife, and sticking to marked hiking trails.


Defend the Planet

6 Green Travel Tips You Can Use This Holiday Season

By Kristine Liao