How To Plan An Eco-Friendly Trip To Any City

How To Plan An Eco-Friendly Trip To Any City
| 5 min read

Whether you’re a novice, occasional or a die-hard traveler, we can all incorporate a few things into our travel toolbox that will easily make all of us more eco-conscious when planning our trips. And guess what? It doesn’t take a lot of extra planning effort to make benefits worthwhile.

Flying and carbon offsets

Responsible Flying

It’s nearly impossible to traverse our globe these days without stepping foot on an airplane; an insatiable need to quench our wanderlust takes us farther and farther away from home. It’s a necessary mode of transportation in this age of travel. However, planning smart and using air travel only when necessary is one way to lessen our impact and purchasing carbon offsets is another. These credits provide investment in renewable energy, projects planting new trees and conservation projects that help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Companies like TerraPass, Native Energy and Carbon Neutral offer ways to support projects that help to offset our travel carbon emissions.

Green Hotels: from boutique to B & B

Hacienda in Costa Rica

One of the most important aspects of travel is where we stay; our homes away from home are vital to creating the memories and experiences we have while on the road. Patronizing a property that has made efforts to lessen the impact of their operations on the environment is an important part of eco-friendly travel. There are several resources for finding the perfect hotel. Mainstream outlets like Expedia offer a special way to search for green hotels, they have also compiled information and tips for traveling green and reducing your carbon footprint.

Other websites like Environmentally Friendly Hotels that are dedicated solely to eco-friendly travel not only offer lists of green hotels, but they also rate the hotels by giving them 1-5 green leaves based on how sustainable they are. If unique, small or boutique hotels are your preference, Green Pearls offers a way to search for these types of properties. They also offer an environmental scoring system for each hotel; however, they’ve added a rating for social and cultural impacts on the communities they operate in as well.

If, by chance, you’re not able to find an eco-friendly hotel in the area you’re planning your trip to or just want a different type of experience, you can also rent an Airbnb or a traditional bed & breakfast. These options are greener simply by virtue of the fact that they don’t have huge operations like larger hotels and resorts, thereby having a lower impact. Using this option also has a hidden benefit that traditional hotels don’t have: first hand recommendations from a local. You basically have your very own go-to person who can give you access to information from a local’s perspective, get great tips on where to go, where the best restaurants are, and what are the best activities that only locals may know about.

Getting around: exploring by train, bike or bus

Metro in Paris

Whether it’s by bike, train or hybrid cars, there are numerous ways to cut the carbon while exploring on vacation. Many major cities around the world have bike share programs. To find out if there’s a bike share program in the city you’re visiting, simply do a Google search to see if the city you’re travelling to has a program.

Taking public transportation means navigating the local bus or train system. The train and local bus systems are also fun ways to get to know a city, each one is very different. For instance, the metro in Paris has extremely colorful ads that give the tunnels a sort of whimsy. Buses not only provide a different vantage point for getting to know the city but if you’re in London for instance, it can be loads of fun riding a classic London double decker bus.

If you are in a place where you need to rent a car to get around, a hybrid, electric or smart car is the way to go. Hybrids offer the flexibility of gas and electric if you’re traveling a long way outside of the city and access to charging stations is limited. If you’re staying local, especially in a big city, a smart car is great option because they’re easy to maneuver and don’t take up a lot of space. The car that you choose will depend on a number of things, like how many people you are traveling with, what activities you have planned, etc. The other thing is, you can mix it up; you don’t have to rent a car for your entire stay. If you only need one for a couple of days, rent it just for the days you need, then return it.

Good eats: from farm-to-table to vegetarian and everything in between

Beachside Lunch on Apulit Island

Food plays a BIG part in the memories we create when we travel. It is also a very important part of every culture. The smell, the taste or the sight of a dish can transport us back to special moments from our most memorable adventures. Special meals mean paying close attention to where we have those meals. An essential part of upping our eco-friendly travel cred can mean supporting farm to table, organic, vegetarian, vegan, local fishermen, etc.

Believe it or not, these eateries are pretty easy to find; you just have to know where to look. There’s not just a single source for finding the best restaurants; a simple Google search will yield many results based on where you’re traveling to. For instance, the website Non-GMO and Organic Restaurants is a great resource. There are also a ton of articles and reviews with lists of the best restaurants based on your search. MSN lists 51 Best Farm-to-Table Restaurants in the U.S. and this is a great place to start your search. Another resource for vegetarian and vegan food is Happy Cow. They find restaurants based on your location, so you’re covered for almost anywhere in the world!

If, by some small chance, there are no farm-to-table, vegan, vegetarian or organic restaurants, and you have access to a kitchen where you’re staying, the next best thing is to find a local farmers’ market and try out some new recipes. Farmers’ markets can have everything from fresh veggies, breads, meat, cheese and everything in between. You might even be able to find some great meals there as well, depending on the city you’re in.

Some eco-friendly resorts, as part of their ethos, only source their food from local farmers, fishermen or even grow some of their own food.

Pack light: leave the "just in case clothes" at home

Pack Light

This one may be a bit underrated, but when you pack lighter you not only help to save fuel, but you save yourself lots of headache by leaving the big suitcase at home. Packing light and packing smart makes your entry/exit to and from the airport quicker as you avoid the lines for check-in and the long wait to pick up your baggages when you’ve landed.

Even if you do plan on checking bags, it’s still a good idea to pack light and only bring what you know you’ll need. Consider leaving those “just in case” outfits and shoes at home. They probably won’t get worn and only add unnecessary weight to your bags.

No one-size-fits-all solution

While all these are great suggestions for how we can each be conscious of how we travel, this isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. Each trip is unique and in order to make the greatest impact, we should see how each one best fits the type of trip we’re taking at any given moment. Using these suggestions as part of your regular planning tools will help to lessen your impact, but also help you to have more meaningful, memorable experiences as you explore this beautiful planet we call home.

Disclosure: Trip101 selects the listings in our articles independently. Some of the listings in this article contain affiliate links.


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I’m Jamillah and I’m an architect who’s traveled through Asia, Latin America, Africa volunteering and helping to build homes. Through my company Inspired Wandering I take my love of travel and...Read more

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