Sustainable Travel: A Complete Guide For Beginners

how to travel sustainably

As the world slowly progresses, we are also starting to develop and embrace new tourism practices and policies to maximize its positive benefits on local communities, economy, cultures, environment, and, by and large—the planet. This is where sustainable tourism comes in. Sustainable tourism is a transformative concept that embodies the ideal characteristics, best practices, and premier qualities of the approaches on environmental, economic, and social facets.

While a significant shift in the tourism industry is gradually coming to light, it is undeniable that there is still much to work on. As a responsible tourist, you can be part of this change. To answer the hows and whys in your head, read on to learn about the ways to travel sustainably.

What is sustainable traveling?

Tràng An: Boat Tour
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According to the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), the core principles and objectives of sustainable tourism include:

  • conserving natural heritage and protecting biodiversity;
  • respecting and supporting the cultures of host communities while providing benefits for them; and
  • meeting the needs of the tourists and the tourism industry while creating socio-economic rewards for all stakeholders.

Antithetical to mainstream belief, sustainable traveling goes beyond the concept of green tourism. Sustainable traveling encompasses comprehensive principles and envisions the goals essential in conducting tourism activities, such as economic viability, social inclusion and equity, tourist satisfaction, non-consumptive resource use, and cultural integrity, among many others.

Who can take a sustainable trip?

The Traveler
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Sustainable travel is for anyone, including yourself! However, a common misconception about sustainable travel is that it is expensive and only for those who can afford it. The truth is that you can spend a lot of money if you choose to, but the good news is that you don’t necessarily have to. If truth be told, sustainable traveling can be budget-friendly, and it will all boil down to your choices. Your travel decisions matter and will drive the change.

If you can rethink and reevaluate unhealthy traveling habits and decide to gear toward a sustainable path, that’s a start. You are more than qualified to take a sustainable trip as long as you couple it with transformative actions. Purchasing products that support local communities is a simple form of sustainable traveling, and any casual traveler can do this.

It is also essential for a traveler to understand that sustainable traveling is not just for eco-friendly travelers. It goes beyond the notion of “unwinding with nature” because it also fosters respect for cultures and learning different lifestyles through experience and immersion. Moreover, it is for those who care about society as a whole and how the travelers’ choices impact the economy.

Why do we need to consider sustainable traveling?

Banda Kawayan at the International School of Sustainable Tourism
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The concept of sustainable traveling is correlated to sustainable development. Sustainable development allows people to meet the needs of the present without jeopardizing the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. Uncontrolled tourism in a destination poses alarming threats to nature and the community’s quality of life.

Sustainable traveling helps raise cultural awareness, mitigate environmental risks, advocate for participatory management and social inclusion, provide interpretative travel experiences, and engage tourists in collective participation towards a reasonable balance between responsible tourism and environmental and cultural preservation.

This approach aims to provide tourists with quality experiences without compromising the destination’s cultural, environmental, and economic heritage. Ultimately, by engaging in sustainable traveling, you get to protect and secure the means for future generations to live, survive, and thrive.

What’s in it for me?

Friends of Merri Creek tree planting at Fawkner -IMG_7804
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It is not a hidden fact that climate change and many other environmental challenges have placed our planet at unprecedented peril. An article published in the scientific journal Nature Climate Change discovered that around 8% of greenhouse gas emissions are from the tourism industry. By adopting a sustainable travel approach, tourists can play an integral part in addressing this environmental threat.

Another primary goal of sustainable tourism is to integrate the economic and cultural benefits of tourism cohesively with the host community and destinations. Practicing sustainable traveling offers an opportunity to empower local communities who are the primary owners and stewards of the cultural and natural treasures in the destination.

The best part about participating in the cause of sustainable traveling is the rewarding feeling of knowing that your actions will contribute positively. That aside, travelers will likely gain fresh, purposeful, and memorable experiences by connecting with the indigenous people.

How to travel sustainably?

Hotelito Desconocido
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Traveling sustainably is to optimize the destination resources and achieve tourist satisfaction by striking a balance between the quality of the environment and the well-being of the natives. There are many ways to practice sustainable tourism, including visiting less traveled places to mitigate overcrowding, opting for eco-friendly accommodations, booking with accredited local tour operators, supporting local businesses, and cutting back on carbon footprint.

When traveling, one of the most important tasks is booking a place to stay. Lucky for you, travel sites such as and Airbnb are taking a big leap toward sustainable tourism.

For example, introduces a “travel sustainable” badge for properties that fit the sustainable criteria validated by the Travalyst Independent Advisory Group to help travelers with their accommodation choices. Airbnb is also enhancing its platform by including flexible search tools as a solution to over-tourism and highlighting sustainable practices in the listing descriptions.

The most sustainable destinations

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In recent years, a few countries started leading sustainable reboots, such as the controlled tourism in Bhutan upholding the principle of “high value, low impact” and Belize’s conservation “voluntouring” initiative.

In 2022, Gothenburg, Sweden, topped the rank as the most sustainable travel destination in the world for its green initiatives, from efficient public transport to well-preserved biodiversity.

In Switzerland, initiatives for participatory management are being implemented. The Swiss Foundation for Solidarity in Tourism (SST) aims to provide travelers with excellent experiences while giving locals opportunities to introduce their destination and gain economic profits in return.

These are just a few among the many cities and countries hailed for their efforts in committing to sustainable practices, including generating a sustainable source of income for the host communities and conserving natural resources.

Be part of the solution

Deciding to become a sustainable traveler does not happen overnight. It takes a long process of raising environmental and social consciousness before we are encouraged to get off the beaten path and change old toxic travel habits.

It is never too late to start a change, even with small steps. Sustainable traveling does not have to be grand and fast-track. Slow and stable development is enough to achieve greater goals. Moreover, everyone can do their part in sharing with future generations the beautiful world that the ancestors tried so hard to maintain for people to live in.

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

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Hallyu phenomenon (K-pop and K-drama) and writing are the two things that are keeping her sane and grounded. Her other interests include drinking coffee, designing her journal, reading novels,...Read more

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