Step-By-Step Sustainability: Travel 101! (5 Steps For an Environmentally Friendly Vacation)

Step-By-Step Sustainability: Travel 101! (5 Steps For an Environmentally Friendly Vacation)

  • This article was contributed by Kane County Resource Management Coordinator Jessica Mino as part of the Step-By-Step Sustainability series.

As we head to destinations across the country and world this summer, here are some tips for sustainable traveling — friendly to the environment and your budget!

Step 1: BYOWB

One of the most environmentally friendly things you can do when traveling is to bring your own water bottle!

Awhile back, I realized this was my biggest area of waste production while traveling. Now, I bring my own, as I do every other day while at home.

Traveling isn’t a reason to throw our daily sustainability efforts out the window.

I bring a small tube of dish soap in a refillable container so that I can wash the water bottle, no matter where I am.

And if you headed to a location where sanitation is a concern, still aim to bring your own water bottle!

Just buy a jug of water to refill it with rather than individual water bottles to minimize the amount of plastic waste that will need recycling. Minimizing plastic waste is particularly important in places that may not have advanced recycling systems.

Step 2: BYOTM

Enjoying my latte in a travel mug with the sunrise at Tea Tree Bay, Australia.

Another thing to carry over from your daily sustainability routine: Bring your own travel mug!

Between my water bottle and travel mug, I find very few instances where I need to create waste to stay hydrated and enjoy a latte from the local coffee shop.

I have yet to find a coffee shop that isn’t happy to put my latte in a travel mug rather than a disposable cup.

This makes it easier to take tasty beverages on hikes or a boat as well. I seal the lid, throw it in the side pocket of my backpack, and carry on without worrying about it spilling.

Step 3: BYO – Bring Your Own (Fill in The Blank)

My husband prepared for a waste-free day at Cape Tribulation, Australia, complete with easy travel items — a backpack and water bottle.

On that note, think of other reusable items that you can bring with to reduce the amount of waste your produce while traveling:

  • Refillable shampoo and soap bottle: Minimize plastic waste by refilling travel size bottles rather than buying new ones for each trip.
  • Bamboo Utensils: While traveling, I often find myself eating on the go. Using reusable utensils will further reduce your plastic waste.
  • Reusable shopping bag or backpack (day pack): Carry any extra food or items you pick up on the way in one secure location rather than single-use bags. Vacation is no time to increase you plastic bag waste.

Step 4: Minimize Your Souvenirs

We all love to take home some things to remember our trips, but it is also bothersome to buy a bunch of knick-knacks or clothes that we never end up using or wearing — and then can’t get rid of because “we got them on our trip.”

So save yourself space at home and minimize your purchases by choosing just a few memorable souvenirs.

Step 5: Leave Things in Nature, Where They Belong

Please leave me at the beach.

Taking shells or coral from beaches can have a great impact on marine life.

It may be just a few shells, but when you add up hundreds of people taking a few each, that contributes to a mass movement of natural elements displaced from where they were meant to be.

Although empty shells may seem like the end of the cycle, shells, coral fragments, and other natural elements recycle back to the ocean floor in a crucial nutrient cycle.

This is even more important to keep in mind when you see souvenirs made from natural items or creatures. I made this mistake when I was young before I knew the impact I was having on the things I loved so dearly.

In many places, these creatures are collected from the wild to be preserved and sold to tourists. This has a drastic impact on local wildlife populations and a trickle-down effect on other species in the ecosystem.

National Geographic explains the Global Scale of the Shell Trade.

This doesn’t just apply to coastal destinations. Where ever you may be, please respect wildlife. Give animals and creatures space to carry on with their daily life – and look, don’t touch. This will keep both you and them safe. Tips for Responsible Wildlife Tourism from National Geographic.

So please work toward traveling smart! Be conscious of the waste you produce and the wildlife you encounter to enjoy the beauty of our world while leaving it intact for generations to come — or a second visit!

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