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Sustainable Travel

10 Sustainable Travel Tips for Environmentally Conscious Solo Travellers

Last Updated on August 13, 2020 by queenie mak

Travelling is a big part of my personal and professional life. But I also realize there is environmental stress that comes with travelling. As a solo traveller, I’m very conscious of how my actions affect the environment and the world. And because I travel about nine months out of the year, I put even more emphasis on doing the best that I can for the environment. 

Sustainable travel should be on every traveller’s mind. Here are a few ways to be more sustainable when it comes to travelling and the benefits of these practices.

 

 

 

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1. Minimize carbon footprint while travelling

Travelling is a lot of fun, but it also takes a toll on the environment especially when it comes to air travel. CO2 emission from air travel has a huge impact, and we need to reduce greenhouse gas emission as aviation sector continues to grow.

One way to minimize the carbon footprint is to fly direct instead of multiple flights. The takeoff and landing of a plane cause the most carbon footprint. So if you can fly the most direct flight, the better it is for the environment. 

Another way to offset carbon footprint is to fly the most logical or direct path instead of taking multiple flights crisscrossing places you are visiting. For example, if you are visiting Lisbon, Barcelona, Paris and Amsterdam, fly in this order instead of flying from Lisbon to Paris, then to Barcelona and then finally to Amsterdam.

However, if it is at all possible, try other transportation modes like trains and buses to even offset the carbon footprint further. 

It might be a bit more difficult for a solo traveller to travel by car but if carpooling with other travellers is an option, this may be a great way to travel as well. 

 

Benefits:

  • Less carbon footprint
  • Flying direct may result in less time in travelling 
  • Possible savings to travel fewer distances
  • Enjoy other modes of transportation

 

 

 

2. Walk everywhere and take public transportation

Walking is excellent for your health. And also great for the environment. As a solo traveller, I tend to be on foot as much as I can because I want to take in everything at a relatively good pace. I plan my travels around pedestrian-friendly cities because that is my preferred way to site see. There are so many benefits from being on foot than to be in a vehicle. 

And as a solo traveller, walking may be one of the most natural way and exciting way to see a new place. You don’t need a lot of planning but get up and go.

If walking is not possible, take public transportation instead of driving your vehicle. At any time, if you can take public transit or any shared transportation, it will be better for the environment because you are reducing the carbon footprint.

 

Benefits:

  • Less carbon footprint
  • Healthier lifestyle
  • Enjoy travel as a pedestrian

 

 

3. Have a minimalist traveller mindset when it comes to packing

I’ve been getting better and better at packing and carrying fewer things. It wasn’t always this way. It took a bit of practice.

These days, I carry my Osprey Talon 33L backpack whether I go away for a week or few months. The pack has been my trusty companion for many trips! It holds at least 3-4 sets of clothing, a few pairs of shoes, toiletries, my laptop, and other miscellaneous items. And that is all I need. Pretty simple, right?

I see so many benefits of bringing fewer things on my travels than bringing all my belongings. Having a minimalist mindset allows me to focus on my trips and what is important to me. I enjoy living a minimalist travel life and not be bogged down by stuff that I don’t need.

 

Benefits:

  • Use less fuel when you have a few things
  • Save money by not checking in luggage
  • Save time from not waiting for luggage at your destination 
  • Easier to move around with a lighter bag 
  • Focus on your journey
  • Focus on what is vital in life and not be bogged down by stuff

 

 

 

 

4. Buy quality items

It is tempting to purchase inexpensive items because well, most of us have a budget. Like buying clothing and accessories from fast fashion stores because of the latest trend and the low cost. But the small price tag comes with a more significant price on the environment.

The low-quality clothing will quickly end up at a clothing donation or even in the garbage. For the ones donated, they might not even be repurposed or even be sold at local charity stores. And the sad statistics show that only about 1% of clothing is recycled into new clothing.

In the long run, it is better to invest in quality clothing items. Buy a quality t-shirt that you can wear for a long time instead of a cheap one from a fast fashion store that may last you five days (I’m exaggerating, but you know what I mean). The cheap t-shirt won’t last as long due to wear and tear.

The same thing can be said for almost everything else. Buy a quality backpack, comfortable shoes, etc. When I bought my Osprey Talon 33L backpack, it was an expensive purchase. But I still have the one-time purchase I made seven years ago. The pack is still in really pristine condition because of the quality. And Osprey has a fantastic All Mighty Guarantee where they will replace your backpack if anything happens. Free of charge! 

 

Benefits:

  • Less garbage going to landfill 
  • Support businesses that provide quality products
  • In the long run, you will save more money 

 

 

5. Eat-in instead of getting take-out

I know I am guilty of this from time to time. As a solo traveller, sometimes I just feel like getting take-out and eat it at my accommodation. I don’t have any issues eating alone, but sometimes I just want to eat and watch Netflix or Youtube. I don’t mean to be anti-social but yeah. 

If you are going to a restaurant already, why not experience it fully by dining in? Not only will you eliminate the use of disposable containers and utensils, but you can also experience the atmosphere as well. And there’s a better chance for you to meet other travellers eating out than in front of your laptop! 

 

Benefits:

  • Eliminate the use of disposable containers and utensils
  • Enjoy the atmosphere/restaurant
  • Possibly meeting new people over great food

 

 

 

6. Bring re-usable products

I always travel with a squeeze water bottle wherever I go. From the time I hop on a plane to many day trips and even hiking trips, the water bottle has been a lifesaver. I usually fill it up whenever I find a water fountain or water filter at my accommodation. Or I boil water in certain cities whenever tap water is unsafe for consumption. And as a bonus, the water bottle doubles as a neti pot as well (for my allergies).

And ladies, if you haven’t tried a menstrual cup yet, you should at least give it a try. I love my Diva Cup (sometimes). I love it because I don’t have to carry months of supplies in my little carry-on backpack. I am still getting used to the whole idea (I’ve only used it for less than a year). Sometimes it is not as convenient when you are in a public bathroom. But I look past all of it because I know I’m doing my part in eliminating waste and saving the environment. We all have to make sacrifices, and this is my way of doing my part to save the earth. 

 

Benefits:

  • Save money from buying non-reusable items
  • Minimize plastic water bottle wastes
  • Multiple purposes (water bottle and a neti pot)
  • Minimize garbage (pads and tampons)
  • Eliminate the need to find pads and tampons at your destination, which they may or may not have your brand
  • Minimize potential illness associating with the use of tampons 

 

RELATED POST – My favourite travel gear

 

7. Use natural and environmentally safe products

From shampoo, conditioner, to any facial products, there are many options and choosing an environmentally friendly product is great not only for the environment but also for your health.

Because I only travel with a carry-on backpack, I am limited to bring fewer things with me. I love the Lush Godiva shampoo bar. The 2-in-1 vegan shampoo bar is made with natural ingredients and safe synthetics, and you can wash your hair up to 80 times. I used to wash my hair every other day as, by the end of the second day, my hair is pretty greasy. But after switching to the shampoo bar, the oil in my scalp has lessened a bit, and I wash my hair every third or even fourth day! I’m so amazed by the solid shampoo bar that is the only thing I use even when I am not travelling. And it must be the natural ingredients that got rid of the grease in my hair. It’s a win-win (for me and the environment)!

 

Benefits:

  • Less plastic bottles
  • Better for travellers who only travel with a carry-on bag
  • Natural ingredients that are good for your skin and minimize grease in the scalp 
  • Natural synthetics that will not harm the environment

 

 

 

 

8. Stay in shared accommodation if possible

Staying in a hostel has many benefits. Not only do you save a bit of money but you are also utilizing space most efficiently. For most travellers, we only need a space to sleep, somewhere to put our belongings away and a bathroom to freshen up. The bonus is the common area where travellers share a space to eat, to mingle and to meet other travellers.

Or if you like to stay in a hotel or Airbnb apartment, why not get a room or apartment that has just enough space for yourself? If the apartment is too big, you are using more electricity to heat or cool the area.

Airbnb has lots of great options for solo travellers, but make sure you are booking a place that is just enough for you. And if you are not part of Airbnb yet, please use this code to claim your $35 Airbnb discount.

 

Benefits:

  • Save money by staying at a shared accommodation
  • Opportunity to meet new people
  • Great common space and fantastic facilities in hostels
  • Save money by staying at economical accommodations like Airbnb apartment

 

 

9. Support the local economy

When you shop at your local grocery store or local farmer’s market, you are putting money back into the local economy. Locals can benefit from the money from tourism so they can expand their businesses, support their families and put the money back into the city or town to make it a better place for themselves.

While you are directly affecting the local economy financially, you will also benefit from getting the freshest and healthiest produce. What better way than to interact with locals, visit local attractions and support them in a meaningful way?

 

Benefits:

  • Money is directly put back into the local economy
  • Get fresh organic produce 
  • Eat healthier
  • Visit and enjoy local attractions
  • Interact with locals 

 

 

 

10. Slow travel

Do you like the concept of slow travel? If so, there are many benefits to the environment when it comes to slow travel. Slow travel allows you to enjoy a place at a slower pace. And because you are staying put in one place, you are not travelling as much, which means less carbon footprint and less pollution. And you can take advantage of the long-term (weekly or monthly) discount when it comes to accommodation for Airbnb

 

Benefits:

  • Less carbon footprint
  • Less pollution 
  • Take advantage of long-term accommodation discount for Airbnb
  • Enjoy a new place and not rushing through it

 

 

Do you like these sustainable tips? Do you think it will help you become a more sustainable traveller? Responsible tourism should be integrated into our travel lives. There is so much you can do to help the environment. Even if you are not travelling, there are many things you can do to be more eco-friendly through everyday choices.

If you have some tips of your own, share it in the comments below.

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About Author

Hi, my name is Queenie, and I've been a solo traveller for 18+ years and currently based in Hong Kong. Follow me on my adventures through Instagram and my blog!

16 Comments

  • Jen
    June 28, 2018 at 11:49 am

    I always tend to walk more when travelling! It’s more environmentally friendly and you get to know a place a lot better than in a vehicle.

    Reply
    • queenie mak
      June 29, 2018 at 12:46 am

      I’m with you!! And you get a lot of steps in each day – I tend to lose a bit of weight when I’m on the road. Thank you for your comment! 🙂

      Reply
  • Toni
    June 28, 2018 at 12:09 pm

    Great tips! I often stay in small rooms, or walk everywhere. I like exploring cities like that anyway. But we can all do our part our do more so these are great places to start!

    Reply
    • queenie mak
      June 29, 2018 at 12:47 am

      Absolutely!! Even the smallest effort will count towards something!

      Reply
  • Soujanya Rai (@thespicyjourney)
    June 28, 2018 at 6:35 pm

    These are such insightful tips! I’m a big advocate of promoting public transportation. Thank you for sharing the awareness!

    Reply
    • queenie mak
      June 29, 2018 at 12:49 am

      Thank you! Me too – public transportation is another way of seeing a city!

      Reply
  • Valentina
    June 28, 2018 at 7:41 pm

    There are some great tips here! I always prefer walking, as you really get to live the place and not simply see it, and tend to buy from local artisans whenever I can. This is a great topic, thanks for sharing your suggestions!

    Reply
    • queenie mak
      June 29, 2018 at 12:52 am

      I think we all make an effort in some ways and it’s great that we’re all conscious of it! Thank you for your comment!

      Reply
  • Liz
    June 28, 2018 at 7:44 pm

    Great advice! I am a walker too, it is better for the environment and so much more interesting to get to know a city!

    Reply
    • queenie mak
      June 29, 2018 at 12:53 am

      It is the best way to see a city!! I’m kind of competitive too and I check my steps each day lol

      Reply
  • Maloney
    June 28, 2018 at 10:05 pm

    This should be required reading for anyone with a passport. Couldn’t agree with this more! Especially important for Americans to see and most of this can me used in everyday life.

    Reply
    • queenie mak
      June 29, 2018 at 12:55 am

      It’s important to treat our homes with care and also other parts of the world because they are home to other people too. Thank you for your comment!

      Reply
  • SecretMoona
    June 29, 2018 at 1:30 am

    Thanks for these tips. With more and more people travelling it is important that we try our best to minimise our carbon footprint. Personally, I walk the most while I’m travelling because I can explore the place I am in better. but I need to be doing more.

    Reply
  • 2 Backpackers
    June 29, 2018 at 11:18 am

    These are some great tips for travellers. It is important for travellers to understand that they should do their best to reduce the carbon footprint. I too prefer walking around to see things and also prefer public transport to move from one place to another. Another thing that I would like to mention is to throw garbages at proper place and reduce the use of plastics. Thanks for the post!

    Reply
  • twobytour
    June 29, 2018 at 12:30 pm

    Had no idea that takeoff and landing were the least efficient parts of air travel. Love how actionable these tips are, and I totally agree about packing like a minimalist.

    Reply
  • ARI
    June 29, 2018 at 2:56 pm

    I’m trying to make create some awareness on the small island of Greece where I am living for 6 weeks, by bringing my own straw, utensils and bamboo coffee cup, etc etc. BUT, it’s slow moving. People here seem to be very wasteful with plastic everything and not conscious at all of the impact. It’s sad. But let’s see if I can reach some people by the end of my stay. great article

    Reply

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