Sustainable Travel: How to be a Responsible Traveller

by Emese Graham
Windmill farm on a mountain range

Like many industries, travel is in the middle of an overhaul, from airlines using biofuels and resorts going eco-friendly to the (more) ethical treatment of animals. Change, albeit slow, is already taking place. So, where do you as a responsible traveller fit in?

If you’re keen to do your part, here are nine practical tips to help you be a more responsible traveller: 

1. Carbon Offset Your Trip

Man walking on a rope bridge over a river in the jungle

Whether you’re at home or travelling, you have a carbon footprint. Your choice of transportation, housing, and food are all a part of how big or small your individual carbon footprint is. 

While the ultimate goal would be to be completely free of greenhouse gas emissions, carbon offsetting is a great way to invest in reforestation, renewable energy, and other efforts that remove the equivalent of the greenhouse gas emissions your trip involves. 

Luckily, you don’t need a degree in environmental biology to calculate your carbon emissions. Just use our carbon calculator and offset your trip in one easy step

2. Conserve Water

Clean freshwater isn’t limitless and much of the world suffers from a shortage of it. While they may seem small, actions like reusing hotel towels, taking short showers and turning off the tap while brushing your teeth do make a difference.

When travelling to countries where tap water is drinkable, forego buying plastic bottles and drink the tap, refilling a reusable container.

3. Reduce Waste

Woman shopping for vegetables at a farmer's market

Take your green habits on vacation! As many of us choose to refuse straws, plastic bags and unnecessary packaging at home, applying these practices while travelling should be easy. 

Most countries recycle, some better than Canada, so being mindful and recycling our waste on holiday should be a no-brainer. Not littering and disposing garbage responsibly is easy and is key to preserving a pristine environment, and that goes for cigarette butts, too!

Make sure you leave a destination with all that you took into it. 

4. Support Local

Most of the world’s biggest polluters and exploiters of workers are big corporations. Supporting local businesses instead sends them a message while awarding companies that promote sustainable living and better treatment of employees. 

By doing so, you also help keep tourism revenue invested in the local community, which will help sustain it. Shop from traditional artisans and for locally made products, helping keep traditional crafts alive.

Pass on the fast food chains and enjoy locally owned and operated restaurants and bars. Shop in local markets and stores. Help the local economy and utilize the expertise of local guides when booking tours or activities. Go local at home and abroad – it’s better for you, too!

Take a look at the Jamaican resorts that partner with local farmers! 

5. Respect People

Temple crawl in Thailand

Tying everything together is an overall respect for local people and their culture. Along with obeying local laws (including rules related to the COVID-19 pandemic), it is important to listen to and learn from those you meet abroad. Learning about another’s way of life helps us to relate, empathize and better understand our world.

Research local customs, traditions, and everyday phrases in the local language before you go on your trip. Dress and behave in an appropriate manner. Always act with courtesy and respect for everyone, including children. In short, be the very best ambassador and global citizen you can be.

6. Respect Wildlife

jamaican hummingbird

The exploitation of animals for profit still runs rampant and public support is the only culprit. Choose to avoid any attractions that involve animal ‘performance’, the riding of animals or closely engaging with wild animals. Avoid any activity that an animal wouldn’t naturally do in the wild. Don’t ever buy souvenirs made from endangered species and don’t touch or step on coral. Take the ‘look but don’t touch’ approach instead and help end animal exploitation.

7. Re-think Transportation

Remember that travelling affects the environment. Wherever possible, try to minimize your impact on it by looking to alternative transportation and off-setting your carbon emissions. Use public transport, rent a bike or walk where convenient. You’ll meet local people while getting to know the destination better. 

Ask your Travel Expert about finding you a tour that operates with as few unnecessary flights or car rides as possible. 

8. Give Back Responsibly

g adventures tours supporting planeterra

Going on a short charity trip or donating cash to people you just met might not seem like a bad idea on the surface, but it’s much more ethical and sustainable to contribute to locally-operated organizations who can partner with communities in need on a long-term basis. 

If you want to incorporate giving back into your trip, we recommend choosing a responsible tour operator with dedicated local organizations such as G Adventures’ Planeterra Foundation or Intrepid Travel’s Foundation. 

9. Spread the Word

corporate travel agent business traveller flight centre

Share your responsible travel tips with friends and family! In addition to telling them all about the wonderful memories you made, consider sharing tips on how they too can positively impact the world while travelling.

If you were moved by a particular destination or organization, consider contributing to them again when you return home by donating online or through the tour company you travelled with.

Talking to a Travel Expert couldn’t be easier.

We offer travel consultations in-person, by phone, email, online chat, video chat, and our 24/7 Customer Care line. Whatever works for you!