Tips on how to be eco-friendly while on holiday

As international travellers broke the one billion milestone in 2012, people are increasingly looking to ways to reduce their impact on the world.

As international travellers broke the one billion milestone in 2012, people are increasingly looking to ways to reduce their impact on the world. The United Nations World Tourism Organisation celebrated by launching its “one billion people: one billion opportunities” campaign, which encourages tourists to travel in a more responsible, sustainable and accessible way. Many have pledged to buy local, save energy and use public transport. Here are some small ways you can reduce your impact on the world while travelling.

Buy eco-friendly souvenirs

One of the great joys of travel is coming home with unusual and exciting souvenirs for family and friends, or as a reminder of a special trip. But, make sure you avoid imported items as they’ve most likely travelled thousands of air miles. It’s also best to steer clear of any animal related products—ivory, tortoiseshell and coral all come from endangered species. Instead, haggle over locally produced sustainable goods such as clothes, fabrics, pottery and jewellery, plus profits will go straight into the community.

Pack light

It’s always tempting to pack for every eventuality, squeeze in all those shoes crammed in your wardrobe, or make sure you’ve got enough outfits to last you two weeks instead of one. But every kilo counts. Air travel is often slammed for its environmental impact and the maths is simple—the more a plane weighs the more carbon emissions it produces. Pack only what you need. The best tip: lay out everything you think you’ll need, and then halve it. Be brutal, the environment will thank you.

Travel overland

By cutting out just one five-hour flight you can lighten your carbon footprint by a tonne. That’s massive! Travelling overland is also a great way to see more of the country. Always use public transport as it will further reduce your impact and will provide you with the opportunity to meet locals. It’s not possible to travel and avoid all carbon emissions, but consider travelling with a company which tries to offset its emissions. Intrepid Travel is a carbon neutral company whose trips use public transport and locally owned accommodation which cook with locally sourced food.

Treat a hotel like your home

Sometimes, being an eco-warrior requires minimal effort, you will probably not even realise you’re doing it. We students are pretty savvy when it comes to pinching the pennies, so when you’re away, treat your accommodation like you would your home. Don’t have long showers and turn off lights, the TV and air-con whenever you leave the room. Plus, if you don’t really need clean towels, don’t get them. I’m pretty sure there are few students out here who use fresh towels every day!

Be a conservation volunteer

If you’re really feeling the eco-friendly vibe, get yourself on a conservation holiday. Go WWOOFing and help out on organic farms across the world, or check out the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) which clears the land and replants trees destroyed by volcanic disasters. STA Travel is a fantastic student travel company which offers numerous volunteering trips saving turtles in Greece, preserving Brazilian biodiversity and protecting the penguins and coastline in Australia. Volunteering is a great way to give something back and have a lasting impact on the environment.

The efforts of just one person will not change the world, but if each of the world’s one billion travellers made one small change to their habits, the positive impact on the environment could be massive.

Any more tips on being eco-friendly while traveling? Share them with us in the comments section below, on Facebook or on Twitter.

Image courtesy of Flickr user Matthew Black.