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Simple Changes to Start Traveling “Green”

Traveling is amazing, but we also recognize the contribution it makes to worldwide pollution through airplane and car emissions. While these environmental challenges can’t be reversed overnight (or on our own), we’ve started to implement a few changes to begin making a small difference. Here are a few easy tips to get started:

Traveling “Green”: 7 Easy Tips to Get Started

Leave every place better than how you found it.

A friend told me this years ago and it’s stuck with me. So much in fact, that I’ve shared it with other friends and now they also follow this mantra.

It makes me incredibly sad when I arrive at destination only to find the scenery is littered with trash. It takes just a moment to pick up a few items and toss them in the trash or throw them in the back of your rental car until you get to a garbage can. That’s a few less pieces of trash that could end up in the ocean!

Use reef-safe sunscreen.

Coral bleaching is a HUGE issue that we only learned about a few years ago. It wasn’t until we visited the Maldives for our honeymoon that we saw the impact firsthand. This 2017 CNN article (coincidentally written the same month we honeymooned there) notes coral bleaching has impacted between 60-90 percent of coral in the Maldives, depending on the area.

Coral bleaching in the Maldives

While rising temps are a major factor, sunscreen from tourists is also contributing to the problem. Fortunately, some sunscreens are better for the environment. Experts say to avoid sunscreens containing the chemicals oxybenzone and octinoxate. (Hawaii was the first state to ban sunscreens with these ingredients.) Instead, choose products that have “non-nanotized” zinc oxide or titanium dioxide.

NOTE: A Consumer Reports study noted that many products are now using the term “reef-safe” because the definition is still pretty broad. Check out that article for recommendations to ensure you’re actually buying a reef-friendly product. Another tip: wear UPF (ultraviolet protection factor) clothing while in the water so that you need less sunscreen.


Use reef-safe sunscreen to help protect the environment

Say no to plastic straws.

Sure fancy drinks like those below are fun to sip on while on vacation. But the plastic straws you see in there? Recent studies show how severely they’re impacting the environment. Straws aren’t easily recycled and often end up in our oceans.

When you order a drink, ask whether the restaurant uses paper straws. If not, simply say “no thanks.”

Say no to plastic straws

Reuse your towels throughout your stay.

This is a no-brainer for us. We rarely even have the hotel staff clean our room while on vacation and we always reuse our towels throughout the stay. Unless you’re really in need, save all that water and detergent that goes into clean towels and reuse!

Order locally-sourced food at restaurants.

Locally-produced foods support the local economy and residents, while also decreasing the carbon footprint that goes into shipping food items in from elsewhere. Of course, not only is eating local good for the environment, it also gives you a real “taste” of the culture wherever you’re visiting. Plus, local foods will be the freshest items you can get!

Local fruit stand in Sri Lanka

Avoid the free hotel toiletries.

We’ve always taken the free shampoos and body wash available at hotels. In fact, we have a basket in our guest bathroom for friends and family who are visiting. But only recently did it dawn on us the amount of waste and plastic that goes into mass producing these mini bottles. Think about all the partially used items that get tossed each day!

Instead of indulging in the free supplies, buy a reusable mini bottle you can fill at home and bring with you on your trip.

Tips for traveling green: avoid the toiletries in hotels

Turn off the AC and lights when you leave your room.

It’s a tad inconvenient to come back to your hotel and the room is a little warm, but the amount of electricity you’ll be saving it totally worth it. We started this habit on our most recent trip to Grand Cayman and found our room stayed pretty cool even with the AC off.

Do you have other environmentally-friendly tips for travelers? Share in the comments below!

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Simple tips to start traveling green

2 thoughts on “Simple Changes to Start Traveling “Green”

  1. Here are two other ideas:
    1. Take along a reusable shopping bag for when you are going to markets or buying souvenirs.
    2. Unplug your phone chargers or any other chargers when not in use: (This is one I forget to do at home, but it saves energy!)

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