Balancing a love of travel and being environmentally friendly is going to be a challenge for many avid travelers in the 2020s, especially as the global climate gets worse. While having a small carbon footprint while traveling can be hard right now, especially with a lack of “green” transportation options, there are still many ways that you can make your travel more environmentally-friendly. 

While it will be hard for travelers to be completely carbon-neutral when traveling, especially nowadays when there aren’t many non-carbon-emitting transportation options, there are still plenty of ways to travel that can help us reduce our carbon footprint while traveling.

Without further ado, here are our top tips for how to travel more sustainably in 2021:

Choose Transportation Options That Don’t Emit Less Carbon

The unfortunate reality is: Airplanes are the worst carbon-emitter out there when it comes to transportation. To put it in perspective, flying from London to New York emits about .67 tonnes of CO2 per passenger, according to the International Civil Aviation Organization. That’s roughly 11% of what someone in the UK emits on a yearly basis and roughly equal to the amount generated from someone in Ghana in a year.

It’s been really hard for us to come to grips with just how bad flying is for the environment because of how much we both love it. Honestly, we’ll probably never completely stop flying when we travel, but our research into just how bad flying is for the environment has made us seriously rethink how we will plan our future trips.

Basically, we will only fly when it is absolutely necessary.

While flying is the only way to get to many areas of the world, try to limit the amount of times you fly on your trip. Once you get to another part of the world, like maybe you fly over to Europe from North America, try as best as you can to choose other forms of transportation to get around, like trains and buses.

Trains are the best option because they are almost all electric, but they are also often the most expensive.

Many buses still run on gas or diesel, but electric bus options may not be too far off in the future. Flixbus is already testing electric buses out in California and in some destinations in Europe. Because of consumer demand for more climate-friendly options, the availability of electric buses will likely dramatically increase in the coming years.

Unfortunately, climate-friendly electric planes are still likely a ways off because of the problem of just how much more space batteries take up compared to gas on an airplane. While electric planes are being tested by Airbus and Boeing, we are still at least 10 years away until we see one in commercial use. 

However, many airlines are starting to take action in other ways to make themselves more carbon-neutral. For example, JetBlue announced on January 9th that they will begin using more sustainable fuel when flying out of the San Francisco airport so they don’t have to fuel up as often.

Many companies in the airline industry, including JetBlue, are also pumping in a lot of money to projects that can help offset their annual carbon emissions which includes forest conservation, renewable energy, and carbon capture technology.

Consider Offsetting Your Carbon When You Fly

If you do choose to fly, you might want to try donating to carbon offsetting projects yourself. Airlines like Delta in the US and Qantas in Australia offer climate offsetting projects that you can easily donate to after flying. Check out the link to Delta’s Offset Your Flight page for more information.

While those types of initiatives are great, we personally donate to Tomorrow’s Air, which partners with an initiative called Climeworks that was started in Switzerland to literally pull carbon out of the air.

Carbon capture technology is still relatively new, but is really promising for helping to reverse the effects of climate change since it can pull carbon out of the air much faster than something like planting new trees in a forest.

While donating to carbon offsetting projects doesn’t completely make up for the cost of flying, and it shouldn’t be used as an excuse to fly a lot, investing in projects that can produce more oxygen or take carbon out of the atmosphere will go a long way towards fighting climate change. So consider doing it!

Stay in Destinations For Longer Periods of Time

Our next tip: try staying in destinations longer to limit the amount of traveling you have to do while on vacation.

The part of travel that leads to the most carbon emission is the part where you have to get from point A to point B. So instead of spending a 3 week vacation going to 10 destinations or something, which is a popular thing to do in places like Europe where everything is so close, try to stay in one or two destinations for a longer period of time during your vacation.

Staying in one destination longer can not only lower your carbon footprint while traveling, it can also help you to experience the culture in a much deeper way. You can get the experience of what it’s like to actually live in another place.

Reduce Your Waste When In Your Destination

Our final tip: When in a destination, do as much as you can do reduce the amount of waste that you use.

With the drastic rise in tourism around the world in the past 10 years (outside of 2020, of course) many popular tourist destinations around the world have been trashed by the amount of waste that tourists leave behind.

Here are a few ideas to help you reduce the amount of waste you generate while traveling:

  1. Bring your own water bottle to use on your trip so that you don’t have to use plastic water bottles. Even if you are going somewhere that doesn’t have a clean source of water, you can bring a filtered water bottle which can filter out all the bad stuff to make it drinkable.
  2. Bring reusable bags for groceries. We also have reusable produce bags which are really handy. Besides being sustainable, you also don’t have to spend 5 minutes trying to get the stupid plastic produce bag to open
  3. Invest in high-quality clothes. They may be more expensive, but they will last you a lot longer so that you don’t have to keep buying new things. Companies like Patagonia will even repair tears or damage to your Patagonia clothes for free if you send them in.
  4. The same goes for suitcases and backpacks: go for high quality so that they will last years rather than months

Eat Less Meat When Traveling

This last one is a tough one for us, but you could also consider limiting the amount of meat that you eat when traveling since the meat industry is a very large emitter of carbon. If you are interested in finding vegan or vegetarian options while traveling, try using the app HappyCow, which finds nearby restaurants with vegan or vegetarian options on their menu.

Climate-conscious travel is obviously a big topic and it is pretty hard to touch on everything in one post. We want to share that we are not perfect when it comes to this topic. Traveling more sustainably is something that we will be working on in the coming year, but we thought we would share our research with you if you are interested in becoming a more climate-conscious traveler too.

Let us know what you think of our tips. If you have any other tips for people looking to travel more sustainably, feel free to add them down in the comment section below


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