Sustainable Travel: Doing Your Part When Traveling for Fun

Sustainable Travel: Doing Your Part When Traveling for Fun


In recent blog articles, we’ve talked about why businesses are adopting sustainable policies and practices for their corporate travel program, and how companies can take greener measures through mandated travel policies and procedures.

But, there’s another side to sustainable travel — individual behavior.

The choices each of us makes as we’re planning and enjoying adventures in new cities directly affect the environment, too. It is important for us to do our part to improve the environment whether we’re traveling for work, or just for fun. The more you look into it, the more you see how easy it is to make a difference. It’s almost shocking how many things we can do to leave a lighter footprint as we travel.

Here are just a few ideas you can put into practice right now – or at least the next time you hit the road.

1. Consider your commute

Seriously, getting to and from work is a form of travel. Walking, biking, and public transportation are all far more eco-friendly than driving your car. Cheaper, too. Similarly, when you’re moving around town for business meetings or client visits, consider the same range of alternatives. Public transportation isn't an option? Use a ride-sharing app.

2. Fly less

Air travel is a disaster when it comes to polluting the environment. You can’t get everywhere without flying, but you can:

  • Consider taking a vacation closer to home
  • Take the train for shorter hops (now’s the time to learn more about this because airlines are dumping short-haul routes and Amtrak is making plans to roll in)
  • Book a non-stop flight that’s more fuel-efficient
  • Visit just one place rather than trying to see everything in one trip (longer stays let you step off the beaten path, meet the locals, see and learn things you’d never experience on a whirlwind visit)

3. Pack lighter

If you’re going to fly, lighten the plane’s load (and your own as well) by packing only a carry-on. Added weight on the plane means more wasted fuel. For you – well, anyone who has lugged hefty, heavy luggage through multiple airports, customs, and cobblestone streets. understands why lighter is better. Wheels or not, why put yourself through all that work? You really, really do not need that fourth pair of shoes.

4. Book green hotels

Many hotel chains (and boutique properties, too) have been working for years to become more eco-friendly. Booking with them boosts your own sustainability efforts and supports them as a thank-you for their efforts. It’s easy to find out who’s taking the extra step — just check their website. Look for properties that meet formal standards such as LEED-certified construction and/or operations, or accreditation from the Global Sustainable Tourism Council or the Rainforest Alliance.

5. Use reusables!

By now everyone knows that plastics, especially water bottles, have become a worldwide scourge. Surely you don’t want to be caught contributing to the massive piles of trash! But you do need to stay hydrated, especially when you’re on the go. So get a reusable water bottle. And think beyond the bottle — where else can you replace single-use plastic with reusable containers?

In her article, “Get on Board Against Plastics,“ Sarah Enelow-Snyder writes, “When asked, most travelers will say they want to save the environment and are willing to pay more — in money and convenience — to do so. They’re ready to shell out for an ecolodge or a dubious carbon offset, and they’re ready to cram a heavy, reusable, glass thermos with a metal straw into their tiny carry-ons.”

But they stop there, she protests. “One glance at an airport will tell you that in the heat of the moment, flyers want their lunch in a plastic to-go container with plastic cutlery stuffed into a plastic bag, so they can sling it over one arm while they grab an iced coffee from Starbucks and dash to the gate.” Try getting to the airport earlier to have a sit-down meal, or prepare security-friendly snacks ahead of time and bring them in your own reusable containers.

6. Leave your read behind

You can recycle more than plastics. Many travelers love to read, both in transit and to kick back at their destination. Aside from the fact that paperbacks are small and light to pack, they can augment your sustainability score if you leave them behind on the airplane or in the hotel for someone else to enjoy.

7. Be a voice for change

Savvy companies and corporate travel managers know that one way to drive greater, faster sustainability change within the travel industry is to speak up. They’re demanding that the airlines and hotels they book for business trips be environmentally-friendly – or be working proactively in that direction.

You can do the same as an individual traveler. Your voice matters, too, because without leisure travelers the industry would expire. Travel and tourism providers exist to please you. So tell ‘em what you want and expect. And don’t choose those who don’t get it.

Go forth and make the most of every travel experience

But whether you’re traveling for business or pleasure, consider stepping lightly to preserve our global environment.

About the Author: Jeanne Hopkins
Jeanne was the CMO of from 2018-20.