Becoming a green traveler can make a massive difference to the way you see the world, and the impact you have when traveling through it. Even small and subtle adjustments can reduce your footprint and help protect the environments we travel to.
Table of contents
Table of Contents
What is Green Travel?
There are many definitions of green travel that also overlap with sustainable travel, responsible travel, and eco-tourism. Whatever you want to call it, it is essentially traveling responsibly while taking into consideration your environmental, social, and economic impact. It is also the art of traveling sustainability every time you embark on a new adventure.
Hot Tip: The simplest way for travelers to remember to travel green is through the mantra “reduce, reuse, and recycle.”
50 Green Travel Tips
There are many small changes that you can make to your travel plans that can make a big difference overall. Here are 50 of them, just to get you going.
As obvious as this may seem, swapping air travel for more carbon-neutral transportation such as the train is the single easiest way to go green if you can. While this may not be feasible for trips abroad, this may well be an option for domestic travel.
Fly From Green Airports
If you have to fly, try and make your flight plans based on where you fly from and through. If you can choose more eco-conscious airports along the way, then so much the better. Denver and Boston are 2 of the most environmentally friendly airports in the U.S.
Don’t Drive to the Airport
Where possible, always make public transport your first choice when getting to and from the airport. Choose buses, metros, subways, or even car-sharing if you can. These are cheaper, easier, and much greener.
Choose a Fuel-Efficient Airline
Not all airlines are as fuel-efficient as they could be. Frontier, Spirit, and Southwest are the 3 most fuel-efficient airlines in the U.S., and American, Hawaiian, and JetBlue are the least efficient. For transatlantic flights, Norwegian is ranked the best, and British Airways is the worst.
Choose a Fuel-Efficient Aircraft
Although not always possible, see if you can find an airline that will take you where you want to go on either an Airbus A350-900 or a Boeing 787-9 — 2 of the most fuel-efficient planes available.
If 25% of a flight’s total emissions happen during takeoff and landing, the less often you have to take to the skies and land back on earth, the better. Flying direct is more time-efficient, too!
Fly Coach Sometimes
Coach class offers a more sustainable way to fly for a number of reasons. First-class seats take up a ton of space and add more weight, and their passengers require more staff than those sitting in economy.
The more weight there is on a plane, the more fuel consumption that is required. Pack like a minimalist pro, and help to reduce your carbon footprint.
Offset Your Carbon
You can donate money to carbon offsetting programs that fund environmental projects that work towards absorbing carbon from the atmosphere, such as planting trees. Some airlines already offer programs you can donate to, or you can choose your own. 3 options are:
When You Get There
Getting Around on the Ground
When you reach your destination, switch renting a car and taxis for public transportation or car-sharing, and if you are staying somewhere central, get ready to walk or cycle instead.
Take the Train
If you are in Europe, America, Australia, India, China, Southeast Asia, or any other large landmass, chances are the rail services will be excellent. Train travel offers low emissions, affordable fares, and a great way to see the country as you jump on the “slow travel” trend bandwagon.
Book an Eco-Tour
Eco-tourism in on the rise and if you want to visit some of the remote, protected places in the world, an eco-tour is a great alternative to commercial mass tourism and offers far more socially responsible travel options.
Use an Eco-Friendly Car
If you really do need to rent a car when you get there, look for an eco-friendly alternative to a gas-guzzling SUV or RV. Avoid renting a car that is bigger than what you need to help reduce your carbon footprint.
Choose a Carbon-Neutral Hotel
When booking your stay, look for a hotel that follows the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) guidelines and focuses on cutting down emissions by using low energy light bulbs and linen reuse programs, among other initiatives.
Look for Global Certification, Too
If you are traveling outside of the U.S., look for local eco-friendly initiatives such as EarthCheck (Australia), Green Globe, Rainforest Alliance (Latin America, Caribbean), and the Green Tourism Business Scheme (U.K.).
Ask About Recycling
Your hotel should be happy to tell you what, if any, programs they have in place to handle their recycling needs. If you think they are lacking, let them know via the guestbook or suggestion box.
Many eco-friendly hotels will provide their guests with free use of bicycles to get around or will offer car-sharing or shuttle services to negate the need for you to use your car at all.
Check out the Menu
Locally-sourced, freshly-produced organic fare is not only better for the world around you, but it also tastes better, too. Win, win!
Hire an Adventure Concierge
If you want to experience a really out-there adventure, do it responsibly by booking the services of an adventure concierge to show you how to reconnect with the great outdoors as consciously as possible.
Work With the Community
While you may not want to roll your sleeves up on vacation, make sure that the place you stay and the services you use do. Always look for hotels that utilize local resources to ensure their investment in the local economy. You might even consider volunteering abroad, too.
Use Soap Instead of Shower Gels
Soap bars may seem a little old fashioned, but they are more compact to carry with you, are not wrapped in plastic, and last a lot longer than your average bottle of shower gel.
Use a Shampoo Bar
Again, not being squeezed out of a plastic bottle makes shampoo bars an instantly better choice. Plus, they take up very little room in your toiletry bag and are often made from entirely natural ingredients.
Go for Bamboo Dental Products
Plastic toothbrushes, picks, and sticks are a no-no! Switch to full compostable bamboo brushes and toothpicks instead.
Buy Organic Towels
An organic cotton or bamboo towel is a must-have for any serious adventurer. Not only are these natural materials better for the environment, but they are also lightweight to carry, dry quickly, and can be used as a blanket, too.
Take a Marine-Safe Sunscreen
Sunscreen is important, but try to purchase a product that is formulated without oxybenzone and octinoxate, as these 2 chemicals are toxic to coral reefs and other marine life.
Pack a Cloth Bag
Never leave home without one. These cloth bags are easy to fold away in your luggage and can be used on the beach, at the store, or even to carry your picnic in. Choose 1 made from sustainable organic cotton or hemp where possible.
Take Reusable Straws
If you must use straws when drinking, make sure you are not using plastic ones. Paper straws are quick and easy or invest in your own set of stainless steel ones to take with you.
Pack a Zero-Waste Picnic Set
If you are likely to be taking your own food with you often, pack a reusable lunch bag and bamboo cutlery. This will help you to stay away from the dreaded single-use plastics.
Take a Reusable Water Bottle
You will probably want this for the journey anyway, but always be sure to take your own BPA-free water bottle that you can refill.
Save Water While You Are There
Always opt for showers over baths, as the humble shower uses only a fraction of the amount of water that a soak in the tub does. Don’t spend too long in there, either.
Switch off the Water When Not Using It
Lather up in the shower, shave, or shampoo your hair with the water turned off, and always turn off the faucet while you are brushing your teeth.
Wash Your Own Clothes
If you need to, wash your clothes in your hotel room and hang them up to dry. You can take laundry soap bars with you to ensure that they are truly clean.
Hang Your Towels
If you leave wet towels on the floor, the maid will take them away for washing, whether they are dirty or not. Hang them up and reuse them for a few days to save water and energy.
Use a Menstrual Cup
These innovative cups offer an eco-friendly alternative to traditional sanitary solutions. Easy to use, compact, and incredibly clever, you will want to use this back at home, too.
Take a Dip
Rather than showering off every time you are hot, take a dip in the pool or ocean instead. It will cool you down, and you can shower it all off later.
If your hotel shower is leaking, or the taps don’t turn off, tell the front desk. They could be wasting water without even knowing it.
Save Energy While You Are There
Turn off When You Leave
Every time you leave your room, be sure to turn off any air conditioning or heating units, all the lights, and the television.
Close the Curtains
Drawing the curtains or pulling down the blinds can help to keep out the heat of the sun, and keep the room warm in winter.
Leave the “Do Not Disturb” Sign-On
Your room doesn’t need cleaning every day, and by leaving the sign up, the staff won’t even try. This means less use of chemical cleaning agents and unnecessary energy.
Ditch the Car
Walk, ride a bike, or take public transport to cut down on gas usage.
Back at Home
Unplug Appliances at Home
Every type of appliance consumes energy even when it’s not switched on or on standby. Turn off all of your energy-draining appliances before you leave.
Turn Down Your Water Heater
Turn your water heater to its lowest or “vacation” setting to keep it saving energy while you are away. Modern fridges and freezers sometimes have eco settings, too.
Use a Timer
Make your house look occupied without wasting energy by plugging your lights into a timer. If you don’t have any smart home technology, a mechanical plug timer will do just fine.
Stick to the Trails
Stay on marked paths and trails when out adventuring to avoid harming native flora and fauna, or worrying wildlife that you may be unfamiliar with.
Avoid Wildlife Encounters
Elephant rides, tiger encounters, and other wild animal attractions are often unregulated and could lead to you accidentally supporting the mistreatment of animals. Only ever book encounters that are ethical and support wildlife conservation.
Respect Animals in the Wild
Never get too close to wild animals who could feel threatened or scared. They may attack you out of fear, which is not a good situation for either you or them.
Never Stand on Coral
Coral is very delicate — touching it or standing on it can cause irreparable damage. If you do any diving or snorkeling tours where guides are damaging the coral, leave reviews online so that others know to avoid them.
Do Your Research
Examine your route, check the weather forecast, and have a plan in place. If you get lost or put yourself in unnecessary danger, you may need a ranger rescue, which is a drain of public resources.
Know Where It Is You Are Going
Learn a bit about local customs, or a phrase or 2 in the local language, and always remain courteous at all times. When you are a guest in another town, city, or country, you will enjoy the experience so much more if you are able to really immerse yourself in the local culture.
See How You Can Help
From picking up litter while out hiking to taking on a volunteer project, there are always ways to show your concern for the world around you. Research before you leave or ask what you can do when you get there.
Top 10 Eco-Friendly Tour Operators
If you would like to have a professional tour operator plan your perfect trip, or are interested in getting more involved with local communities, there are many specialist companies out there that will help you do that.
Eco-friendly tour operators will help you to broaden your horizons while at the same time reducing your footprint. Here are 10 of the very best.
Founded in 1990, G Adventures was set up to offer authentic, sustainable travel experiences, the likes of which had never been seen before. Offering inventive alternatives to cruises and resort hotels, G Adventures can help travelers to find tailor-made and authentic life-changing adventures to perfectly suit their needs.
Since 1988, the team at Intrepid Travel has been offering small group adventures all around the world and is now one of the biggest and most trusted tour operators in its field. Committed to making a real difference by investing in local communities, wildlife conservation, and the environment, travelers get to see the world and make new friends, while at the same time making a real difference.
Operating for over a decade now, Blue Ventures is a science-led social enterprise that helps to nurture and sustain locally-led marine conservation projects. Rebuilding fishing communities in places where the ocean is vital to the culture and economy, travelers can volunteer to join Blue Ventures’ responsible initiatives across the world.
Offering small group adventure holidays since 1981, Explore! is committed to offering authentic, localized experiences while leaving as light a footprint on the world as possible. From stopping elephant rides to offsetting CO2 emissions, the travel operator works with both local and global initiatives to help make the world a better place for everyone.
Since 2009 Mosaic Adventures has been offering fully specialized trekking itineraries, adventures, and cultural trips in Nepal, Bhutan, and Tibet. Its eco-conscious, small group tours tread lightly while taking a lucky few travelers into some of the most remote areas of the Himalayan peaks and beyond.
Since its first trip in 1979, Backroads has been doing everything it can to make its 2-wheel trips as positively impactful as possible.
It is involved in community projects, buys locally grown products, and practices the principles of Leave No Trace (pack it in, pack it out). It does this for all of its bike tours, walking tours, safaris, cruises, and yoga breaks that demonstrate its commitment to providing responsible travel opportunities.
Covering 80 destinations worldwide, Peregrine supports local economies by working with tour leaders from the regions it visits, sourcing local produce, and carbon offsetting every trip. Travelers can enjoy small group tours in some of the most remote corners of the world while knowing that the travel company they have chosen offers responsible travel solutions. Peregrine also advocates for child protection and animal rights in the tourism industry.
Wildland Adventures was founded on the principle that environmentally responsible travel can be a powerful force for change, and its ethos remains the same to this day. Offering small luxury tours to a wide range of remote destinations, the tour operator supports the affiliate program The Travelers Conservation Trust (TCT) that allows travelers to support local initiatives and small-scale community development projects.
The historical legacy of Lindblad Expeditions was to bring travelers to some of the most exotic parts of the world, including Antarctica, Galápagos, Easter Island, and the Amazon, while allowing travelers to experience authentic local cultures. The founders also continue to look for ways for the company to help preserve natural resources as well as getting involved in conservation efforts.
As a provider of custom-designed, eco-luxury adventures and safaris, Elevate Destinations combine upscale tourism with support for local communities and conservation. Offering travelers the chance to embark on their very own ecologically sound adventures, Elevate trips allow explorers to experience and fully understand remote and protected areas.
Top 10 Best Eco-Friendly Hotels in the U.S.
If you’re looking for an eco-friendly hotel for some domestic travel, look no further than these great hotels.
This beautiful hotel housed in a historic building focuses not just on sustainability but also on restoration and preservation as well. With a LEED Gold certification, this stunning traditional home-style hotel works with local suppliers to recycle materials and provide sustainable solutions in a stunning location overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge.
Guests will love the well-appointed bedrooms that offer sensors and timers for energy-efficient fixtures and fittings, as well as natural cooling systems and in-room recycling. There is also a choice of 2 on-site restaurants at Cavallo Point Lodge that serve up delicious local dishes, and the Healing Arts Center for Wellbeing has a host of treatments, classes, and wellness experiences for you to enjoy during your stay.
Sophisticated, stylish, and perfectly sustainable, the Proximity Hotel has been designed with environmentally-friendly amenities in mind.
As the first hotel in the U.S. to receive the LEED Platinum certification from the Green Building Council, this hotel features 100 solar panels on the roof, a bistro bar made of salvaged walnut trees, an elevator that captures the energy and feeds it back into the electrical grid, and interiors made from ultra-efficient materials.
Guests can rest easy in the luxurious guest rooms knowing that the bathroom fittings reduce water usage by over a third. Air quality is provided by circulating large amounts of outside air into guest rooms, and eco-friendly amenities are provided throughout the Proximity Hotel, including bicycle hire to discover the Greensboro area.
Located on the site of a former gas station, this LEED Silver-certified establishment is a real testament to transforming previously wasted spaces into sustainable solutions. Offering a wide range of luxurious yet earth-conscious amenities and set in the heart of Sonoma Wine Country, this is the perfect hotel for those who want to enjoy excellent wine without making a dent on the environment.
The H2hotel utilizes solar panels to heat the pool and hot water, smart sensors for fans, lights, and air conditioners, and an amazing green roof that filters water with its very own bio-diverse environment. The on-site Spoon bar also specializes in locally-produced food and is a delightful spot to relax after a day exploring the Healdsburg area.
Situated in the heart of the Big Apple, this stylish Manhattan hotel offers authentic city living with additional eco-friendly benefits thrown in. Designed to incorporate as many sustainable features as possible, this is a downtown hotel with a difference.
Bedrooms feature carpets made from recycled materials, low-flow faucets, and earth-friendly paints and interiors, as well as kitchenettes with Energy Star appliances. In the communal areas, guests can admire artworks mounted on bases made from recycled tires or enjoy a drink on the natural rooftop terrace with outstanding views of the city.
Reducing your carbon footprint in a big city environment can be difficult, but Element New York Times Square is certainly committed to changing that.
This chic, urban hotel offers a taste of the luxe-life thoughtfully combined with earth-friendly initiatives and amenities. As the first hotel in the Windy City to earn Silver LEED certification, this hotel is dedicated to recycling in a big way.
The Felix is packed full of organic materials and renewable resources, and the interiors have been created to capture the elements of earth, wind, water, and fire to create a cozy retreat from the urban streets. Carpets made from recycled materials, low-energy lighting, and organic beauty products in the spa are just a few of the eco-friendly touches that set The Felix apart from the competition.
As the first hotel in Seattle to be granted with the LEED-certification, this Hyatt hotel offers much more than just the usual familiar, chain-hotel comforts. On the top of the building sits a green roof that provides the perfect urban habitat for birds, bees, and butterflies, and an in-house water conservation program helps to reduce water wastage throughout every area of the hotel.
Beautifully appointed bedrooms continue the earth-conscious theme with in-room recycling and energy-efficient lighting, while suites and upgrades even have their very own water bars. The on-site restaurant at the Hyatt prides itself on offering farm-to-table offerings from local suppliers, and there is also a spa with organic treatments and beauty products.
Nestled into a canyon in the Upper Napa Valley, the Calistoga Ranch offers luxury lodge accommodation with a ton of eco-friendly amenities woven into the fabric of the establishment. With over 150 acres to explore, guests can stay in any of the freestanding lodges scattered around this car-free estate.
Dine on organic, locally-produced dishes at the on-site eatery, and sleep soundly knowing that your lodge is not only made from natural, sustainably-sourced materials but also that it features energy-saving light bulbs. It also has water flow reducers and ecologically friendly toiletries and cleaning products.
The Calistoga Ranch also offers its very own vineyard, an indoor and outdoor fitness center and acres of picturesque hiking trails within easy reach of your own front door.
Designed to let you enjoy the great outdoors from the comfort of indoors, this stunning resort hotel features a lot of huge glass windows to make you feel at one with your snowy surroundings. With natural air being circulated around the hotel, you will feel like you are sleeping on a mountain top as you bed down on your organic mattress after a busy day on the slopes.
Designed with nature enthusiasts in mind, the Terra Hotel also offers aluminum water bottles and on-site water stations, low VOC carpets and interiors, radiant underfloor heating, dual-flush toilets, low flow shower fixtures, and solar-powered faucets. The on-site spa uses only organic products, and the ski-in, ski-out nature of the hotel reduces the need for vehicles around the resort accommodation.
This LEED Platinum-certified property offers first-class accommodation paired with eco-friendly practices and standards. Using woods milled from salvaged trees, underground geothermal heating systems, and over 900 solar panels, this is a luxury hotel that takes care of both its guests and the environment.
Guests can enjoy low VOC compound materials, no carpeting, and drapes throughout the Bardessono Hotel, hot water and heating powered by 300-foot wells on the property itself, and low-energy lighting. The on-site restaurant also offers organic, natural, locally sourced produce for guests to savor.
Island resorts don’t come much more perfect than this one. The Hawaii Island Retreat at Ahu Pohaku Ho’omaluhia takes green initiatives to the next level with a wealth of earth-friendly additions to be found throughout the entire resort.
Solar panels and windmills are used to create heating and to purify the saltwater pools, while the on-site 50-acre organic farm produces goat milk, avocados, and much much more. The design of the hotel uses the cross breezes from the Kohala to eliminate the need for air conditioning, and bedrooms all offer low-flush toilets, low-flow showers, in-room reclining, and sustainable-sourced linens and interior elements.
Situated in a paradise, the Hawaii Island Retreat makes vacation dreams come true.
Top 10 Best Eco-Friendly Hotels Abroad
There are some incredible eco-friendly hotels that can be found across the world. Here are 10 of the best.
Designed to look just like a traditional African village, the entire hotel is built to work alongside the natural environment and not to damage it in any way. Comprising a range of thatched-roof villas that balance on stilts, guests can take shelter from the sun under the shade of the ancient baobab trees, or sip a cool drink on the white sands of Zuri Beach.
Overlooking the stunning blue seas of the Indian Ocean, Zuri Zanzibar is the world’s first hotel to be awarded EarthCheck’s Sustainable Design Gold Certification and offers standout eco-friendly initiatives and solutions, including an energy-efficient Evening Breeze air-conditioning system in the luxury villas and a home-grown fragrant spice garden.
This eco-friendly, 5-star resort offers some of the most luxurious, environmentally-sound accommodations in the world. Designed and built to help reduce consumption while supporting local communities and ecosystems, a stay at the Six Senses Con Dao will awaken all of yours while restoring your faith in human nature.
The Six Senses’ commitment to sustainability and low carbon footprints can be found in every corner of the resort. It has solar panels that heat your shower water, fresh air climate conditioning, and even a Crystal Water system with its refillable glass bottles that save over 10,00 plastic bottles from heading to landfill every month. The Six Sense Hotel is an eco-marvel, found in one of the most beautiful places in the world.
A stunning wellbeing retreat on the island of Bali, Soori Bali, offers guests the chance to unwind and refocus in sustainable surroundings. Designed to meet the requirements of the EarthCheck international environmental standards, the resort has been crafted out of locally sourced materials, combined with opulent and inspiring interiors.
The Soori Bali fully utilizes the island’s famous rainy season with its rainwater filtration systems, and the open-plan spaces allow natural light and air to flow freely. Guests can enjoy total relaxation at the on-site spa that offers a range of treatments with traditional practitioners and herbalists.
This luxurious 5-star resort offers first-class accommodation curated with sustainability in mind. The Spice Island Beach Resort is just a short walk from the world-famous white sands of Grand Anse Beach and has received numerous Green Globe Certifications in recent years.
The resort helps to keep its carbon footprint low by using solar panels to heat the water, providing an on-site desalination system to provide clean water, and using local suppliers and community connections where possible. As one of the very best hotels on one of the prettiest islands in the world, a stay at The Spice Island Beach Resort is a truly memorable occasion.
Set on over 140 acres of native forest, the Thala Beach Lodge has been awarded one of the highest eco-tourism accreditations, Advanced Ecotourism Certification. Nestled away on a nature reserve offering views out across the Coral Sea, this quiet corner of Queensland is home to one of the most incredibly eco-friendly accommodations in the world.
This beautiful art deco resort allows guests to stay in comfortable and authentic lodges, while there are plenty of earth-friendly amenities to enjoy including the organic coconut plantation, the natural swimming pools formed by granite boulders and waterfalls, and the regular talks from the local elders of the Kuku Talanji community. There are also lots of free guided tours available at Thala Beach Lodge.
Offering luxury stays on the exclusive island of Hadahaa, the Park Hyatt Maldives offers picture-perfect 5-star villas, first-class diving, and the miles of sandy beaches you would expect to find in the Maldives. What may surprise you, though, is that this famous hotel is also one of the most eco-friendly in the Indian Ocean.
Tucked away in a lush green location, parts of the hotel have been built over the water to minimize disruption to existing ecosystems, and the hotel promotes recycling, fresh air conditioning, and solar heating where possible.
The Park Hyatt Maldives Hadahaa is also the sole recipient of a silver EarthCheck certificate and is the only resort in the Maldives to be awarded by EarthCheck for both design and construction.
Situated in the business and entertainment district of this bustling city, you would think that The Park Hyderabad is just another upscale urban hotel, but you would be wrong to do so. While the hotel does indeed offer first-class, 5-star accommodation and amenities, it is also one of the few in India to have achieved LEED Gold certification.
The design of the building starts by maximizing natural light that in turn allows it to consume less electricity. It is also careful to use interiors made from sustainable materials wherever possible. For guests at The Park who wish to reduce their personal carbon footprint, green transportation, bikes, and electric cars are very much encouraged to explore the city outside your doorstep.
This unusual concept hotel is not luxurious, nor does it offer a huge host of amenities. But for all that it lacks, it more than makes up for with its superb on-piste location, unique sleeping accommodation, and incredible eco-friendly credentials.
Guests are able to sleep on the side of the mountain in a selection of well-appointed pods that have a minimal environmental impact. Each pod is heated by stocking up its own wood stove, lighting is provided by LED bulbs, and there is no bottled water. Whitepod also uses timers on boilers to keep consumption down and water-saving devices on taps and showers.
With amazing views out across Lake Garda, the Lefay Resort is an eco-conscious hotel that offers total luxury in this stunning part of the world. Awarded the platinum level GreenLeaders certification, the hotel has been built using natural materials, most of which were locally sourced, including olive wood, Italian walnut, and even marble.
Guests can marvel at the beautiful infinity pool and enjoy the first-class cuisine in the on-site eateries, as well as enjoying a host of treatments available at the Mondo Lefay Spa. They will also be impressed by the use of renewable energy sources at the Lefay Resort for cooling and filtering the air and producing electricity, as well as in-room sensors to turn off electrics when the rooms are empty.
With a strong eco-ethic, this luxury resort hotel is the only property in Mexico with a LEED review and 1 that is committed to combining opulence with sustainability at all turns. Retro-fitted solar panels help to reduce the hotel’s carbon footprint while personal touches like hand-sorted trash offer a truly bespoke twist on traditional recycling.
Guests at Casa De Las Olas can also enjoy rainforest showers using re-filtered well water, as well as locally sourced food from family farms, all carefully handpicked to ensure the freshest and ripest ingredients are always available. Luxury awaits at this stunning, eco-friendly resort just outside of downtown Acapulco.
There is a big world out there just waiting to be explored, and with a bit of forward planning, you can reach the furthest corners of the earth while being a truly responsible traveler. From simple lifestyle changes like ditching plastic straws and single-use bottles, to committing to volunteer with conservation projects, every single person can make a difference — and that includes you!