With the global climate changing faster than at any point in history, the words ‘green’ and ‘eco-friendly’ have taken on renewed importance — even on the global tourism front.
More and more travellers are heeding the call to go green even as they travel around the world for leisure or business. According to a Sustainable Travel Report released by Booking.com last year, 87 per cent of travellers around the world say they’re committed to taking steps to make their travelling experiences more sustainable.
Knowing that you’ve made a positive difference at your travel destination not only makes you feel good; you’re also giving future travellers a chance to continue to experience the joys that you’ve had.
Like all new habits, ‘green’ travel may take a little extra effort at first, but if you keep at it, it’ll soon become second nature. So, if you are game to join the growing tribe of environmentally conscious travellers, try these eco-friendly travel tips on your next holiday…
1. Choose airlines that have a carbon-offset programme
Carbon-offset programmes are essentially a way for passengers to make donations to fund environmental causes such as tree-planting or forest conservation to counteract the effects of carbon emitted by the flights. Some airlines, like Cathay Pacific and Qantas, allow passengers to make donations when they buy tickets online. Other airlines, like Singapore Airlines, take on the responsibility of funding environmental causes on their own such as being the exclusive airline partner for the Saving the Harapan Rainforest Conservation project.
Pro-tip: Even if your airline doesn’t offer carbon-offset options, you can take steps to make contributions of your own. Carbon emissions calculators and donation platforms, such as carbonfootprint.com, are widely available online. Just provide your flight details and the website will do the math for you.
2. Choose non-stop flights to your destination
This isn’t quite the same as a direct flight. While they may sound similar, these are two different travel options. Direct flights can include stopovers at various locations before getting to your destination. Non-stop flights, on the other hand, take you to the same place without any stopovers.
Researchers at NASA noted that the taking-off and landing of an airplane are the most carbon- and fuel-intensive portions of a plane ride — it accounts for 25 per cent of total flight emissions. So, while flights with stopovers tend to be cheaper, non-stop flights are better for the environment. Such flights also mean you don’t have to worry about long layovers and the possibility of missing a connecting flight.
Non-stop flights aren’t just great for the environment thanks to lower carbon emissions. You’d be able to get more out of your inflight entertainment too!
Pro-tip: Pack a reusable insulated water bottle in your carry-on and ask the cabin crew to fill it up with drinks during your inflight meals. You won’t just be saving on single-use plastic cups, it’ll prevent spillage during flight turbulence.
3. Pack as light as possible
While full cost carriers may offer free checked baggage with generous limits, it doesn’t mean you should fill your luggage to its bursting point. Remember, your luggage is just small piece in a plane full of passengers, crew, tonnes of luggage, and even cargo. As the plane has to work hard to transport a heavier load its fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions will both increase, so every kilogramme counts!
Even taking public transport like buses and trains can be hard on the environment when they are carrying a heavier load.
Only bring along what you need to avoid increasing the strain on the plane’s engines.
Another plus point: Packing light could mean avoiding the long wait at the baggage carousel or zipping around without a bulky, over-burdened suitcase — your arms and back will thank you.
Pro-tip: Check out this YouTube video featuring tidying expert Marie Kondo dispensing nifty hacks to optimise baggage space. Otherwise, choosing to bring a smaller suitcase or one with a structured shell is another good way to prevent you from squeezing in extras.
4. Prep your home before you leave for your trip
Before you head to the airport, check your home to avoid any unnecessary energy or water wastage. Prevent short-circuits and electrical fires by switching off and unplugging electrical appliances that are not in use.
You should also turn off the valves to your watermains to stop any accidental leakage and save on spending unnecessary dollars on your utilities.
Pro-tip: Remember to also request to suspend delivery of your daily print newspapers for the duration of your trip. You’ll be cutting down on paper usage and won’t have to come back to a pile of newspapers by your front gate after your trip.
5. Avoid using disposable or single-use plastics
News flash! Even when you do dispose of plastic products in designated recycle bins, 91 per cent of plastic isn’t recycled, reports the National Geographic. So, if you’ve already bought a bottled beverage from the convenience store, then you should consider reusing the plastic bottle for the remainder of your trip before trashing it.
Otherwise, where possible, you should bring along your own reusable water bottles, utensils, and straws. Some cities and countries have even banned the use of plastic bags or levy a tax on shoppers who use plastic shopping bags, so always pack a reusable bag to carry your purchases.
If tap water at your travel destination is safe for drinking, you can save money by taking the extra step of refilling your own water bottle before leaving the hotel every day. You can use the same bottle to store your coffee, too. Think of the number of plastic water bottles or coffee paper cups you will be saving on and the positive impact it’ll have on the environment.
That empty plastic bottle you’re throwing will end up in a landfill somewhere in the world! So, if you’ve already bought a plastic bottle, try to reuse it during your trip before binning it.
Pro-tip: You can save even more money and cut down on single-use plastic bottles by bringing along a reusable bottle that is fitted with a filter. Just fill the bottle with tap water and the filter will catch all water-related bacteria and viruses, heavy metals, and other sediments.
6. Reduce your screen time
In this digital world we live in, it may be difficult to tear ourselves away from our devices. A smartphone, tablet or laptop can be a great way to keep yourself entertained on the go. But think about all the charging you’ll need to do and the electricity you’ll be using.
Reduced usage means reduced energy consumption, so you would be reducing your carbon footprint.
Besides saving energy, logging off will also mean more energy – for you. We’ve all heard about how the blue lights from our smart screens can make it difficult to relax at night, negatively impacting the quality of sleep. Switch off to sleep better.
Pro-tip: If you really can’t detach from your digital screens, consider investing in a solar-powered battery pack. It’s portable and you’re using energy from a renewable source – the sun! It’s a win-win situation.
7. Choose to stay in ‘green’ hotels
Many hotels have gone down the eco-friendly route – from city-centre luxury names with environmentally conscious practices to renewably-powered accommodation in the countryside.
The next time you’re booking your travel accommodation, research the hotel’s eco practices. Start by looking out for environmental accreditation on the hotel’s website, like ‘Green Globe’ or ‘Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design’ (LEED). TripAdvisor’s Green Leaders Program and the World Travel Awards’ World’s and Asia’s Leading Green City Hotel titles are also created to recognise hotels and B&Bs that carry out sustainable practices.
Hotels must pass a thorough assessment of their performance on areas like the sustainability rating of site development, water savings, and energy efficiency among others, in order to get certified.
Pro-tip: Book your accommodations through GreenHotelWorld, a non-profit organisation which uses the commission received for referral bookings to fund environmental projects that make up for the emissions produced from your overnight stay.
8. Mind your habits
Even after checking in to the hotel, you should take steps to treat the hotel like you would your home. Good habits like taking a quick shower instead of a long bath, switching off any appliance whenever you leave your room or when it’s not in use, can reduce electricity and water consumption.
Don’t leave the aircon and appliances running in your hotel room. Remember to remove the hotel key card before leaving for the day.
If your room is still reasonably clean the next day and you have sufficient toiletries, consider hanging the “Do Not Disturb” sign, so that housekeeping doesn’t pay a visit to clean up. At the bare minimum, request that towels and bedlinen are not replaced daily.
Pro-tip: While hotel buffets may be one of the highlights of your trip, only take what you can eat. Food waste is a major contributor of carbon emissions according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. It accounts for about about 3.3 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere every year.
Knowing that you’ve taken the steps to become a green traveller, in your own way, will certainly leave you in a better mood. That said, there are also other ways to load up on more positive vibes as a result of your adventures. For instance, you can head to destinations which offer experiences that’ll allow you to contribute to a social cause which excites you, or simply broadens your perspective of the world — check out our recommendations for where to go!