13 Easy Eco-Friendly Travel Tips


By Tara McAndrew

March Break is around the corner, and with it many people will be heading around the world for sun, relaxation, and adventure. With the climate crisis top of mind, here are 13 actionable tips and tricks for easy eco-friendly travel just like Greta.

1. Unplug and Recharge

How can you unplug and recharge at the same time? Easy! Before leaving for your trip, make sure to unplug devices, turn off or lower the AC or heat, and turn off all lights. Then, go relax and recharge! I told you it was easy. This is also an excellent daily practice while on the road. Whenever you leave a room, make sure to turn off the lights and unplug devices that don't need further charging.

2. Choose Reusable Water Bottles

Invest in a water bottle that suits your needs. I prefer a collapsible water bottle as it's light weight, portable, and perfect for travel or everyday use. I have had my current water bottle for 2.5 years and take it everywhere with me. It thrills me to think of how many plastic water bottles escape from being tossed into a landfill, the ocean, or worse each time I fill it up. Have no fear if you're in a country where potable water isn't readily available. There are many water purification options to learn about and use. If there's one habit change you make while on the road (and at home!), this is a small one that makes a massive difference.

3. Replace Plane Pillows & Blankets with Comfy Scarves

One item to always pack, regardless of destination, is a scarf. Gentlemen, no discrimination here -we suggest you bring one too. Why would you pack a scarf when travelling to a warm location you ask? Reason numero uno is that planes are cold and scarves are lightweight, fold a million different ways, and are the perfect simple solution for warming up. Reason number two is that they are a multi-functional item. For example, scarves can be worn to protect your head, as a beach wrap, or as a fashion statement. They can also be used to protect travel documents, as a photo booth backdrop, or as a pillow or blanket, among several other options. The cherry on top is that when using a scarf as a pillow or blanket on a plane, you're reducing the use of unnecessary airline plastic waste that covers these items.

4. Bring a Collapsible Tote

Every traveller should include a collapsible tote bag in their packing list. Similar to scarves, they are lightweight, tiny, and extremely useful. Whether you're going to the beach, doing groceries, heading to a cafe, or bought too many souvenirs to fit in your suitcase, they're excellent in a pinch and perfect for every day use. Pro tip: Find a collapsible tote bag that has a small inner zippered pouch to store smaller or valuable items.

5. Rinse and Reuse those Mini Shampoos

It is likely that you have one, or fifty, mini hotel shampoo and soap bottles already filling your bathroom drawers. If this is the case, use them! There's no sense in wasting something that you already have. When you've finished using the product they came with, refill and reuse the bottles. Voilà! You've saved yourself money by not buying travel-sized toiletry containers, and
you've reduced the amount of plastic being thrown out or recycled. Did you know that of the 3Rs, Reducing is the most eco-friendly option, followed by Reusing, and in last place, by Recycling?
Lucky for you, the fun doesn't stop with reducing and reusing mini hotel shampoos. When filling your mini toiletry bottles, consider an environmentally friendly multi-use soap. My favourite for body wash, shampoo, and laundry (and 15 other uses) is Dr. Bronner's.

6. Do Not Disturb this Hotel Room

Let's be honest -you're not that dirty, nor are you super high-maintenance. So why change your towels and have your hotel room cleaned every day? A little bit goes a long way, and reusing your towels during your stay (just as you would at home) saves a lot of water and energy. The same thing applies for those mini toiletries we just mentioned. If you use them at the hotel and they aren't finished, bring them home and continue pampering there, otherwise they get thrown out. Or, bring your own minis and save the hotel's for the next guest.

7. Ditch Plane Food and Bring Local Treats

Unless you're flying first class, my guess is plane food does not sit at the top of your favourite meals list. Food served on planes is not only unhealthy, it's practically all plastic. From the meal containers, to the cups and utensils, to the packaging for each and every item, plane meals are a disaster for the environment and your health. Thankfully there's an easy and affordable option to avoid Plastic à la Airline. Prior to arriving at the airport (to save money and unnecessary plastic), fill up your reusable lunch containers and bring snacks like sandwiches or wraps, fruit, nuts, veggies, etc... for the plane ride. Don't forget to research what can and can't go through customs to avoid items being thrown out. Your body will thank you for the nutrients to fight off jet lag, and the environment will thank you as well. Don't be surprised if your seat mates get a little jealous though...

8. Goodbye Tampons & Pads, Hello Menstrual Cups!

Ladies, let's be honest -tampons and pads are the worst. They're bulky, expensive, and awful for the environment. Luckily there's an alternative and it is brilliant. I've been using a menstrual cup for a few years and my only regret is that I didn't start using one sooner. There's more space in my luggage for clothing, books (yes, I pack actual books), and whatever else I'd rather pack. I've saved hundreds of dollars and will continue to save more with each month that passes. If you're curious how it works in public spaces or in countries with tougher access to clean water, there are many handy resources online to answer your questions. Get excited, fellow females, your monthly cycle just became a bit more hassle-free!

9. Keep Calm and Carry-On

As a former over-packer, I will be the first to admit that changing packing habits has greatly reduced any former pre-trip stress. Now, I only travel with carry-on luggage and airlines can no longer lose my belongings. If that's not a travel win, I don't know what is. Transit time has also been reduced. I waltz off planes, fly through customs, and breeze past baggage carousels. But that's not all of the good news! Packing light means helping the environment as well. A lighter plane load requires less fuel, which results in a smaller carbon footprint. Can you say triple win?

10. Buses, Bikes, and Trains, Oh My!

Although we just discussed plane travel, when possible, try to choose alternate transportation options. There are so many ways to move from place to place, and many of them are more eco-friendly than flying. Buses, bikes, trains, vehicle-sharing, and other modes of transportation are all effective ways of getting around. They are also often cheaper, allow you to see a location from a different perspective, and provide an opportunity to mingle with the locals. If you must fly, economy is the way to go.

11. Just Keep Walking, Walking, Walking

While we're on the topic of transit, we can't forget about the most environmentally-savvy choice of all: walking! There are so many benefits to walking on a trip. To begin with, you can stop and sample every street food vendor along the way without needing to fight for a parking spot. Second, you set the pace. If you decide to spend longer at an exhibit or on the beach, the choice is in your hands...er, feet. Third, a little daily exercise will reduce your carbon emissions and bring you in closer contact with the place you're exploring or relaxing in. Wow, what a way to wander!

12. Show Some Love and Buy Local

Buying local, whether it's food, souvenirs, or everyday items, is one of the best ways to support the communities you travel to and through. By supporting local business you're empowering individuals to support their family and friends, as well as build a sustainable livelihood. You're also eating fresher, more nutritious food, and encouraging local artisans to continue practicing and perfecting unique traditions.

13. Practice Safe Sunscreen

If you're heading out on a sun vacation, protect the environment while safeguarding yourself and use eco-friendly sunscreen. All of the sunscreens sold at Terra20 have the environment, as well as your skin in mind and are ocean safe. Make sure to tag us in your social posts @terra20 so we can enjoy all of the sun and fun as well!
With these eco-friendly travel tips you can see just how easy it is to be a more responsible traveller. It really is the small stuff that counts in life. Happy travels!

About the Author

Tara McAndrew

Tara is a Canadian word nerd with an affection for food, music, and travel. She is also a (self-proclaimed) chocolate connoisseur.

Tara founded the blog Travel with TMc in 2015 to keep family and friends up-to-date with life overseas. Today the website includes language tutoring and consulting services to teach Canadians how to afford to travel!

Follow Tara on Instagram: @travelwithtmc

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