Updated: Nov 30, 2022
Do you have wanderlust and want to see the world? There certainly are incredible destinations across the globe that are worth visiting, but will they still be worth visiting 20, 50, 100 years from now? With an influx of tourists to our National Parks over the past five years, the awe-inspiring views that we all long to witness are suffering the greatest impact.
Tourism contributes to over 5% of global greenhouse gas emissions and by 2030 an estimated 25% increase in CO2-emmisions is expected.
What does continued release of greenhouse gases and carbon emissions mean for our planet?
It means that increased temperatures lead to climate change. The habitats that wildlife have called their home for centuries are no longer able to provide the necessary means for survival which causes extinction. Researchers have found that glaciers are melting at over 1.3 miles per year, meaning that at its current rate, glaciers in North America may cease to exist by as early as 2050.
How can we make a change?
Decisions you make as a tourist impact our environment. Everyone has the power to make a difference, no matter how big or small.
4. Hotel Hacks
Reducing Travel Plastics
Today, the average resident of North America or Western Europe consumes roughly 200 pounds of plastic each year (mostly in the form of packaging). Packaging made from single-use plastics is incredibly wasteful and harms the environment both in production and disposal. Below list 4 ways that you can reduce single-use plastics throughout your travels:
1. Reusable Travel Containers
How many times have you prepared for a trip by buying travel-sized shampoo, conditioner, and other toiletries at your local department store? Next time, save money and the environment with re-usable containers. These GoToob reusable containers are the correct size for airline travel, easy to fill and clean, and prevent leaks with their lock-seal design.
J&L's Top Pick: Humangear GoToob+ Large Squeeze Bottle
2. Reusable Snack Bags
Heading to a local grocery store and packing healthy snacks throughout your travels is not only a good way to save money, but it supports local businesses. Avoid the single-use plastic of Ziploc bags and pack some Stasher reusable silicone snack bags for your travels.
J&L's Top Pick: Stasher Reusable Silicone Snack Bags
3. Reusable Grocery Bags
Making a trip to a grocery store during your travels is not only one of our top budget tips, but it also supports local businesses and eliminates your use of single-use packaging that can be found at most convenient stores. Planning ahead, be sure to bring a reusable grocery bag along your travels to avoid using wasteful plastic grocery bags.
J&L's Top Pick: Recycled Canvas Tote
4. Reusable Water Bottles
Without any place to buy water in the wilderness, bringing a water bottle may be an obvious essential item to pack for any hiking trip. However, it may be less obvious of an item to bring for a city trip. Packing a reusable water bottle is an easy way to reduce single-use plastics while traveling.
But what if you do not trust the water in the region you are traveling? That is why we recommend the LifeStraw water bottle for your travels.
This water bottle removes 99.9% of bacteria, parasites, and micro-plastics to provide safe drinking water throughout all of your travels.
J&L's Top Pick: LifeStraw Stainless-Steel Water Bottle (pictured in backpack below)
Reducing Travel Paper
The most common use of paper while traveling is the desire to have a physical map or the printing of travel documents, confirmations, and tickets. Technology can replace the need for all of these paper items while traveling.
Some prefer a physical copy rather than the uncertainty that technology could fail them in their time of need. There is risk associated with paper copies as well, the biggest being that it is easily lost! We have found the Google Cloud to not only be an eco-friendly alternative to paper copies, but very reliable and convenient.
J&L Tip: You can also save paper during travel by downloading your airline's app in order to use e-tickets
5. Curated Offline Google Maps
Google Maps allows you to download segments of maps for directional use offline (driving directions only). This is an easy way to save on international data and navigate through National Parks with limited to no service.
It Gets Better. You can access descriptions for Noms, Brews, & Views through Google Map's offline feature. We have created a curated map with offline capabilities for EVERY one of our travel guides. Click the icons for a nearby place, get directions, and be on your way to your next destination!
6. Offline Saved Travel Documents
You can easily compile all of your important travel documents (copy of ID/Passport, tickets, confirmations, etc.) in a Google Drive folder, which can be saved for offline use when traveling internationally.
J&L Tip: To mitigate risk with technology, save your documents to multiple devices/accounts!
Reducing Travel Carbon Emissions
The transportation you choose leads to the largest impact on the environment compared with any other choices you make throughout your travels. While there are currently no eco-friendly alternatives to flying in a plane, you do have the option to decide your route for more local transportation.
7. Use Public Transportation
Using public transportation reduces the amount of cars on the road that are releasing carbon emissions. "Vehicles are America's biggest air quality compromisers, producing one-third of all U.S. air pollution" according to National Geographic.
One of the best tools we use to find the quickest or most affordable route from point A to point B is Rome2Rio. It not only shows you a list of options from flights, buses, trains, and car rentals, but also links you directly to the sites that allow you to book your transportation. Rome2Rio is a wonderful resource for trip planning and spontaneous travel alike!
8. Pack Smart
What if we told you that you only needed to pack one pair of socks for your week-long trip? You may think this sounds pretty disgusting, but that's only because you're picturing re-wearing some smelly, dirty socks. Enter: Merino wool
Merino wool has moisture-wicking, odor controlling properties that prevent your socks and base layers from getting smelly or sweaty, even after significant use. No, this wool does not feel like an itchy sweater that you were gifted from your grandmother, it's comfortable and long-lasting.
9. Support Environmentally Conscious Brands
The retail industry is one of the leading offenders impacting our environment. From water and energy used in production, to natural resource extraction, transportation, and product disposal, there is much to be done to lower retailers' impact. Rather than supporting wasteful fast-fashion and brands that refuse to prioritize sustainability, you can make an impact through your purchasing habits alone.
Researching to find products that last, function, and have a low impact on the environment is a great way to be an environmentally conscious consumer. Some of our favorite sustainable, high quality brands include Cotopaxi, Patagonia, Fjallraven, and Prana.
10. Eliminate the mindset of "use it, its free"
How many times have you stock-piled the complimentary travel-toiletries, coffees, and teas before leaving a hotel room? Why not? They're free and you paid for them in the price of your hotel room. This is the consumerist mentality that most travelers have, however, these 'freebies' come in single-use plastic packaging that are wasteful and hurt the environment. These items may be free in dollar-value but the environmental cost in taking these items is significant.
Instead, bring your own toiletries in reusable containers, hang a "do not disturb" sign to avoid unnecessary cleaning, and hang your towels up for reuse. If all travelers were mindful of these little actions, far less consumption and resources would be required for hospitality.
Finally, support local via Airbnb and Vrbo.
Whether looking for a campsite, a bedroom to stay the night, or an entire place to yourself, Airbnb & Vrbo are valuable resources to find lodging. Catering to every budget, there is a range of lodging options from hosts who own places to stay in your desired destination to business owners renting a hotel or resort. When picking an Airbnb or Vrbo, be sure to look at the reviews from previous guests in order to validate that the lodging fits your travel needs.
1. National Geographic, National Geographic Staff, "The environmental impacts of cars, explained", National Geographic, September 4, 2019. 9.25.255 https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/article/environmental-impact
2. NBC News, Rhoda Kwan, "'Doomsday' glacier could melt faster than previously thought", NBC News, Sept. 6, 2022, 9:43 AM EDT. 9.25.22 https://www.nbcnews.com/science/environment/doomsday-glacier-melt-faster-previously-thought-rcna46380
3. The Globalist, "Plastic Consumption: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly", The Globalist, October 12, 2017. 9.25.22 https://www.theglobalist.com/plastic-consumption-the-good-the-bad-and-the-ugly/
4. TheWorldCounts, "Global Challenges". 9.25.22 https://www.theworldcounts.com/challenges/consumption/transport-and-tourism/negative-environmental-impacts-of-tourism