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We all enjoy the ability to travel the globe in a variety of different ways, whether we take a flight, hop on a cruise, or drive to our destination. However, we do so in the shadow of climate change and environmental issues that have become too big to ignore. With tourism responsible for around 8% of the world’s carbon emissions[i], this is where the idea of eco-friendly travel can help us all explore the world responsibly.

With a growing consciousness towards minimising our environmental footprint, eco-friendly travel is no longer just a trend but a necessity for the conservation of natural and cultural resources. So, where can you start making changes to embrace a greener approach to travel?

From adopting sustainable travel practices that reduce carbon emissions and support local economies, to choosing green hotels and accommodation, below you’ll find some helpful information to travel mindfully and make better choices.

What Is Eco-Friendly Travel?

Embracing sustainable travel and tourism is all about reducing the negative impacts of tourism on the environment and local communities. The idea is that the relationship between travellers and the destinations they visit are more in sync, helping with the conservation of natural resources, the support of local economies, and the preservation of cultural heritage.

There are organisations like Sustainable Travel International who work with the mission to “protect and conserve our planet’s most vulnerable destinations”[ii], working to combat climate change and tackle waste and pollution. The Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC) also works with the mission of developing international standards that increase “knowledge, understanding, adoption and demand for sustainable tourism practices.”[iii]

Not only are organisations working towards positive change in the travel industry, but travellers also want to see these changes too. According to the 2022 Sustainable Travel Report from, 71% of travellers want to make more effort to travel more sustainably, with 41% wanting to help reduce their environmental impact[iv].

So, whether it’s choosing accommodation that is committed to sustainability, participating in conservation efforts, or simply respecting local customs and ecosystems, every action we make when travelling counts.

Practical Tips for Eco-Friendly Travel

Here are just some of the mindful choices you can make when next planning a holiday that will help you travel greener:

Reducing Your Carbon Footprint

  • Alternatives To Flying – Whenever possible, choose trains, buses, or boats over flying. These modes of transport significantly lower your carbon emissions per journey, with transportation the main source of greenhouse gas emissions for tourism[v]. Why not explore the best of the UK instead? See what England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have to offer, especially if you don’t currently have a passport.[vi]
  • Fly Smarter – When air travel is unavoidable, choose shorter direct flights to destinations and airlines that invest in carbon offset programs to minimise your environmental impact. According to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), over 50 airlines have now introduced a carbon offset scheme[vii].

Supporting Local Communities

  • Embrace Local Experiences – Consider choosing locally-owned accommodation, dine at local eateries, and shop from local businesses. This not only enriches your travel experience but also ensures that your money directly benefits the community.
  • Engage in ‘Voluntourism’[viii] Participate in volunteer opportunities that contribute to environmental conservation or community development whilst on holiday, ensuring they are ethical and truly beneficial to the local area.

Choosing Sustainable Accommodation

  • Look for Eco-Certifications – Seek out places to stay that have been recognised by environmental organisations for their sustainable practices, such as energy efficiency, water conservation, and waste reduction. Organisations like Green Tourism have an awards certification programme that recognises businesses that operate more sustainably[ix].
  • Stay in Eco-Friendly Hotels – From eco-lodges and resorts in the heart of nature to eco-hotels in urban centres[x], choose accommodation that aligns with your commitment to the environment.

By integrating these practices into your travel plans, you’re not just exploring the world but actively contributing to its preservation and the well-being of its inhabitants. Eco-friendly travel helps you see the world whilst making a difference as you go.

Experiencing Eco-Friendly Activities

Eco-friendly travel isn’t just about where you stay and how you get there. It’s also about the activities you choose to engage in during your travels. Here are some things to consider when selecting adventure sports and activities you want to enjoy that align with sustainable tourism principles:

Popular Eco-Friendly Activities

  • Cycling – Exploring the world by bike is an ideal way to reduce your carbon footprint whilst away and is great for your fitness too. Look for cycling tours that you can reach by train to avoid flying too, or keep it local to the UK.
  • Eco-Friendly Wildlife Safaris[xi] Find safaris in reserves where the focus is on conservation and education. You want to ensure that these safaris take a responsible approach and are conducted in a way that respects the natural habitat and minimises the impact on local wildlife.
  • Hiking and Trekking[xii] Exploring natural landscapes on foot is one of the most eco-friendly activities you can do. Stick to marked trails to avoid disrupting local flora and fauna and carry out all waste to keep these areas pristine.
  • Snorkelling and Diving – Participate in underwater adventures in protected areas through a sustainable operator[xiii]. This will ensure that you follow all guidelines to avoid damaging delicate coral reefs and marine life and minimise the impact on the environment.

The Role of Adventure Sports in Eco-Tourism

Adventure sports can have a significant place in eco-tourism when conducted responsibly. Activities like kayaking, rock climbing, and mountain biking can minimise environmental impact while offering exhilarating experiences. The key is choosing operators that prioritise safety, environmental protection, and community benefits.

  • Select Responsible Operators – Look for providers who operate sustainably and use eco-friendly equipment, limit group sizes to reduce impact, and have a clear commitment to protecting the environment.
  • Educate Yourself – Understand the potential impact of your activities and learn how to engage in them responsibly. Being informed helps ensure that your pursuit of adventure contributes positively to conservation efforts.
  • Take Out The Right Insurance – Ensure you have suitable travel insurance that provides full coverage for the eco-friendly activities and adventure sports you want to enjoy. You don’t want to find out you’re not covered when trying to make a claim, so check the small print before choosing a policy and travel with peace of mind.

By consciously choosing eco-friendly activities and adventure sports, travellers can enjoy the thrill of exploration while supporting environmental sustainability and conservation efforts. These experiences not only leave a minimal footprint but create a deeper connection with the natural world.

Other Things You Can Do To Travel Sustainably

When planning your eco-friendly adventure, you ultimately want to ensure your trip aligns with sustainable practices from start to finish. As well as the tips detailed above, here are some other things you can do to be a responsible holidaymaker.

Calculate Your Travel Carbon Footprint

Before you go, you can estimate the carbon emissions from your travel. Having this awareness can guide you in making more environmentally friendly choices, such as opting for less carbon-intensive modes of transport. You can use Sustainable Travel International’s carbon footprint calculator here.

Reduce Single-Use Plastics

If you can, equip yourself with items like a reusable water bottle, coffee cup, cutlery, and shopping bags to avoid single-use plastics during your travels. Also, instead of individual travel-sized items, opt for bulk toiletries and refillable containers to minimise plastic waste.

Practice Leave No Trace Principles[xiv]

Be mindful of your surroundings wherever you go, dispose of waste properly, and respect wildlife and natural habitats by leaving what you find.

Use Sustainable Products

Look for eco-friendly, reef-safe sunscreens[xv] that do not contain chemicals harmful to marine life, especially if you plan to swim, snorkel, or dive in natural waters. Some destinations have a toxic sunscreen ban, such as Hawaii and Aruba, so research your destination to check.

Help The Planet Whilst You Enjoy The World

Every choice we make, from selecting sustainable hotels and travel providers to engaging in responsible activities, contributes to the preservation of our planet. By committing to these principles, we can not only enrich our lives by experiencing the world but also ensure the well-being of the environment for future generations.