10 Sustainable Travel Habits You Need to Adopt (with Video)

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I never noticed just how much damage we as tourists sometimes cause to the places we visit, until I saw the horrific effects of tourism during a trip to Bali. That journey changed me for the better and gave me a heightened awareness of sustainable travel.

What is sustainable travel exactly? To put it simply—it’s tourism that shows respect to the environment, local culture, and wildlife of the places we visit. Contrary to what some assume, living a sustainable travel lifestyle is not that hard. It just takes awareness and practice.

Here are 10 habits I’ve developed to help me travel responsibly, ethically, and sustainably—some of which were inspired by my travel buddy Jannae, who drilled into me the horrors of plastic and other pollutants tourists are guilty of carelessly using abroad.

Watch the Video and Continue Reading Below:

1. Recycle and Refrain from Littering

When you think of Bali, glossy images of exotic, pristine beaches probably flood your senses, right? Sadly, perception harshly collides with reality once you arrive. Tourism has played a role in litter destroying the public beaches of Bali, partly due to super cheap flight deals and cheap booze that attract large crowds of Australians and even Indonesians from other cities looking to party on their holidays.

Respect the country you’re visiting and do not litter, EVER. Go a step further and recycle what you can, when you can. Ask your hotel about their recycling program—in Bali, every hotel we stayed in offered to recycle any bottles we had.

I was very disappointed to see all the litter on Sanur Beach. Sustainable Travel Tip: Don't Litter! Recycle When You Can.

I was very disappointed to see all the litter on Sanur Beach.

2. Pack a Reusable Bottle

Help prevent the ocean from becoming your garbage can. Plastic bottles often end up polluting the land and sea, so bring your own water bottle and refill it when travelling.

Just The Flight put together this handy infographic that shows you the countries where you can safely drink tap water and where it’s dangerous. If you’re headed to a destination with unsafe tap water, here are a few options.

Option 1: Standard water bottle – Shop for large jugs of water at a local grocery store, keep them in your hotel room, and use them to refill your personal bottle everyday. Ask your hotel if they can recycle the jugs once they’re empty.

* Bonus TL Tip: The less bulk, the better, so I went to Wal-Mart and bought a foldable water bottle that collapses conveniently when I’m done using it. You can also easily find one on Amazon.

Option 2:  Filtration water bottle – Bypass having to buy any plastic water bottles at all when you purchase a special water bottle that can filtrate tap water. Roar Loud posted this great review of the LifeStraw Go Bottle. You can fill this bottle up with water from a faucet, river, stream, or even a puddle and it will filtrate it for you!

Campuhan Ridge Walk in Ubud. Sustainable Travel Tip: She's carrying a refillable water bottle in the side of her bag.

Campuhan Ridge Walk in Ubud. Jannae is carrying a refillable water bottle in her bag.

3. Put Purchases in Reusable Shopping Bags

Another way to prevent evil plastics from wreaking havoc is by reducing your use of them when shopping. Plastic bags end up in waterways and landfills where they don’t break down for years, so pack a reusable shopping bag. It can come in handy in a variety of travel situations. Buying groceries at an outdoor market in Barcelona? Planning a picnic in front of the Eiffel Tower in Paris? Determined to put your haggling skills to the test at a bazaar in Istanbul? Bring a reusable bag.

According to the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency), benefits of using reusable bags include energy conservation, reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, and reduction of marine debris by preventing pollution at its source.

BAGGU Compact Reusable Shopping Bag: After searching online, I found a stylish reusable bag I liked and bought one. I chose BAGGU for a few reasons; the compact bags I saw were all under $10, they came in a wide array of fun and vibrant prints, and they had 5 freaking stars on Amazon! I love sailor stripes, so I ordered this one:

Sustainable Travel Tip: Pack a reusable shopping bag (I use this BAGGU shopping bag)

I went online and bought my reusable shopping bag from BAGGU.

4. Alternatives to Driving

There are plenty, depending on where you are:

  • Public transit: busses, trains, trams etc.
  • Walking Tours
  • Bike Tours
  • Share Uber with Someone.
  • If you do rent a car, consider hybrid or electric if available.
Walking around Ubud, Bali. Sustainable Travel Tip: Find Alternatives to Driving.

Walking around Ubud, Bali.

5. Support the Locals, Not Corporations

This is especially important when visiting developing countries. Wouldn’t you prefer to help the local economy thrive, rather than contribute to a big corporation’s piggy bank? Support the locals! Buy locally made souvenirs, dine at local restaurants, use local tour operators, and stay in locally owned hotels.

Stopping for a refreshing drink in a local cafe in Ubud, Bali. Sustainable Travel Tip: Support Local Businesses

Stopping for a refreshing drink in a local cafe in Ubud, Bali

6. Shop Direct from the Source

If you’re going to support the local economy, try going straight to the source to make your purchases. That way you know your souvenirs are ethically sourced vs. sweatshop produced. In Bali, we visited craftspeople in their studios—we visited batik painters, wood carvers, and jewelry makers.

We got a chance to see how Batiks are made and purchase directly from the studio. Sustainable Travel Tip: Shop Direct From the Source.

We got a chance to see how Batiks are made and purchase directly from the studio.

7. Book Unique Cultural Experiences

Ask your travel agent to include unique cultural experiences in your itinerary. Cultural tourism can help you better understand the lifestyle of the people in the regions you are visiting—their history, art, architecture, religion, and any other cultural aspects that shape their way of life. Learn to be aware of your destination and how to help it sustain its unique character.

Traditional Barong dance in Ubud, Bali. Sustainable Travel Tip: Book Unique Cultural Experiences

We experienced a traditional Barong dance in Ubud, Bali.

8. Conserve Water and Save Energy

These are pretty simple. Reduce your time in the shower. I know it’s tempting to stay longer because you’re not paying the water bill, but think about the bigger picture. Also, turn off the lights in your hotel room and unplug electronics you aren’t using. Utilize natural light when you can.

Anini Raka Resort and Spa. Sustainable Travel Tip: I utilized the natural light from my window in my hotel room.

I utilized the natural light from my window in my room at the Anini Raka Resort and Spa.

9. Stop Supporting Cruel Animal Tourist Attractions

Ripping a wild animal out of its habitat for the sole purpose of entertaining humans is NOT OK. When you participate in an animal tourist attraction, that’s exactly what you’re supporting, and extreme animal abuse is often happening behind-the-scenes.

Here are the 10 cruelest animal tourist traps to avoid, based on a study conducted by Oxford University’s Wildlife Conservation Research Unit (WildCRU):

1. Riding Elephants
2. Taking Tiger Selfies
3. Walking with Lions
4. Visiting Bear Parks
5. Holding Sea Turtles
6. Performing Dolphins
7. Dancing Monkeys
8. Touring Civet Cat Coffee Plantations
9. Charming Snakes and Kissing Cobras
10. Farming Crocodiles

To view the list and details about why each attraction is considered cruel, view this PDF created by World Animal Protection.

Read My Post: Tourists: Stop with the Animal Selfies! Don’t Visit Places Like “Tiger Temple”

Civet Cat Coffee Plantation - On the list of Top 10 Most Cruel Animal Attractions

Civet Cat Coffee Plantation – On the List of Top 10 Most Cruel Animal Attractions.

10. Keep the Momentum Going

When you get back home, keep the momentum going! Turn these sustainable travel habits into an everyday eco-friendly lifestyle. I recently started looking into ethically made clothing and discovered several green fashion brands. I reached out to Mayamiko, a collection of clothing and accessories ethically made in Malawi that fuses contemporary design with traditional African techniques. They sent me their Sweetie Bralet top with matching Sweetie A-line skirt, which I absolutely adore. Just in time for spring too!

Wearing Mayamiko, ethically-made clothing

What I’m wearing: Mayamiko, ethically-made clothing

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10 Sustainable Travel Tips You Need to Adopt

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