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Cartoon graphics in a line of a blue reusable water bottle, a teal reusable cutlery set, a colorful smartphone, a green "recycle" symbol, a colorful bag of toiletries, and a red tube of sunscreen.

Tips for Being a More Sustainable Traveler

Gearing up to go abroad? We’ve got you covered with sustainable travel tips to make your vacay more enriching, eco-friendly, and economical.

Kiana Cook
April 19, 2024

We get it, we’re not perfect people either. We still prefer a good crisp straw over a flimsy paper one that falls apart as soon as you touch your lips to it. We still forget to bring our reusable Baggu to the grocery store sometimes. And we know many people don’t think of sustainability when they think of travel, but here are a few every day swaps we can all make to help mitigate the environmental impacts when you do finally book that dream vacay.

A gif of a yellow Owala bottle on the left and a blue Stanley bottle on the right with colorful polka dots popping up around the perimeter.

Owala v. Stanley users rise

Reusable water bottles are a lifesaver (and earth saver)! Great for a quick sip on the go, better for the environment, cheaper, and you can bring it through TSA and fill it up before your flight. Bonus points too if it has a water filter in it so you can drink from any tap worldwide.

Gif of a single-use plastic spoon, fork and straw that pops out and a blue reusable cutlery set pops up in its place
Say no to single-use plastics

Each year, about 4 to 12 million metric tons of plastic enter the ocean—that’s enough to cover every coastline. Think about that the next time you watch Finding Nemo. So, instead of grabbing single use plastics such as straws and takeout utensils, buy a reusable set like these. Double whammy if you buy produce from local markets around your destination, because you’re supporting small businesses AND reducing single use produce packaging.

A gif of a smartphone that scrolls through colorful tabs with multi-colored polka dots popping up around the perimeter.
Go digital

It’s eco-friendly. It’s a time saver. It’s convenient...if your phone’s charged. Forget paper, go digital, and upload any travel documents, boarding passes, or accommodation info to your phone. Everything’s online now people, let's make use of it!

A gif of a green "recycle" symbol with a purple ticket on the left and orange ticket on the right that pops up on top.
If found, please recycle

Although digital is best, some countries still deal in paper with museum brochures, tickets, etc. So, next time you enter the Louvre and are handed a five-page booklet we both know you’ll never read again, recycle it. And if there aren’t trash bins on the street (cough Japan cough), hold onto it until you’re back in your hotel and can toss it correctly.

A gif of a light switch that flips from on to off. When off, the background turns purple.
Home sweet hotel

Would you leave your house without turning the lights off first? Would you use your towel once then immediately wash it? NO! Rent is high enough nowadays, no need to add extra $$$ to the electric and water bill. So, treat the hotel the way you would treat your home. You may not be the one paying the bills, but if we all have that mindset, we’re all gonna be paying the price.

A gif of a purple toiletry bag with colorful different shaped bottles inside and mulit-colored polka dots that pop up around the perimeter.

We know it’s tempting to snatch every complimentary soap and lotion a hotel bathroom has to offer. But wouldn’t you rather stick to your tried-and-true Dove shampoo and CeraVe lotions? Plus, you never really finish those hotel bottles by the time you check out so, save them the trouble and the waste. Just pack your own—it’s usually better anyways.

A gif of an orange tube of sunscreen and a sun that pops up onto the top left corner of it.
Check it before you wreck it

Before you go out and buy a whole new travel-sized skin and haircare regimen, check the label for these ingredients. A lot of products we use daily contain toxins that wash down the drain, pollute the oceans, and destroy marine life. So, even though your new sunscreen smells like rainbows and coconuts, it could be harmful to the ecosystem. Make sure the bottle says “reef-safe” when visiting beachy areas like Bali, the DR, or Costa Rica. It took Nemo long enough to get back to his dad—don’t make him lose his house too.

These tips are in no way shaming anyone for using the occasional plastic straw or accidentally tossing their coffee cup into the non-recyclables bin (in our defense, it wasn’t labeled). These are just a helpful resource and reminder that there are ways we can all work on being more sustainable travelers. Let’s keep the Earth healthy so we can continue to explore it!

About the Author

Kiana is a metal straw, baggu, and cute water bottle enthusiast who’s always searching for new sustainable living hacks (hello, anxiety). When she’s not stressing about the state of the environment, she’s also a writer at EF Ultimate Break. After graduating from Temple University with a degree in advertising, Kiana lived in Japan for 2 years where she explored her passion for traveling, writing, and learning her culture. She loves Japan but to this day, she’s still salty about the no trash cans thing—seriously where are they??

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