April is Earth Month and our team has been discussing sustainable travel and ways to reduce our environmental impact. Being a distributed team, our work is all done online, so we save thousands of trees each year by not printing or buying office supplies. Further, we encourage, and share, eco friendly tips and behaviours with the team, such as cutting out single-use plastic and using reusable coffee cups and water bottles.
Still, our team travels often and knows air travel emits a large amount of carbon dioxide (currently 2% of carbon dioxide emissions globally). This is why we focus on ways to reduce our overall carbon footprint, while still being able to experience new places.
So as Earth Month comes to an end, we wanted to share some of the thing we discussed to help make travel more sustainable, year round.
Here’s our tips for sustainable travel
1. Stay in apartments vs hotels
Hotels are most often not an eco-friendly option. From single-use plastic toiletries filling the bathroom, to the daily cleaning of the sheets, towels, etc.. Plus the coffee, tea, mini bar restocks and plastic straws galore – you get the picture. Staying in local apartments eliminates these excess single-use and one off items. It gives you the opportunity to cook, instead of living off take out, do your laundry when the sheets and towels are actually dirty, and eliminate the endlessly replaced travel-sized plastic madness in the bathroom. It also gives you a much more local feel, like you’re actually living in and experiencing the city vs being a tourist.
2. Slow down
When planning a trip somewhere new, we’re often inclined to fit in as many cities as possible. While that might seem great for your bucketlist, it’s not great for your energy levels – or the environment. By staying in one place longer, you’re reducing the number of flights, trains, cars etc. that you’re taking, and will actually get to enjoy a place. Further, you’ll have a more local experience, meet new people, and not burn yourself out from all the travel. We recommend a month or more in each city, to really get a feel for it. Taking direct flights to your destination is another good way to reduce your carbon footprint.
3. Do as the locals do
When traveling, sometimes your first instinct is to grab a tourist map, find the closest cup of coffee to-go and hit the town. However, if you take a minute to find a local place, then sit down for a coffee and snack, and watch the daily life. Ask locals for recommendations, skip the tourist buses and really get a feel for the city – at Behere we connect you with a local host so you get all their amazing tips!
4. Bring your reusables
We’ve all seen it – people dumping full plastic water bottles at airport security, then buying another for twice the price on the other side. Luckily for you, if you bring your empty reusable bottle through, you can refill it on once in the terminal, saving money and the environment. Plus, you’ll have the bottle for the rest of your travels. If you want to bring travel sized products, find some eco friendly sized products here. And don’t forget the reusable shopping bag! They fold up small, can be used to store loose items in your suitcase, and come in handy for market trips.
5. Shop local
Use the aforementioned reusable bag for good and hit the market! Opt to skip the grocery store, instead shopping at the local markets for fruit, veg, eggs, cheese, bread etc. In Europe, it’s easy to find cheap, fresh produce and delicious freshly baked bread that aren’t wrapped in plastic. Bonus – it’s better for you to shop at the markets as the food is fresher and healthier!
6. Pack and shop smart
It’s easy to overpack, throwing way more things than needed in our suitcases. This means you wind up with a heavier bag, and every kilo counts when flying. That and all the unworn clothes will still get tossed in the laundry and it creates an unnecessary amount of lugging your things around. If you want to do some shopping on your travels too, plan in advance as most souvenirs end up in the garbage. So pack smart and shop smart. Bring what you need, think of what you want to buy before – and don’t buy it if you don’t need it!
7. Plastic-free picnics and no takeaway
When you need a pick me up while traveling, opt to dine-in instead of taking it go and always say “no” to plastic straws. If you can, bring your own cutlery, and cup or for picnics cook at home and pack food in reusable jars and containers.
8. Plant trees or donate to environmental initiatives
Doing all these things are great, but in order to really offset your carbon footprint from traveling look to give back to the environment. I grew up watching and helping my father and grandfather plant trees and gardens, and it’s something I continue to prioritize. Whether you take time to plant a tree, or donate to organizations that help the oceans or our planet, find a way to give back to this beautiful planet.
These are just some of the ways you can travel more sustainably. We’d love to hear your thoughts and tips, let us know in the comments. At Behere, we’re committed to helping you travel in a way that is conscious and respectful of local cultures, people, economies and the environment. And if you’re ready to plan your next trip, in a more sustainable way, get started below!
Written by Meesen Brown, CEO of Behere.
Meesen is the cofounder and CEO of Behere. She’s an avid traveler, speaker, dual citizen, healthy snack lover and is always looking for ways to reduce her carbon footprint. She spends most her time in New York, Barcelona or Toronto.