Sustainable, eco-conscious, and green travel trips are moving further into the mainstream as choices for vacation adventures. People who have adopted an eco-friendly lifestyle want to carry these practices into all aspects of their life, and that includes travel.

Definition: “Ecotourism involves responsible travel to natural areas, conserving the environment, and improving the well-being of the local people.”  

This definition is a little different from an eco-friendly traveler which translates into the direct actions of the tourist; making choices along each step of your traveling route to coincide with sustainable practices, but the two definitions do coexist. When your choices align with your eco-interests and values it don’t feel like you’re giving up anything during your vacation time instead it will be a rewarding experience. 

Begin your vacation research by looking for cities, states, even countries, that embrace a green lifestyle and would incorporate most of the following:

  • A healthy public transportation system.
  • Designated bike lanes.
  • Farmers’ markets.
  • Lots of parks, preserves, and natural walking and hiking areas.
  • Neighborhoods and small towns set up in walkable grids.
  • Volunteer opportunities.
  • Here’s a guide with further resources and tips for eco-traveling.

Green Modes Of Transportation

What is the most eco-friendly way to travel and enjoy exploring your vacation destination? On foot or other fuel-free modes of transportation. You can find MANY vacation-tour outfits that arrange full travel itineraries around eco-adventures.

  • Cycling
  • Hiking
  • Horse riding
  • Walking 
  • Water (sailboats, canoe, kayak, catamaran)

Trains, Planes, & Automobiles

Cars can be eco-friendly if you choose the right ones. 

  • Rent a fuel-efficient vehicle which many rental agencies now stock. 
  • Check out the peer-to-peer rental sites as well, like Turo, where San Francisco visitors can rent a Smart Fortwo, BMW 13, or Tesla.

Trains are one of the more eco-friendly modes of land transportation. 

  • The greenest ones run on electric power or alternative fuels and boast a high occupancy rate. 
  • Switzerland leads the charge in this aspect with hybrid buses and trains powered by hydroelectricity. 
  • Japan is another one at the forefront of these modalities.

Planes are one of the least green ways of flying. But to be an eco-friendly flyer, there are ways you can minimize the impact.

  • To reduce your carbon footprint, travel less and stay longer. 
  • Select a full flight on a large plane in a fuel-efficient fleet. 
  • Book the itinerary with the least number of connections.
  • Offset carbon emissions: calculate the CO2 from your trip (Carbon Fund and Carbon Neutral can assist with the calculations) and then donate the corresponding amount to an organization in the program. You can neutralize the emissions and select a program you support.

Green Hotels & Accommodations

Hotels and other types of rental properties are stepping up their eco-game and making their accommodations sustainable and geared towards environmental conscious practices. Now you just have to find those outfits. There are many sites that compile just such locations so you should have no problem. You’re looking for:

  • Green hotels that support the three pillars of sustainable tourism: environmental, social, and economic.
  • Look for hotels approved or accredited by respected certification programs, such as Green Key, the Global Sustainable Tourism Council, and the U.S. Green Building Council (LEED certification organization).
  • Things to search for from your hotel: Graywater disposal; composting practices; bathroom fixtures and toiletries; recycling systems; restaurant’s use of local food.
  • One great example is the Unique Lodges of the World which are 55 properties affiliated with National Geographic. These sites employ all pillars of sustainable tourism. 

Be An Eco-Guest

First, check out this entire guide on “How To Be An Eco-Friendly Hotel Guest”. Here you will find many useful tips to practice throughout your vacation stay. Making environmentally friendly choices during your visit can have a long-term impact on the environment and takes little more effort than awareness and following through on the advised practices. Some ways you can help: 

  • Be conscious during meal buffets; take only what you can eat. 
  • Recycle.
  • Decline daily housekeeping. 
  • Encourage your hotel to enroll in Clean the World, a nonprofit organization that sends donated hotel toiletries to developing countries.
  • Participate in the hotel’s linen-and-towel-reuse program. 
  • Turn off the lights and adjust the thermostat when you leave the room. 
  • Skip the mini bathroom toiletries. 
  • Skip the bottles of water in your room and refill your own beverage container. 
  • Use water glasses and coffee mugs instead of plastic or paper ones. 
  • Use real tableware instead of disposable plates and utensils. 
  • Use the property’s bikes and utilize its shuttle service. 

Choose Green Activities

Enjoy nature and the outdoors while supporting the environment with these zero waste activities.

  • Bike
  • Bird-watch 
  • Camp (here’s a guide for eco-friendly camping tips)
  • Hike
  • Kayak
  • Paddleboard
  • Paddleboat
  • Sail
  • Scuba dive
  • Service: add a day of local service to your itinerary.
  • Snorkel
  • Swim
  • Take a tour that employs local guides. 
  • Visit local markets and don’t forget to bring a reusable bag for purchases. 
  • Zipline


Eco-travel is trending and thankfully being an eco-conscious traveler is more popular than ever. If you feel unsure or a bit intimidated about how to find an eco-vacation, there are many fantastic groups and destinations set up that arrange everything for you. You can feel proud to explore the world in an eco-friendly way and step off the beaten path for an authentic adventure while adhering to your environmentally-conscious practices. Skip the tourist traps and the over-run cities for travel that focuses on preserving the environment while supporting local communities. When you are an eco-conscious traveler, your eyes are open to more authentic experiences and opportunities to make lasting connections with the local cultures. Enjoy your sustainable adventure!

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