How to be an environmentally conscious traveler

Being an environmentally conscious traveler can make a world of difference. Photo: Beau Blake


Traveling and sustainability may sound like a juxtaposition, but with a little planning and some smart decisions, doing both is definitely within the realm of possibility. Before you book a trip, consider how you’ll get there, where you’ll stay, and how you’ll get around. The eco-friendly choice may not always be the obvious one, and will often require a little more effort on your part. To make things a little easier, we’ve put together six tips for being an eco-friendly traveler, because there’s more to traveling than just making good waves.

travel light

Planes, trains and automobiles are some of the biggest sources of carbon emissions, with planes being the main offenders. When traveling abroad, lighten the load by packing only the essentials: the lighter the plane, the less it emits. Put your clothes back on, rent a board at your destination, and leave your laptop and other devices at home. It may not sound like much, but every little bit counts.

Stay in eco-lodges

With eco-tourism on the rise, eco-lodges and eco-hotels are popping up all over the world and are available in a number of popular tourist destinations. While both focus on environmental responsibility and minimizing negative impact, eco-lodges are generally found in more remote natural settings where eco-hotels are more often found in towns or cities. For example, The Harmony Hotel in Nosara, Costa Rica composts, uses environmentally friendly pesticides, uses solar panels to provide power, provides all-natural bath products in rooms, offers bamboo straws, includes native plants in the landscape, support local projects. that promote sustainable development, and participates in the ‘Plant a Tree’ program to offset carbon emissions.

Minimize plastic waste

What is the best thing about traveling by plane? For many, it’s the complimentary drinks, the pretzels/peanuts, and the occasional snack. It’s definitely fun to dine over 30,000, but have you ever given much thought to how much plastic waste goes into a single flight? Drinks are poured from small single use containers into small single use plastic cups. Each snack and drink comes with a paper napkin and each meal comes in a disposable container and plastic cutlery. One option is to choose Hi Fly, a company that leases aircraft with crew in Portugal and Malta. In December 2018, the company became the first plastic-free flight by replacing plastic containers and cutlery with bamboo and compostable alternatives. Let’s hope more airlines follow suit.

Until they do, flying Hi Fly may not always be a realistic option, but a simple solution is to bring your own reusable containers, cups, and cutlery not just to use on the plane, but throughout your trip.

Choose a sustainably made board

If you’re traveling locally, bringing your own board is a good option, but if you’re traveling abroad, renting is probably your best bet. Depending on your location, rental options may be limited, but when possible, choose a sled with the ECOBOARD project logo. A solid choice is NSP’s line of CocoMat surfboards and stand-up paddleboards, all of which are Tier 1 Verified ECOBOARD Project boards. There are an increasing number of sustainably made boards available, so do your research and Ask around to find an eco-friendly board that best suits your needs.

take public transportation

When you travel, many people automatically rent a car as a means of getting around, but you don’t have to. If you plan your location ahead of time, you may be able to find a place where food and water are within walking distance. For times when you want to explore or visit somewhere that is not accessible on foot, try taking the local bus or train system. It’s cheap, it’s a chance to immerse yourself in the local culture, and it’s working anyway, so you better get on it.

Choose a destination with a sustainable mindset

Choosing a destination based on the sustainability of the country is definitely a unique way to design your travel plans. But, it’s one that could greatly decrease your carbon footprint. According to the Environmental Performance Index (EPI), Denmark, the UK, Finland, Malta and Sweden are currently the most sustainable countries in the world, in that order. The EPI quantifies and numerically scores the environmental performance of a state’s policies and is a good indicator for selecting a travel destination. The next time you’re deciding where to go for your next surf trip, do a quick Google search and try to base your decision on how eco-friendly the location is.

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