Eco-Traveling: Mistakes to Avoid When Trying to Be a Responsible Traveler

forest bathing, woman hipster contemplating nature in dark green forest

Are you someone that your friends and family label as a “tree-hugger?” If so, wear the title as a badge of honor. There’s nothing wrong with loving the planet you live on and want to make it a better place environmentally. Whether you go around picking up trash a couple of times per month or ride a bike instead of driving a car, your contribution to the environment does make a difference.

There’s all kinds of reasons to embrace a greener lifestyle. People tend to think that living green only applies in their home or the area in which you live… Living green can be incorporated in all aspects of your life, even when you travel!

Now, traveling does do harm on the environment but the world of travel is something that’s not going away. We, as humans, crave seeing different worlds, learning different languages, and eating the authentic cuisines that we can’t get anywhere except the actual country.

Although we can’t really make flying less damaging on the environment, we can reduce the impact of our travels by planning them carefully and conscientiously. In fact, the Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC) stated that 2017 would be the year of sustainable travel and has actually set standards that are being recognized as standards for hotels and tour operators.

If you want to fulfill your passion for travel and learn how to become a responsible traveler, yet not leave a damaging mark on the environment, take a look at how you can make the world a better place by avoiding these eco-traveling mistakes.

Eco-Travel Mistake #1: Not Working From Home

In order to travel you need to have money, right? Of course, so how do most people make money? By getting up and traveling to their job. This might sound a little silly to some people but a survey was conducted in 2015 that revealed that traveling (commuting) made up 5% of global carbon emissions. Working from home cuts down on carbon emissions from commuting back and forth to work.

A lot of people are starting their own business giving themselves the freedom to work a flexible schedule. What this essentially means is that you’ll be able to work as little or as much as you want, all without needing to leave your home. You’ll be able to help the environment and make money while doing it, to fund your sustainable trip!

Eco-Travel Mistake #2: Littering

Littering isn’t cool whether you’re in your hometown or in a foreign country. A lot of people have no idea just how damaging throwing a plastic bag on the ground can be. According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), out of all the trash in the world, trash made from plastic has the greatest damaging effect on the environment.

Plastic trash has the potential to do serious damage to not only the environment but can also be harmful to humans and wildlife. We see plastic pollution every day too. You’ve seen plastic bottles floating in just about any body of water and the worst part is seeing wildlife getting caught up and tangled in those plastic soda separators.

These are just a few ways that trash impacts the environment. When you’re out on your travels, do your best to put your trash in the appropriate receptacles… just because you might be traveling for a vacation, that doesn’t mean that you eco-friendly habits have to go on vacation too.

Eco-Travel Mistake #3: Wasting of Any Kind

As a child, when your parents would prepare a meal for you and you don’t “clean your plate,” would they ever tell you something like “You need to eat all of your food because there are kids in Africa starving.” Parents would say this as a guilt trip to get you to eat all your food because there are indeed kids all over the world starving… even kids in your own neighborhood that don’t have the privilege to enjoy a filling meal on a daily basis.

When traveling abroad, wasting of any kind is unacceptable and a big no-no! If you can avoid it at all costs, do so. The key in this scenario is to be conscientious of what you’re using and how much of it you actually need. For instance, if you’re traveling to a destination that has a major shortage of water, you need to be very aware of how much water you’re using.

Wasting isn’t just limited to food and water either during your travels. Take a look at other ways we hurt the environment by wasting.

  • Leaving the lights on when you’re not using them.
  • Leaving on the air conditioner in your hotel room when you don’t need it.
  • Buying bottled waters when your hotel offers refillable water.
  • Leaving appliance plugged in when you’re not using them (hairdryer/coffee maker).

Eco-Travel Mistake #4: Disturbing Wildlife

For those people who love traveling and everything associated with travel, including wildlife, it’s important that you practice major restraint in your responsible traveler efforts. We all love seeing those cute or majestic animals we see on our travels and to be able to get a close-up picture with them is a travel blogger’s dream. It’s not only a dream for travel bloggers either… it’s a dream for travelers in general.

Imagine being able to show all your family and friends on Facebook and Instagram just how close you were able to get to an elephant on your safari adventure. There are not enough “likes” and “shares” in the world worth putting your life in danger like that, especially without the direction of a certified tour guide that deems it appropriate to do so.

Although there are certain destinations and locations where it’s not uncommon for bears and mountain lions to show up in your back yard or go for a swim in your pool, that doesn’t mean that you have the right to go exploring in their habitats on your own. This is a situation where you have to use your better judgment and think smart… thinking smart is a huge part of being a responsible traveler, so apply this logic in all of your responsible traveling adventures.


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