Global tourism is a growing industry and is not likely to slow down anytime soon. Traveling is a life-changing experience for anyone who is ready to leap out of their comfort zone.
Students travelers, in particular, can gain a lot from exploring new cultures, languages, and perspectives. Travel helps teens learn about the world, develop cultural sensitivity, and grow into a more well-rounded individual ready to take on life’s challenges. However, traveling can also make an impact on the environment—for better or worse. For example, according to Manchester Metropolitan University, airplanes account for more than 2% of global carbon dioxide emissions. Other aspects of traveling also have an impact, from the luggage we use to pack our clothing to the taxis we ride from town to town.
Fortunately, you don’t have to put your dreams of exploring the world on hold due to the global impact of traveling. Student travelers can enjoy an adventure abroad while reducing their carbon footprint and making a positive impact. In this post, we’ll show you how to be more eco-friendly while traveling.
Table of Contents
- How to Make Travel More Sustainable
- How Rustic Pathways Promotes Sustainable Travel
How to Make Travel More Sustainable
Sustainable travel is easier than it seems. Just by taking a few small steps, student travelers can make a difference. Here are tips to reduce your carbon footprint while traveling.
1. Consider Your Traveling Method
How do you travel greener? One aspect of green travel is considering your travel method and how it impacts the environment. For example, although flying is the fastest way to travel, it also leaves the largest carbon footprint. An airplane uses a lot of fuel to take off, so it would be better to drive or take a bus if you’re traveling for shorter distances. According to the International Council on Clean Transportation, the most energy-efficient option is to travel by bus.
Although traveling by plane may not be the most eco-friendly option, sometimes it’s the best way to reach a destination because it may be the most efficient. If you’re traveling internationally, for example, you may not have time or the ability to reach your destination any other way but by plane. If this is the case, there are still steps you can take to reduce the impact while flying. Here’s how.
- Avoid flying first class: Flying first class creates a carbon footprint an estimated nine times larger than one created by flying economy. First- and business-class seats take up more space and therefore move fewer people with the same amount of fuel. They’re also more likely to be unfilled, making them even more inefficient.
- Book a nonstop flight whenever possible: Try to book nonstop flights whenever possible to reduce carbon emissions. Airplanes burn the most fuel when they take off and land.
- Look for airlines with carbon offset programs: Carbon offsetting allows passengers to cancel out the emissions resulting from their traveling by investing in a carbon reduction project. For example, Delta has an offsetting program where passengers can enter their flight destination into a carbon calculator and donate a recommended amount to The Nature Conservancy. According to the International Air Transport Association, more than 30 of their member airlines offer carbon offsetting.
2. Consider Your Impact
There are tons of creative and simple ways to reduce your impact and support sustainable tourism. Here’s how to travel greener, whether you’re taking a cross-country road trip or trekking the globe.
- Handwash your clothes: Consider washing your clothes in a private sink or shower, rather than having the hotel do your laundry. Hotels usually wash guests’ clothes separately, even if it’s only a few items, which wastes water and detergent. That can be problematic, especially in drought-prone areas. Additionally, you can reuse towels to save on both laundry expenses and resources. For further impact, consider hang drying your clothes instead of using a dryer. If you wish to use hotel laundry, try to wait until you have a full load.
- Bring soap and shampoo when traveling to a hotel: Bring toiletries such as soap, shampoo, and conditioner in small reusable bottles, so you don’t have to use hotel toiletries. If you forget toiletries, take the hotel’s half-used toiletries with you, so they don’t wind up in the trash. You can also save the little bottles to make packing easier in the future and refill them once they’re empty. Also, consider using non-liquid toiletries to pack lighter and free up additional space in your bags while also reducing the use of plastic packaging.
- Try to take shorter showers to reduce water waste: According to the United States Geological Survey, showers can produce up to 5 gallons of water per minute. You can reduce that by turn on the water only to rinse off. Taking a shower is still usually better than taking a bath, which can take 36 gallons of water to fill a tub.
- Turn off the power when you leave the room: Whenever you’re ready to leave your hotel room, turn off the lights, TV, and electronics to conserve energy. If you turn off the air conditioning before you leave, close the curtains to help keep out the summer heat.
- Bring a reusable water bottle: Bring a reusable water bottle with you to refill instead of buying plastic water bottles. The Pacific Institute estimates it takes more than 17 million barrels of oil to produce a year’s supply of water plastic bottles for American consumption. If you’re concerned about the water in a particular country, some reusable bottles include filters.
- Use reusable utensils when possible: Always try to use reusable dishes whenever you can and avoid using straws and plastic utensils. It takes between 100 and 400 years for plastic to break down in a landfill. Consider packing a metal straw and a reusable camping fork.
- Pack lighter to save space and weight: Packing light makes it easier to move around wherever you go. That means you can get to your hotel without having to rent a taxi to move all your belongings and can instead hop on a bus or walk.
- Use public transportation or walk or bike whenever possible: Whenever possible, walk, ride a bike, or use public transit to get around. You’ll save money and help reduce emissions by not riding in a taxi or car. You’ll also get a chance to slow down and take in all the sights and sounds of your destination.
- Buy locally made souvenirs: You can help support the local community by buying souvenirs made locally, instead of items shipped in from other countries. You’ll also help cut down carbon emissions by buying local food and gifts. When shopping, use a reusable bag.
When you return home, make sure to tell friends and family about your green adventure and be their guide to traveling sustainably.
3. Choose a Sustainable Travel Provider
Student travelers can make a positive impact and explore a new culture by traveling abroad through a provider that promotes sustainable travel practices.
Look for travel providers who:
- Partners with local nonprofits that focus on long-term benefits, development, and sustainability
- Is committed to helping the environment
- Hires locally
- Has partnerships with well-known organizations
- Provides information about their initiatives and the impact they make
At Rustic Pathways, we are committed to sustainable travel practices through a holistic approach that embodies economic support, environmental sustainability, and our responsible traveler conduct.
How Rustic Pathways Promotes Sustainable Travel
- Economy: Supporting economies where we operate by prioritizing fair market wages for local staff, partnering with local vendors, and visiting locally-run businesses.
- Environment: Adopting global operations practices that minimize our impact on the environment.
- Responsible Travel: Respecting local cultures, understand our role in communities, and teaching students responsible travel practices.
We’ve partnered with many of the communities where we take students for years, even decades in some cases. And each year we publish the results of our impact on students and in local communities in our annual Impact Report.
At Rustic Pathways, we have environmental programs to suit different personalities and inspire students who want to make a lasting impact while exploring a new culture.
We offer programs for students who are interested in supporting efforts related to animal and environmental conservation. For example, through our Marine and Rainforest Conservation in Thailand program, students learn about a fishing village that depends on the conservation of local marine resources. Students meet with a local environmental organization to learn about the ongoing conservation project and help their host family with their daily crab harvest.
Animal lovers might enroll in our Panda Conservation and Wild China program, which allows students to work alongside researchers at a renowned panda conservation center. Students help researchers feed pandas, monitor behavior, and clean their living spaces.
In addition to assisting local communities, all Rustic Pathways service projects contribute to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. The UN is working to address these 17 global issues by 2030.
Travel Green With Rustic Pathways
The first step to traveling sustainably is to research the program you’re interested in and find out how you’ll contribute. Learn how your contributions will affect the local community and contribute to the Sustainable Development Goals. When you’re ready for your adventure, plan to pack lightly and reduce waste as much as possible along the way. You’ll enjoy a satisfying journey knowing you made a positive impact.
If you’re a student looking to travel and make a difference, please check out our programs. Our commitment to sustainable travel doesn’t just include our alignment with the Sustainable Development Goals. We have a team of regional development professionals to monitor the progress of our projects. And we’ve hired Eco-Ambassadors in each country where we operate to ensure our local operations are operating sustainably.
Promoting responsible travel, community service, and sustainable development is an important part of how we ensure we have a positive impact on local communities and with the students who travel with us. We also believe in having fun while decreasing our carbon footprint and supporting local economies and community initiatives. For example, in 2018, our Student Travelers completed 187,192 community service hours with a focus on community health, economic development, education, environmental and animal welfare, and infrastructure initiatives.
We’re excited to meet you and learn more about your goals as a green traveler. To learn more about our programs, request a free catalog or contact our team today. If you find the right program for you, save your spot or enroll today and get ready for a life-changing experience that makes a real impact!