7 Ways To Lower Your Travel Carbon Footprint


There’s something pretty near to a consensus out there that travel in general is great, everyone should do it, etc. But this ignores the seedy underbelly of the industry: Travel is terrible for the environment. It accounts, as Travel & Leisure points out in this month’s issue, for 2 percent of global carbon emissions. Kudos to T&L for dedicating a few pages to helping readers navigate the improvements they can make to their carbon footprints when they’re away from home.

I’ve assembled some of the best tips from T&L, along with a couple they overlooked, to bring you these 7 ways to lower your carbon footprint short of giving up travel altogether…


Fly Direct

A flight straight from New York City to, say, Berlin leaves you accountable for a lot less fuel than if you get that bargain basement ticket from NYC to Detroit to London to Berlin. Pony up for the nonstop if you can.


Fly Coach

Most of us are doing this anyway, but if you can afford business class, or if your job puts you there, believe me I understand how hard it is to pass up. But accrding to T&L, a business class seat produces four times as much carbon emissions as one in coach. My advice here would be this: If it’s not a long haul flight, i.e. less than four or five hours, you can manage economy, and should.


Take Public Transportation on the Ground

If there’s a high-speed train from the airport into the city center, hop on it instead of standing in the cab line (or firing up the Uber app). Once you’re settled into a place, same thing: If the subway is a reasonable option, don’t add to the traffic pollution. If there’s a bike-share program, explore the city that way.



Pack as Light as Possible

One suitcase instead of two makes a huge difference in fuel needs, especially in the collective sense. Let those baggage fees inspire you to pack more efficiently. Examples: If it’s winter, choose just one or two bulky sweaters that can see you through the whole trip. Take just one pair of boots. One kindle is better than three books.


Avoid Hotels with Massive Landscaped Grounds

Manicured lawns, golf courses and multiple sprawling swimming pools are huge eco-problems. Look for hotels that leave some of the native flora intact. If you’re in the jungle, immerse yourself in the jungle, for example. It’s not only better for the environment–it makes for a more authentic experience, too.


Turn the A/C Off When You Leave the Room

There’s something about staying in a hotel that causes us to act irresponsibly. You’d never leave the air conditioner blasting when you leave your own house for the afternoon, so don’t do it in the hotel room, either.


Eat Local

As T&L pointed out, if you’re in Mexico and you order a bottle of French wine, you’re beverage of choice had to travel thousands of miles just to accompany your dinner. Better for the earth to make like the locals and sip some tequila.

There are some small changes to your routine that can make a big difference.


Sarah is the founder and editor of Flung, the author of Process: The Writing Lives of Great Authors, and a widely published travel and culture writer. Follow her on Twitter or Instagram.

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