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Sustainable Travel 101: How to Become A More Eco-Conscious Traveler

If you’re anything like us, you spend your days dreaming about your next getaway—browsing pictures of beachside bungalows, creating the perfect Pinterest board of vacation fits, and saving up airline points for your next big adventure. 

Another value we might share? Caring for the planet and maintaining an awareness of the negative and positive impact our choices have on the places we love. You’re just as interested in how to be a sustainable traveler as you are in exploring the stories told by cities and those who live there.

Figuring out the best way to travel while staying eco-friendly can sometimes be overwhelming. Luckily, we’ve got the best tips and tricks on how to travel sustainably and make your way around the map a bit more mindfully. 


Why Does Sustainability Matter While Traveling?

Travel—especially where you travel and how you get there—plays a major role in your carbon footprint. Your carbon footprint is a measure of the environmental impact of your lifestyle. It’s made up of a number of factors, including:

  • Your daily method of transportation 
  • Your diet 
  • Your spending habits

It also includes how much you travel. If you’re flying to get to your destination, expect to have a larger carbon footprint:

  • According to the World Travel and Tourism Council, the travel industry contributes 11% of the world’s greenhouse gasses each year.1 
  • 17% of those greenhouse gas emissions from the travel industry come just from plane travel alone. 

Cruise ships are also major drivers of greenhouse gas emissions: 

  • One ship alone can produce more carbon dioxide emissions than 12,000 cars.2

The potential risks to the planet don’t end once you’ve arrived. Conventional hotels can use massive amounts of water and electricity to keep your sheets and towels crisp and clean. 

So, what’s an eco-savvy traveler to do?

Don’t despair, dear traveler. You can still see the world while also keeping it out of harm’s way  by practicing responsible tourism. By prioritizing sustainable living and responsible travel that aims to have minimal negative impact on the places that you visit (and the planet as a whole), you can still have your vacation and feel good about it too.

Read on for some great travel tips to make your next getaway way greener.

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3 Simple Sustainability Hacks for Eco-Conscious Travelers

Start to think about what sustainable practices you might want to incorporate into your vacay plans before you craft a clever out-of-office message and wrangle one of your besties into watering your plants (you’ve spent a lot of time nurturing that Monstera and you need to leave it in able hands). 

When planning a sustainable vacation, it’s nice to know that you’re in good, planet-loving company:

  • In a survey, TripAdvisor found that two-thirds of would-be travelers said they planned on making future travel plans as earth-friendly as possible.3 

But how do you incorporate sustainability initiatives into your intrepid travel plans? We’ve laid out some easy, actionable steps to make your vacation as eco-conscious as possible. 


#1 Pack With Purpose

When you’re packing for your next getaway, you might not have sustainability at the top of your mind. If you’re anything like us, you’re walking a fine line between just-in-case outfits and luggage that weighs more than all of the other checked bags on your flight—combined

That said, planning a sustainable and responsible travel experience begins well before you board. So, let’s take a look at how you can pack toiletries, clothes, snacks, and water with the planet in mind.


Toiletries

If you’re both a frequent flier and a devotee to your nightly ten-step skincare routine, consider investing in a set of durable, refillable bottles and jars. That way, you can use them to bring TSA-approved amounts of your favorite products on the go. 

This keeps you from having to buy mini versions of your products, thereby reducing the amount of single-use plastic waste that all too often winds up on the beaches we love the most. Make sure to throw in some reef-friendly sunscreen if you’re headed to the beach. 

The same goes for how to pack toiletries! Skip the plastic bags and opt for a more stylish and sustainable choice that you can use on all your future travels, such as:

  • Mesh pouches – This way, each acid, toner, serum, and shampoo will stay organized to your liking in something like our Mesh Pouch Trio
  • Cosmetic bags – Coming in black, beige, or plaid, these cosmetic bags are large enough for you to bring a different shade of lipstick for each night of your trip.
  • Dopp kit – Or should we say Dope Kit? It’s spill-proof and water-resistant. Need we say more?

Snacks and Water Bottles

Planes can majorly dry you out—not the best way to get that vacation glow you’re seeking. Stay hydrated by packing a chic refillable water bottle coupled with a Water Bottle Sling that you can keep with you on your travels. The benefits abound:

  • You won’t have to keep bugging the flight attendant for refills mid-flight.
  • You can skip the overpriced (and single-use) airport water bottles.
  • You’ll be able to sling it over your shoulder for easy access while exploring a new city on foot. 

While eating out is one of the best parts of vacation, airport food leaves a lot to be desired. The sad snack that you’ll cobble together from the kiosk by your gate isn’t worth the waste. Pack some munchies ahead of time in reusable food storage containers. Bring along some bamboo utensils for anything that falls outside of the finger-food category.


Clothes

Try to resist the urge to splurge on an all-new wardrobe just because you want to look cute in those vacation selfies. Fast fashion is a major threat to our planet—the average garment is worn just seven times before being tossed.4 

Cut the planet (and your wallet) some slack by:

  • Shopping your closet first before buying anything new. 
  • Better yet, shop your friend’s closet. Borrow something you love from your bestie and offer to return the favor on their next trip. 
  • Dream up your vacation looks using a Pinterest board and use that to create a manageable list of items that you might want to buy. We promise you don’t need ten new bikinis if you’re just going away for the weekend!
two young tourist girls with streets map

#2 Be Mindful of Miles

There’s no way around it: flying has a major environmental impact. That said, there are ways to help mitigate and avoid doing excessive amounts of damage as you get ready to go away. 

We’re here to help you look for methods of transportation that are easier on the planet while still getting you where you need to go:

  • Try a staycation in your own city – No travel required! Book a stay in an ultra-luxe hotel that you’d never splurge on otherwise. You’re saving on plane tickets, after all. Pack your bags full of those outfits you were saving for a special occasion, and revel in being a tourist in your own city or local community. We love the idea of pairing a staycation with a trip to the hotel spa or plenty of room service fries and martinis.
  • Take the scenic route – Traveling by train produces 80% less carbon dioxide than traveling via plane.5 Plus, you’ll be able to skip the stress of airport security and long waits at baggage claim. If you really want to make it a voyage to remember, book a sleeper car for a taste of old-fashioned luxury.

Of course, there are plenty of times that you simply have to travel by plane—we get it. That said, when booking air travel, try to cut down on the amount of carbon emissions you’re contributing to by:

  • Looking for nonstop flights. Takeoff and landings use a lot of energy—plus, who needs to hang out on a four-hour layover anyways?
  • Booking with airlines that are committed to keeping it green.
  • Considering purchasing carbon offsets equal to the amount of carbon dioxide your flight produced, keeping your trip at net-zero carbon emissions.

#3 Venture to Eco-Minded Destinations

No matter where you’re headed, look for hotels that have implemented sustainable practices and policies, such as:

  • On-site composting
  • Plastic-free toiletries
  • Mindful water conservation practices. 

If you’re still deciding on where your next dream getaway will take you, we’ve got some eco-friendly—and totally gorgeous—destinations in mind:

  • Iceland Just a short flight away, Iceland stands out as a top-tier green getaway for its use of renewable geothermal energy that can be found in its naturally-occurring hot springs. You’ll love Iceland for its natural beauty, volcanoes, thermal lakes, and the chance to catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights.

  • Costa Rica –Costa Rica is an eco-travelers dream. Over a quarter of the land is made up of national parks and nature reserves and the country runs almost entirely on renewable energy.6 Home to twelve unique ecosystems, you’ll explore beautiful beaches, pristine rainforests, and thundering waterfalls in one of the most ecologically diverse parts of the world.

  • New Zealand – With goals to diverge from fossil fuels by 2025, New Zealand should be top of your list when planning your next vacation. Full of some of the most unique and beautiful landscapes our planet has to offer, this destination is also rich in options if you’re looking for a green hotel, boasting plenty of ultra-luxe, eco-friendly options.

  • hipster asian woman travelling on the train

    Step Into Sustainable Travel with BÉIS

    Sustainable tourism isn’t a rare, eighth wonder of the world. Given the proper planning, choosing the sustainable option is completely doable and it can help you enjoy your vacation with more peace of mind. 

    At BÉIS, we’re all about honoring our planet while you’re on the go—and looking fab while doing it. No matter where your journey takes you, BÉIS will get you there, organized and in style. Shop our Limited Edition High Line Collection to discover how you too can hop on the sustainability bandwagon and travel with the planet in mind.


    Sources:


    1. Yeginsu, Ceylan. “Travel Industry Takes Crucial First Step toward Combating Climate Change.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 17 Nov. 2021, https://www.nytimes.com/2021/11/17/travel/travel-climate-change.html#
    2. “Cruise Ships Can Produce More Carbon Dioxide than 12,000 Cars, Scientists Warn.” Study Finds, 29 Sept. 2021, https://www.studyfinds.org/cruise-ships-produce-more-carbon-dioxide-12000-cars/#
    3. “TripAdvisor Survey Reveals Travelers Growing Greener.”TripAdvisor, https://ir.tripadvisor.com/static-files/cc09c602-4b7a-47b0-bdd6-1b890ebf718e
    4. “What's Wrong with the Fashion Industry.” SustainYourStyle, https://www.sustainyourstyle.org/en/whats-wrong-with-the-fashion-industry
    5. “Trains Far Greener but Much More Costly than Planes, Analysis Finds.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 14 July 2021, https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/jul/14/trains-far-greener-but-much-more-costly-than-planes-analysis-finds
    6. Parker, Jenn. “11 Eco-Friendly Destinations around the World You Must Visit.” Culture Trip, The Culture Trip, 15 Jan. 2018, https://theculturetrip.com/europe/articles/11-eco-friendly-destinations-you-must-visit-around-the-world/
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