Adventure Travel

5 ways to travel without leaving a footprint

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red bike on rainy city street

5 ways to travel without leaving a footprint

That vacation you’ve been fantasizing about is finally on the horizon. It’s time to think about your commute, review possible itineraries and all those other fun activities that get you psyched for your adventure. But there’s also no reason to leave your environmental consciousness at home with your work responsibilities, winter parka and heaps of chores and social obligations. But unlike your heaps of chores and social obligations, it’s easy to travel without leaving a footprint by keeping just a few pointers in mind.

Get smart about your lodging

When you’re traveling, you tend to become beholden to large organizations outside yourself. You need a place to stay, and that’s usually some type of resort. While it makes for a relaxing vacation, that also means you’re not always in control of whether that giant company is properly recycling, using fuel-efficient vehicles, trying to find as many resources locally as possible or donating back to environmental causes in any way.

This is where a little bit of research comes in. For instance, look into the hotel you’re thinking of staying at and see what sort of sustainability initiatives they have, if any. Look for places that are certified by the Green Hotels Association, or travel sites like Expedia list green hotels. You might also consider staying locally through Airbnb to avoid staying in a mega hotel that might not care about sustainability.

Be mindful of how you travel

The act of traveling itself is tricky from a sustainability standpoint. Flying can often be your biggest carbon footprint culprit, and an unavoidable one at that, so look into programs that offset flying damage. One example is atmosfair,which allows you to give to renewable energies through payments when you fly. You can also find out more about climate-friendly tours and other travel operations.

Further, when you reach your destination, look for eco-friendly ways to travel, like bicycle rental or renting a hybrid. Take tours on foot or go on pack mule excursions. Get creative.

Think local

We all hear about the merits of supporting our local economy at home. After all, less shipping of foods across the country means less carbon emissions. That means travel can be an excellent way to support the local economies in other regions too. Visit their farmer’s markets if you have lodging that makes cooking possible.

You can also visit locally owned restaurants that specialize in the foods of that region. That way you’ll put money back into the community, support local commerce and sample local, authentic foods.

Pay attention to the souvenirs you purchase

Just because you’re on vacation doesn’t mean you need something overly exotic from the area like elephant ivory statues, crocodile teeth or fur handbags. Too many areas will try to sell these wares to tourists who are looking for a natural flair of the area that they can incorporate into their homes when they get back. Instead, buy more sustainable versions of local wares like paintings and hand woven items like wool blankets. It’s fairly easy to ship bigger or more fragile items back home ahead of you. Look for local art galleries or artist stalls so you know your souvenir wasn’t shipped from half the world away.

Take only pictures and leave only footprints

This is a common sign you’ll see along hiking trails for a good reason. Too many people figure that if they trash the local areas they’re going to, there will always be a park ranger or maintenance staff to clean it up. Not necessarily, especially when that trash blows away to where it’s hard or impossible to clean up. If you’re traveling to natural areas, keep to the trails, dispose of trash wisely and keep a healthy distance from the local wildlife.

Michelle Lovrine Honeyager is a freelance writer living in Southeastern Wisconsin. You can find out more about her at

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