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10 Ways to Be Greener While Traveling

While many of us know first-hand the benefits of traveling, cultural immersion, and stepping outside our comfort zones, we sometimes forget about the imprints we leave when we explore. Take a peek at these 10 ways to be more eco-friendly when traveling, so you can both see the world—and save it.

  1. Get a reusable water bottle: Plan to bring a reusable water bottle for your trip instead of buying plastic ones. This is especially cost effective and convenient in cities like Rome, which have no shortage of public spouts and water fountains. Also consider collapsible water bottles, which can easily be stuffed into small bags.
     
  2. Bring travel containers: Buy reusable travel containers instead of travel-size toiletries next time you hit the road. This way you can bring all your favorite hair and body products with you instead of the generic options found at the store. Plus, they often come in convenient packaging that will keep them from getting lost or spilled inside your luggage.
  3. Go vegetarian: Ease into eating less meat by going vegetarian for one day every week, or make it a goal to eat less meat on your trip. The carbon footprint of a meat-heavy diet is drastically higher than that of a vegan or vegetarian diet. More specifically, red meat requires 28 times more land and 11 times more water than poultry does. We aren’t saying you should only eat quinoa and carrots, but we do think it’s important to assess how our diet choices affect the planet.
     
  4. Utilize e-tickets: From retail shopping to concerts to flights, there has been a recent surge in emailed receipts, online confirmations, and e-tickets. Always have your ticket in the palm of your hand (and show some love to our tree friends) by choosing virtual ticket options instead of paper.
  5. Get a compactable tote: Bring a compactable tote with you for shopping and/or groceries. In some places this isn’t only an environmentally-conscious choice but a requirement, as stores won’t provide any grocery bags for you or instead will charge you for each one. Grab an IES Abroad global shopper bag (which folds into a small globe for easy, awesome storage) for your next overseas trip!
  6. Use public transit: Navigate the city like the local residents do by using public forms of transportation. This could mean anything from bus to bike share to subway. Besides being eco-friendly, you’ll feel less like a tourist, and you’ll get to know the city in a new way.
  7. Conserve water and energy: Be mindful of your host country’s water needs and energy costs by keeping showers short and reusing linens in a hotel (vs. having them washed every night), hang your laundry to dry, brush your teeth, and do dishes without running the water. Most importantly, turn off the lights and TV, and get out and meet some people! Because isn’t that what you’re there for?
     
  8. Use biodegradable products: If a product is biodegradable, it simply means it can be broken down in the natural world into raw materials. If you need to do laundry abroad, try to find a biodegradable detergent option. The environment will thank you. Additionally, biodegradable bug spray and sunscreen are kind to your skin and to the earth at the same time. That’s a win-win!
  9. Buy local: Just like using public transportation, you’ll hear the sights and the sounds of a city most authentically by buying food and other items from local markets and businesses. In this way, you support local farmers, artists, and craftsmen while also getting unique (and delicious) products.
  10. Teach others: Share with your friends how you help the planet. One person can make a difference, but just imagine if you got your whole crew on this! Being sustainable while traveling demonstrates respect to the community you are visiting and to the earth at large. Show love to humankind by showing love to Mother Earth.

Interested in how you can study the environment while going abroad? Check out this list of IES Abroad programs with environmentally-related courses!