Tourism for Tomorrow: Will you help redefine tourism? | Amanda's Wanderlust

Sustainable Travel

As a geographer and environmental practitioner I often face a pretty significant dilemma about travel – I am passionate about travel and want to explore the world, but it is really not good for my carbon footprint. So how do I try to ensure my travel is sustainable?

Why Sustainable Travel?

Buying from local markets helps support the local economy

Travel helps us to become good global citizens, aware of global processes and environmental issues, sensitive to other belief systems, and able to contribute positively to environments, communities and cultures beyond our own.

According to a report published in 2009 by the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO): “Tourism is an effective way of redistributing wealth and a catalyst for gender equality, cultural preservation and nature conservation.”

But while you’re on your travels you may well witness issues such as environmental damage, waste disposal problems, sex tourism, animal cruelty, and overuse of resources such as water. You will also want to avoid contributing to them in any way.

So to help fellow green-thinking travellers, I have pulled together my top tips for sustainable travel and will regularly feature sustainable travel news and options on Amanda’s Wanderlust.

Money from gorilla trekking permits is reinvested in national parks.

Sustainable Travel Tips

Sustainable travel is all about promoting and supporting responsible travel practices that focus on the economic, social and environmental impacts of travel.

1. Do your research

Choose a location that hasn’t been put under strain by tourism, like the once pristine Macchu Pichu. Try to find a place that has remained relatively unaltered by visitors, and has a commitment to maintaining the integrity of the site you’re visiting.

2. Use sustainable tourism businesses

Start by choosing businesses, tour operators, activities, and tours that minimise environmental damage and make a positive contribution to the local environments and communities visited.

Consider a green hotel or resort. Ask to see  a company’s environmental policy before you book, and find out what they do to promote sustainable travel.

3. Certification Programmes

It’s easy for hotels to market their business as “eco-” or “sustainable” to attract customers; but certifications demonstrate that they are genuinely responsible businesses, tour operators, or service providers.

4. Walk, cycle, take the train or bus

Think about how you travel. Can you walk or cycle during the trip, use public transport, or share transport with other travellers? Aim to make longer journeys by sea, canal or train, rather than by air, if time permits.

Avoid using short haul flights like taxis on internal journeys and short hops. Get best value from long haul flights by going for fewer longer trips and seeing as much as you can see in one go.

Travelling by sea rather than air could reduce your carbon footprint.

5. Offset your emissions

Calculate and offset your emissions of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide through a certified carbon offset scheme, or book with a company that will do this for you like Explore.

6. Stay Local

At least once each year, why not stay in your home country and explore a little part of it you’ve not visited before, or go to a local festival. It’s a great way to keep your carbon footprint from travel to a minimum, and allows you to support the local economy. Check out my Unusual Places to Stay in the UK series for ideas.

This Welsh Eco-Retreat has sustainability as a core value.
Eco-Retreats has sustainable travel as a core value.

7. Volunteer Abroad

There are many organisations offering volunteering holidays, whether in vulnerable communities or on conservation projects, where you can do almost anything from building a well to  helping rescue baby turtles.

Opportunities vary from one week to two years. This gives you an opportunity to enhance the environment in the destination you visit and is a great form of sustainable travel.


You can stay on an organic farm almost anywhere in the world (including the UK) and learn about organic lifestyles in exchange for your volunteer labour.

9. Avoid supporting damaging activities

Thinking about how you spend your foreign currency is also key to sustainable travel – don’t unwittingly support environmentally damaging activities like deforestation, or animal cruelty, such as the illegal trade in primates or poor conditions for horses and donkeys.

10. Support the local economy

By choosing to book with a local tour guide, or booking day trips and activities locally rather than through your travel company, you can help support the local economy. Book independent, locally owned accommodation and shop at local markets if possible. Buy local and take your own reusable bag.

Avoid waste: reduce, reuse, recycle.
Avoid waste: reduce, reuse, recycle.

11. Respect the natural environment

Respect the natural environment wherever you go, and think carefully about natural resource use. Always use water efficiently, this is a scarce resource in many locations. Try to minimise waste, reuse items and recycle where facilities exist.

Ask your tour operator or airline what they are doing to minimise energy use, carbon emissions and waste.

12. Community-based Tourism

Consider community-based tourism or tourism offered by small travel companies or cooperatives set up and owned by local communities. This may include visits to integrate with indigenous communities, but managed in a way that has minimal impact and makes a positive contribution.

13. Always pack light

Avoid using plastic bags.
Avoid using plastic bags

Not only will this make your trip more enjoyable, as you won’t be struggling with your bags, but you will look like a more experienced traveller.

Lighter bags also result in less carbon emissions, because more weight means more jet fuel is used!

Try to plan ahead and minimise waste at the destination by thinking carefully about what you pack.


Take reusable and multipurpose items and dispose of any unnecessary packaging with care before you go.

14. Always tread lightly on your adventures

Take only photos and leave only footprints. This is what I like to call One Planet Travel, and if it came with a passport stamp it would be the most important one you would ever collect.


Always stay on marked trails when hiking, and never approach or worry the wildlife. Observe any rules in national parks and other protected areas. And NEVER drop litter.

15. Respect culture and heritage

Always learn about, foster and respect the culture and cultural heritage of the places you plan to visit.

Choose excursions run by local guides or tours that will education you about local customs and traditions.

Try the local cuisine and talk to the local people you meet. You can experience so much more this way.

I’d love to know your top tips for sustainable travel? Comment below.

Sustainable Travel Links

Green Travel Guides – Low Carbon Travel

Complete Guide to Carbon Offsetting

Sustaining Tourism

Sustainable Travel International

Society for the Protection of Animals Abroad (SPANA)

Round the World by Bike – Alastair Humphreys

WWOOF International


Feature image from NASA / National Space Science Data Center via Free Images.



4 thoughts on “Sustainable Travel”

  1. What a great page full of useful information and links. I must admit I’ve never really thought about sustainable travel before reading this. I look forward to future articles.

  2. Hi Amanda! I can totally relate with you about your dilemma on travel and environmental impacts. Tourism involves a chain of activities, and unfortunately, most of these activities can have negative impacts on the environment.

    Like you, my work is in the field of environmental management and incidentally, I also love to travel. As a traveler, I wanted to infuse the environmental management principles I use at work, in my way of travel. I myself admit that it is not always easy to practice sustainable travel. In choosing hotels, for instance, I’m guilty of choosing only based on cost and online reviews. These reviews often lack the criteria on social and environmental sustainability, and I often don’t do my own research.

    There is much more that needs to be done, but I want to take it positively that it can be done. Achieving sustainability is a process and should involve all players of the tourism industry.

    Thanks for putting this information together and I hope more and more travelers will be more conscious about responsible travel. I’m providing a link of my How to Travel Green (, as well. 🙂

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