Sustainable Travel A to Z - Your Guide to a Greener Experience

Travelling is one of the best ways to learn. It allows us to immerse ourselves in new environments, practice other languages, and see new cultures and histories.
However, a Nature study shows that annual tourism equals over 8 percent of the world’s carbon footprint and is growing every year. Another study says 76 percent of people said that company CEOs should “lead on the environment rather than waiting for the government to take action.”
We’ve compiled this list of savvy startups and distinguished industry partners so you, as a traveller, can remain true to your environmental principles while exploring the world. Next time you book a trip, remember this checklist so the places you visit and their local communities benefit from environmental and equitable oversight to either become or remain that way.
Together, we can make a difference.

How to get to departure point sustainably?

If you’re going on vacation you’re going to be headed to some sort of departure point. Here’s the first chance to turn things around. Ask yourself:
How are you getting to your destination?
Is there a way to get there more sustainably?
Lease Fetcher, a car rental company in the UK crunched the climate numbers on the environmental impact of RyanAir flights from within the UK to the capital, London. They weren’t great.
Lease Fetcher tracked domestic flights from five British cities for one week in November and found 656 domestic flights were taken, and on average 4,416 tonnes of CO2 are emitted every single week from these flights.
Take a train, rent a car, get a rideshare. All of the above are better than flying.
Flightnook-Leasefetcher+weekly+flights Tree carbon sequestration
That’s a huge amount of CO2 and it doesn’t even account for other greenhouse gas effects of air travel. Radiative forcing is the non-CO2 effect of air travel that is produced by wispy white clouds that trail airplanes and trap heat in our atmosphere.
It’s estimated to have double the climate impact of CO2 emissions alone!

How do you reduce the carbon impact from flight?

A tourism report out of COP25 confirmed that transport is the heaviest emissions piece of the sector with air travel accounting for the largest single share. So, if you choose to fly, air travel will be the biggest carbon footprint of your trip.
Accounting for other greenhouse gas emissions (radiative forcing), just one flight eats up over half your annual carbon budget!
We recognize not all offsets are equal. In fact, one of their main drawbacks is ensuring additionality, permanence, and no leakage.
Additionality requires demonstrating the offset project would not have occurred otherwise, under certain policy frameworks or protections.
Permanence requires demonstrating the projects remain for the time period necessary to render the initial action carbon neutral– this means places with clear land rights and insurance schemes in case projects are destroyed.
Leakage refers to when a carbon project displaces activity that heightens CO2 equivalent emissions outside of the project space.
NatureLab, our partner, ensures all three of these qualifications are met, along with many more. It’s the only Gold Standard large-scale afforestation project in North America, and runs their project runs their agroforestry and reforestation projects in Mexico, Canada, and prepares another one in the United States.
Alongside, Flightnook links passengers to local clean fuel providers to lower your flight’s direct emissions– and make your flight carbon neutral– at a price point that suits you.
Calculate your next flight’s climate impact here.

How to choose a sustainable accommodation?

Next step is your accommodation. Accommodation is the second largest contributor to your travel footprint, so where you choose to stay weighs in on your trip’s overall emissions.
Flightnook-Tourism Emissions
Luckily there are independent environmental certifiers to help you choose the most ecological and equitable homestay. For example, Green Key Global developed a tool to help you find sustainable accommodation in North America.
Recognized by the Global Sustainable Tourism Council, Green Key Global offers environmental certifications to hotels based on an analysis of energy efficiency modelling, waste in operations, and green building codes.
This may sound complex, but their 5 leaf rating system makes it easy to pick and choose which hotels and hostels to support.
But sustainable travel is more than the environmental assessment of your hotels — it’s also about how local communities benefit. Kind Traveller is a socially conscious booking platform that locates hotels and hostels and ranks them on environmental, wellness, and community metrics to ensure equitable travel.
Kind Traveller proposes to fundamentally change how we travel by looking for ways to give back to local communities.

Who are some good ecotrip coordinators?

If you prefer to make your vacation into a sustainable journey to explore the great outdoors or make change for good you might be looking for an eco-trip coordinator.
Eco-trip coordinators know the ropes of these destinations better than you and tailor experiences that can either make all the decisions for you or narrow things down to a few good choices.
Make Travel Matter organizes holidays focusing on ethical tourism, considering both the environmental and social elements of your experience and is as hands-off or hands-on in helping you plan your choice vacation.
From Guadalupe to China, Make Travel Matter coordinates with accommodation, local guides, specific perks, all while keeping environmental and social intentions at the forefront.
Flightnook-MapleLeaf Glacier Zodiac Pax-KevinJSmith
Photo by Kevin J. Smith (Maple Leaf team)
Maple Leaf Adventures offers a range of ecotourist opportunities via small ship cruises from whale watching to appreciating Haida culture in Gwaii Haanas.
Off the West coast of British Columbia, they invite you to engage with nature, but respectfully recognize the capacity of each space to harbour tourists and leave each destination as they found it. They even have a chef aboard to ensure you’re enjoying local fresh food.

How can you keep a low-carbon diet when travelling?

If you’re planning a trip yourself you might ask, how can I ensure to keep a low-carbon diet while travelling?
One of the easiest ways to do this is the most obvious. Eat local.
Flightnook-Local food vegetables
Eating local is one of the easiest ways to cut your food’s carbon footprint — by cutting out emissions from trade (remember radiative forcing and what that means if your meat flew all the way from Texas). Plus, you don’t truly experience a new place until you’ve tried their food.
That being said, “shifting less than one day a per week’s worth of calories from red meat and dairy products to chicken, fish, eggs, or a vegetable-based diet achieves more GHG reduction than buying all locally sourced food.” So, even though local is nice it’s not a catch-all.
If you’re conscious about your carbon footprint from food you’ll want to keep up that same carbon calculus you do at home– prioritizing plant-based and leaving red meat for special occasions!
You may have noticed made this article about services instead of products. We fundamentally believe changing to a more sustainable, eco-friendly way of life is important and sometimes lists encouraging eco-friendly *stuff* can clutter this idea.
Next time you travel check this list and ask what well-worn habits you rewire so they become more sustainable.