How to be a sustainable tourist? 10 green tips to help you

how to be a sustainable tourist

We love travelling. We love discovering new places, having new experiences, meeting new people… and we are trying to change the world simply by travelling. However, we know that many of the trips we have nowadays are highly polluting and we leave a high carbon footprint behind. So, how to be a sustainable tourist? In other words: how to minimize our impact on the planet without reducing the joy during our trip?


To answer these questions, we have to know the meaning of carbon footprint, that summarizes the repercussions of our activities in the environment. This means that, when you dine at a restaurant, sleep in a hotel or take a taxi to visit the museum in the city you just arrive, your carbon footprint is getting bigger and bigger.

The good news is that this footprint can be significantly reduced if we make the right choices in terms of transportation, food and accommodation.

To sum up: if you care about the environment and you love travelling, don’t miss this information that will help you to plan your next holidays.


Which kind of transportation produces more pollution?


1. Based on El País and Carbon Footprint numbers (even if numbers change a lot depending on the source checked), we could make the following comparison: a passenger flying from Barcelona (Spain) to Copenhagen (Denmark) and return would add 1 CO2 tonne to his/her personal carbon footprint.

If we consider that, on average, an Indian citizen produces 1 CO2 tonne a year, a European citizen 10 CO2 tonnes a year and a United States of America citizen more than 20 CO2 tonnes a year, this round trip flight would be as polluted as the Indian’s activities in 365 days.


2. 3 & 4. However, the same itinerary by car would be 0’25 CO2 tonnes, and 0’20 CO2 tonnes by bus. If we could do it by train, we would only send 0’08 CO2 tonnes to the environment.


Which kind of transportation produces more pollution


5. Finding the numbers for a sea trip is not so easy because people don’t travel by boat anymore (you know, it is not the quickest way to get to a place and nowadays we want everything to be quick). However, it is one of the best options for the environment. Attention: cruises are the exception. The fuel they use is highly polluting the marine  and their engines never sleep, even when they dock.

As you can see, differences are huge if you travel by plane, car, bus, train or boat and of course planes are the worst environmental option.

Where should I sleep?


6. Our philosophy is to spend as much time as possible with the locals and, by the way, this is good for the environment, too! Staying at a house/appartment with people is greener and nowadays there are hundreds of ways to make it possible.


7. For some reason you don’t like to share a flat with local people, or you don’t like staying at someone’s place even if it is on your own, lodges in rural areas could be a very good option. Lodges are usually built with local materials (straw, clay, recycled bottles), they offer organic and locally produced food, they use renewable energies such as solar panels and they reuse organic waste to make compost and fertilizers. In addition, you will be supporting the local economy.


8. However, if you still prefer hotels, you have to know that there are big differences among them, even if it is not the best option.  

Why is that? It is not only about cleaning the towels and the sheets. Nor even about the excessive amount of chemical products they will use to clean your room before and after your stay, or the air conditioning and the heating. More important than that is the fact of building a place or a hotel complex that will be opened 365 days a year, 24 hours a day, in order to fulfill the customer’s needs.


where should I sleep


We found a nice hotel room booking Bookdifferent that you can consider for your next trip. Bookdifferent helps the customers to understand how much carbon footprint each night would produce during your stay, and they are promoting for the greener hotels with greener stay. In U2GUIDE, we believe that you are being eco-friendly by doing this, as well as helping our partner NGOs.

You can also check if there is a Green Key eco-label on hotels, hostels or other accommodations. Hotel companies need to achieve 13 objectives related to transportation, green areas, energy, waste disposals, food and water, etcetera to obtain this label. Currently there are 2400 hotels in 53 countries in the world with Green Key eco labels. Most of them are in Europe, but you can also find places in Dominican Republic, Mexico, Morocco, Russia, Japan and the United Arab Emirates.

What and where should I eat to reduce my carbon footprint?


9. For many of us, travelling is not only about visiting new places but also about tasting different food and having wonderful experiences.

If you are a foodie, we recommend you use this webstie- Eat Low Carbon for some quick tips about what to eat and what to avoid (basically: forget about meat and dairy products and focus on fruit and vegetables). In addition, you will see the carbon footprint of more than 90 menus and you will be able to take a quiz to check if you really learnt the basics of eating green.

Then, look at this infographic from Cowspiracy documentary. Did you know that the carbon footprint of a vegan is half than the one from an omnivore? Did you ever imagine that a beef hamburger requires 660 gallons of water to be produced? Tthis is more or less the water we spend during two months of taking a shower every single day.

1/3 of the earth in the world is covered with desert due to a bad livestock management and ¾ of the fisheries are over-exploit (the Science magazine said that, in 32 years, there will be no fish left). And of course cattle is responsible for 91% of the deforestation in the Amazon… So, before you order something, think about it twice.

And don’t forget that to be a sustainable tourist also means eating at small family restaurants and try to avoid big chains.


If I can’t reduce my carbon footprint, what can I do to not harm the planet when I travel?


reduce my carbon footprint


10. If you don’t have enough time to change the plane for another transportation or you have to stay at a specific hotel for no matter what reason, don’t get desperate. There are several options to offset your carbon footprint. That means donating a bit of money to environmental projects that protect old woods, the forests, which are the real lungs of the planet.

Great options are Carbon Neutral Planet, in Mexico, and Carbon Fund, with different projects around the world. But it you investigate a bit you will also be able to find other options.


With U2GUIDE, you help to change the world simply by travelling. We are a philanthropic platform that spends 50% of our net profit to support NGOs and humanitarian, cultural and environmental organizations around the world.


Traveling as a solidary experience 

... You may love reading it !

Tagged Philanthropy, Travel Tips




Recent Posts