Small changes can make a big difference to the people and places you encounter on your travels. Adopt these ethical and sustainable habits, and you can proudly call yourself a responsible traveler.

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Driving in New Zealand Photo © Getty Images / Mint Images

Before you set off on your long-awaited next adventure, why not take the time to plan how you could make a more positive impact? Whether packing our bags, boarding a flight, or making ethical and sustainable choices on the road, this is our chance to travel differently – and care for the planet in such a way that it can be enjoyed by generations more travelers to come.

1. Choose an ethical tour operator

Money talks. Supporting those who are doing the right thing by people, animals and the planet encourages more operators to do the same.

2. Book eco accommodation

Lay your head somewhere genuinely committed to sustainability. Carbon-neutral, plastic-free and conservation-minded stays will boost the feelgood factor of your trip.

3. Support social enterprises

Social enterprises empower local communities and improve people’s quality of life. Seek them out – it might just be a highlight of your trip.

4. Reduce your travel footprint

What you pack, how you get around and where you stay – all these choices add up to create your travel footprint. Every little thing you can do to minimize your impact helps.

5. Go where you’re most welcome

For every popular travel destination, there are many more that are just as fabulous – and much less crowded. Seek them out and go where you’ll truly feel welcomed.

6. Rethink your toiletries

Shampoo bars over bottles; reusable menstrual products over disposable; biodegradable over plastic – go natural and reduce waste wherever possible.

7. Go plastic free

Plastic water bottles, straws, cutlery and bags create mountains of waste – pack reusable alternatives and take them home with you for your next adventure.

8. Make green flying choices

Book with the most fuel-efficient airlines, avoid stopovers if you can, and opt for the vegetarian meal option. Simple steps for a more sustainable future.

9. Take the slow road

Stay a little longer in one place, immerse yourself in the culture, get to know the people. Slow travel has a whole lot of appeal – and does the planet a favor.

10. Get around under your own steam

Low-impact travel – by train, bicycle, boat or your own two feet – will reveal a side of local life you’d never be privy to whizzing by at speed.

11. Show a little kindness

It costs you nothing, yet acts of kindness can bring some real sunshine into the days of all those helpers looking after you on your travels.

12. Eat with awareness

Exploring new flavors in foreign lands is one of the delights of travel. Just be sure you know what you’re eating and that you’re not unwittingly supporting animal cruelty.

13. Be a more respectful traveler

Go gently when you travel, taking photos with sensitivity and respecting the lives and beliefs of locals – especially in places of worship. You’re a guest in their country, after all.

14. Impress the locals

Minding your manners comes naturally at home, but learn a little about local etiquette before your trip to avoid making cultural mistakes that could cause embarrassment on both sides.

15. Be a good shopper

Buy local, hand-made goods over mass-produced imports, and haggle with the big picture in mind – your generosity can help locals earn a fair wage.

16. Keep it pristine

Find alternatives to overtrodden national parks, and be a responsible hiker, diver, skier and camper – the earth depends on it.

17. Be smart on social media

Geotagging has created overtouristed Instagram hotspots. Use social media mindfully for good – to inspire, inform and shine a light on issues that need our attention.

18. Watch out for wildlife

See animals in the wild, and from a distance, rather than fueling the demand for captive-wildlife tourism. And whatever you do, give elephant riding a miss.

19. Give back

Travel can highlight just how fortunate we are, but choose an ethical volunteer-abroad organization to be sure you’re truly doing good – helping out in an orphanage is a definite no-no.

20. Do no harm

Take care not to support industries that exploit children, animals or vulnerable populations. Sex tourism, cocaine tourism and poverty tourism should be avoided at all costs.

For more responsible travel inspiration, read the World Nomads Travel Manifesto.

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2 Comments

  • Cat said

    Why is volunteering at an orphanage a no-no? Eating vegetarian is not less of an impact than eating meat, fowl or fish. And we should all stop wearing masks and gloves because they don’t protect you from any virus and only pollute the planet more than plastic utensils or straws. Please stop brainwashing our children.

  • Adam said

    Hey Cat,

    Most studies show that a plant based diet has less of an impact on carbon emissions compared to meat-eaters. I don’t think the author was trying to suggest that vegetarianism or veganism is perfect, but eating less meat will certainly benefit the planet.

    Here’s a media article that draws on recent research to present these findings.

    http://shrinkthatfootprint.com/food-carbon-footprint-diet

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