Sustainable Travel Tips by kelsey knoche

I debated not calling this post sustainable travel tips. Sustainability is a word used a lot these days and when linked to travel, people tend to look mostly at impacts to the environment. If you focus strictly on environmental issues, travel is not sustainable. But there are three pillars of sustainability: economic, environmental, and social. If we travel responsibly and focus on having positive economic and social impacts while minimizing our environmental impact, maybe we can travel sustainability.

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I found a definition I really liked for Responsible travel:

Responsible travel — being mindful of the economic, environmental, and cultural impact/sustainability of travel. Responsible travel encompasses: the cultural impact of travel on locals, how travelers' money is injected into/distributed in local communities, and the environmental impact of travel.

Here are my tips in no particular order (except for the last one):

1) Travel with a zero-waste kit and consume less

Do some research on water in the area you are traveling. A lot of times plastic water bottles can be avoided with a little preparation.

2) Look for environmentally minded accommodations

Here are some suggestions ( I haven’t tried all of these )

3) If you need to buy something new for a trip, buy from a sustainable brand

  • I got a warm water surf suit for my last trip to Costa Rica from We are Mona

4) Avoid flying when you can

This is hard as sometimes flying is the only option. Try to book direct when it is available. I enjoyed this read on airline sustainability.

5) Eat and drink local

Spend your money where it is more likely to be of direct benefit to the community. My best tip for this is to do research on places to eat before you go.

6) Take a local tour or class

My favorite part of traveling is connecting with locals and sharing cultures. One of my favorite travel memories is sitting on a kitchen floor with 5 Nepali women making dinner for 3 hours. Sometimes it is hard to find these experiences because there is so much outside money flooded into big tours. Try speaking to locals or sites like i-like local to find activities.

7) Make a goal to truly connect with X amount of people

This is going to be a new thing I try. When I travel I bring home culture, education, and stories from people and places I have the privilege of interacting with. Very rarely do I make an effort to continue any of these relationships, which is a missed opportunity.

In high school I was a part of a Chinese exchange program. One thing that has always stuck with me was the gifts and letters of thanks the students left when they went back home. I think because of that we have stayed in contact over the years.

I have a trip coming up, I am going to bring 3 small gifts that reflect my home culture and community. I hope to leave these along with a thank you note with new friends when I head home.

8) Give back

Try doing some research on how travel has affected the local community. On our last trip to Costa Rica we visited a howler monkey rehab facility. Due to the growth of travel and population, howler monkeys have been impacted by expanding power line infrastructure.

If you have the means donate time or money to a local initiative.

9) Carbon Offsetting - this is last for a reason

I have mixed feelings about this. Contributing to projects that are reducing GHGs is a good thing, but be mindful that offsetting alone without making efforts to reduce personal emissions does not solve the problem.

Zero Waste Travel Essentials by kelsey knoche

I am sharing my favorite items that I always carry with me to reduce single-use plastics. Traveling and being on the go makes zero waste goals hard, but these products have helped me out a lot! They are all lightweight, don't take up much space, and can easily fit into a purse or backpack! After a year or so of trying to be more responsible with single-use items, I am finally happy with my travel kit! I hope you enjoy and I would love to hear what products you use to reduce waste! 

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Bamboo Utensil Set

This was the very first thing I bought and I always have this with me! I love this set because it comes with a straw, a cleaning brush, and a nice carrying case so it stays clean! I use this anytime I eat out to replace a plastic straw or plastic utensils. 

Collapsible Tupperware

This is my newest item in my travel set. I used to carry mason jars and glass Tupperware, but I found them to be bulky and heavy. These take up zero space and are really easy to carry. They are a perfect replacement to plastic plates and single-use boxes. I use these anytime I eat out and have left overs or at a hot food bar. I suggest writing the tear weight on the bottom so you don't get charged for extra weight at food bars!

12 oz Insulated Coffee/Tea Mug

I love this thing. It keeps my drinks hot or cold all day and I can throw it in my bag and it won't spill. Some places will give you a discount for bringing your own bottle!

Cloth Bag

I normally carry a few of these with me. These come in handy when I need to replace a plastic bag or to carry bulk food items.

Collapsible 20 oz Water Bottle

I have a few water bottles but this one is my favorite for on the go needs. The collapsible feature is great for saving space.