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12 tips to travel sustainably and save energy

1. Fly smart

Air travel is usually the most energy consuming aspect of travel and a growing contributor to climate change (according to an EU press release, in the EU alone greenhouse gas emissions from aviation increased by 87% between 1990 and 2006). Plan your trip so that you minimize air travel, use trains wherever possible and try to fly direct instead of stopping over.

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2. Unplug before you travel

Turn off lights and unplug household appliances while you’re away. Make sure to switch off your geyser too and any other other energy-gobbling devices. Also unplug while you travel and charge your trip sustainably – use rechargeable batteries and pack a battery charger.

3. Use a carbon footprint calculator

There are free online resources like terrapass that can help you to see what the most energy efficient route would be for your travels. Whenever possible, choose to stay longer in one destination rather than making many short trips. The ultimate would be to take a stay-cation – stay at home and explore your own country – something that many of us fail to do!

4. Green your local travel

Use public transportation at your destination, including airport shuttles, buses and trains, rather than renting a car. Also use eco-friendly modes of transport such as walking, cycling, sailing or camel trekking! They might be slower but they’re far more sustainable ways of getting around, as well as being a much more fun, healthy and insightful way to get to know a local culture and environment.

5. Book responsibly

Make your travel reservations with airlines, tour operators and hotels with credible green programs and sustainable tourism practices in place. If it’s not immediately obvious always ask! Any responsible consumer has a right to make an informed decision based on a company’s environmental initiatives. How do they save energy, conserve water and minimise waste for example? A good online resource for finding such answers and organisations is The International Ecotourism Society

6. Eat local

Locally produced foods are a tastier and more sustainable option. If you’re self catering make sure to visit local food markets and shop at locally owned grocery stores – pack waste-free meals when you trave,l and bring a re-usable tupperware on your trip. Always eat in locally owned restaurants that buy local, and avoid excess wrapping for takeaways wherever possible. Make sure you’re clued up with what animal and plant species are endangered before you travel – consult the Convention on International trade in Endangered Species (CITES).

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7. Buy locally made souvenirs

When travelling make wise and considered economic decisions that aid the survival of the local people and culture. Instead of trying to save money by searching for cheap (and probably Chinese immitation) souvenirs, spend a bit more on a local, handmade textile or carving.

8. Give back

Seek travel opportunities to give back to the communities you visit, many eco-tourists participate in voluntourism activities for example that help to play a role in a better energy future; a future in which the world’s entire population has access to modern, efficient and affordable energy services.

9. Support World Heritage Sites

Help preserve the natural and cultural attributes that make the places you travel to unique. One way to do this would be to volunteer in a UNESCO World Heritage Centre Scheme, to help ensure that these natural and cultural treasures remain for generations to come.

10. Save water

Wash your own clothes and make sure you air-dry, using laundry services are pricey and waste water and energy. Use a minimum amount of water to wash, and don’t let water run while you’re brushing your teeth or washing your body. Re-use your linen – request that your towels and bed sheets are not washed every day as it’s downright wasteful and unneccessary!

11. Consider carbon credits/offsets

Help offset your footprint from travelling by investing in credible programs that support conservation, renewable energy, and other energy saving projects.

12. Travel light

Pack only the essentials – by reducing the weight of luggage travellers can significantly cut green house gas emissions. Don’t bring things that will become waste.

Do you have any energy saving tips for travellers? Or advice on other ways to travel sustainably? Please post your suggestions below.

Shenton Safaris
Africa Geographic Editorial

We're the Africa Geographic editorial team – a diverse set of editors, designers and social media natives, all united by our passion for this addictive continent.