BJ Schmitt
BJ Schmitt
Analyst and Planning Technician

Ideas to Inspire Sustainable Summer Travel

The word “travel” makes us dream, be it a weekend getaway or an escape half a world away. You can make sustainable travel a part of that dream, even in this transportation and consumption-heavy industry. Sustainable travel is generally understood to mean traveling while making a positive impact in three areas; the environment, the local economy and the society or culture where you are visiting (sound familiar?).

COMM Sustainable Travel Amtrak Free UseYou don’t have to go to a different time zone or be gone a long time to make a difference, either. Staying closer to home can be one way to reduce your environmental impact and can give you more time to be on vacation and less time sitting on a plane. Here are some additional ways to infuse sustainability into your travels:

  • Slow down and look at the scenery... get off the beaten path.

    • Travel by train instead of plane whenever possible.
    • Ride a bike instead of a scooter.
    • Sightsee by boat, or take a hike.
  • Take one longer trip instead of two shorter trips, especially if you are going far.

  • Visit someplace closer to home to reduce greenhouse gases from air travel. How about the Lake Tahoe Water Trail?

  • Plan your trip mindfully. Check out Sustainable Travel International, who believe that travel and tourism can protect the world’s natural and cultural riches and create economic opportunity.

  • For example, if you are heading to Cape Town, South Africa, be aware of the water crisis and be careful with your water use.

  • Our friends (and partners on the Sierra Nevada Geotourism project) at National Geographic suggest asking these question when you use a tour operator:

    • What are some of your tour company’s environmentally friendly practices?
    • Can you give me an example of how your trips help to protect and support wildlife or cultural heritage?
    • Do you employ local guides on your trips?
  • Look for eco-friendly lodging owned by locals. Here's one in Costa Rica (a country brimming with them!).

    COMM Sustainable Travel Yosemite Free Use Image
  • Traveling to a developing area like Mexico, Morocco or Mongolia? Check out Pack-For-A-Purpose for ideas on little extras to pack in your luggage to support local artists, orphanages and education.

  • Eat local food and eat less meat. Local restaurants and local markets are a great way to get connected to the area you are visiting.

  • Purchasing souvenirs from local artisans.

  • Visit protected areas. The fees you pay will help support local groups that protect them.

  • Wear reef-safe sunscreen.

Finally, we have to include a couple of “don’t”s (good to consider while home as well!):

  • Don’t buy wildlife products.

  • Don’t use plastic bags and bottles. (Coconut water in the shell anyone?)

  • Don’t treat anyone disrespectfully (ask before you take that photo).

Instilling even just a few of these suggestions into your summer travel will help decrease the impact on our planet and well-trafficked vacation destinations. Enjoy your travels, and rest easy knowing you have done your research and planned well, supporting local culture and economy and minimizing your environmental footprint. Bon Voyage!