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Tips for Sustainable Travel

Dec 1, 2021 | OLA Giving Back, Popular Reads, Travel Tips

Sustainable travel has been a prominent topic in recent years, and for good reason! To summarize, it is the concept of visiting somewhere as a tourist but also attempting to have a positive impact on the local environment, society, and economy. It begins even before you arrive at any destination, with smarter decisions about how we travel and being mindful of where we spend our money. Some things are easier said than done, but we can all make small changes and make significant decisions as we travel.

Tourism promotes society by encouraging economic growth, conserving traditional ways of life, helping with wildlife preservation, and enhancing overall quality of life, particularly in disadvantaged parts of the world. However, due to the exponential increase in tourism over the last few decades, there is a renewed focus on the importance of us changing our behaviour to help the communities we visit while minimizing environmental damage.

To help you begin, we’ve compiled a list of practical methods to travel more sustainably on your next adventure!


Avoid Flying When Possible

Let’s face it: if you’re going on an intercontinental trip, you’re going to have to fly. When traveling near home, we can choose greener modes of transportation such as trains or other public transport, but if you must fly, there are ways to carbon offset your trip to lessen the impact of greenhouse gases. Carbon offsets are non-mandatory programs that contribute to forestry or energy projects. The most convenient way is to offset directly with your airline when booking for an additional price, although organizations such as Greenfleet and Myclimate provide comparable services.

snow covered train tracks at shimoyoshida station in fujiyoshida japan

Protect The Reefs

When traveling, sunscreen is essential, but certain lotions include chemicals that cause significant harm to corals and lead to bleaching. The major causes are two UV-blocking chemicals called oxybenzone and octinoxate. Each year, it is estimated that over 14,000 tonnes of sunscreen pollute the oceans.

To help conserve the ocean and all of its amazing creatures, the next time you buy sunscreen, look for one labeled reef-friendly, which means it doesn’t include the dangerous chemicals and perfumes that harm the ocean. Mineral sunscreens with non-nano (bigger particle) zinc oxide and titanium dioxide produce a safer barrier for your skin. If you’re already traveling, a lot of dive shops sell them. Avoiding spray sunscreens is also a smart idea. Because sprays cause a lot of the product to fly away in the air rather than stay on your skin, it’s always better for your skin and the environment to slap it on!

It is also very important to avoid coming into contact with reefs all together. Touching the reef will harm the delicate coral organisms, and even if you accidentally hit the reef it can kill corals, therefore it is best to try to stay a safe distance away from the coral while enjoying it.


Avoid single use plastics

Straws are irritating little items that restaurants like to give out regardless of what you purchase! Whether it’s a fruit juice, a playful cocktail, or a simple can of coke, you can guarantee it comes with a straw in Asia. One can’t hurt, can it? However, if you add up every drink order from every traveler, you get a rather large figure. It’s as easy as informing wait staff that you don’t want a straw, and if you do need or prefer one, carry a reusable bamboo or metal straw with you.

A reusable water bottle is our number one travel essential! Producing less garbage is the most effective way to reduce your waste output. With most hotels and restaurants, particularly in Asia, offering free water refills, you may fill them up and eliminate the need to buy plastic bottles on the go! If you drink a lot of coffee, a reusable carry cup is also a must-have.

Without realizing it, we use a lot of plastic when we travel – consider shampoo, conditioner, sunscreen bottles, and so on. Making minimal changes to your items can have a significant impact. Many companies now sell shampoo and conditioner bars, which are ideal for traveling because they are lightweight, tiny, and last a long time. Win-win! Travel-size items are nice, but they are a waste of packing. Rather, buy travel-sized reusable containers that you can use on all future travels. Other simple switches include bringing a reusable shopping/tote bag on your trip instead of plastic bags, using a bamboo toothbrush, and using biodegradable or reusable face wipes.

One Life Reusable Bottle & Metal Straws

Support Local

Supporting local businesses allows you to contribute directly to the economy, and smaller businesses typically have stronger environmental policies than giant corporations. Making mindful purchasing decisions has a good impact everywhere, and remember that when you travel, you are voting with your money.

When it comes to flights, we all love to shop around for the best cost, but once you’re on the ground, try to travel like a local! Whether you take the bus, train, taxi, or tuk-tuk, you’ll be supporting local drivers and seeing things from a real perspective. You can frequently negotiate the price of a trip, especially in Asia, but always remember to pay a fair fee to support the livelihoods of drivers.

Eating at independent restaurants and markets is one way to ensure that your money is going to a good cause. In exchange, you’ll get true insight into the region’s original flavours. Another option to lower your carbon footprint is to eliminate meat and/or dairy from your diet, even if only for a few meals a week. Most cuisines provide a variety of great vegetarian and vegan options, and cutting out animal products on occasion can push you to try something new!

Similarly to eating locally, purchasing food, souvenirs, and ingredients from local merchants rather than larger supermarkets will help the town prosper. Overtourism can put a burden on natural ecosystems and infrastructure, but by traveling outside of peak season/main holidays, your money will benefit businesses who suffer outside of peak season.

One Life Adventures guests cleaning garbage off a beach


Animals should be given as much freedom from human influence as possible. It’s tempting to want to pose for a picture with exotic animals on the street or ride an elephant, but animals should never be used for human pleasure. If you want to view animals in the wild, there are several options, including going on a safari, visiting a sanctuary, snorkeling, or going on a whale watching tour.

a couple enjoying a safari at udawalawe national park in sri lanka

Try to incorporate some of these sustainable practices the next time you go on a vacation. Traveling ethically while being environmentally responsible is extremely important to us at One Life Adventures. We hope to make a positive difference in the places we visit on our group tours through conserving the environment, supporting local communities, cultural exchanges and animal care.Traveling allows you to explore places you’d only ever dreamed of seeing, so do your part to preserve the beauty for future visitors. When snorkeling in Thailand, touring the Angkor Wat temple complex, or going through the forest, avoid trampling on delicate surroundings and aim to leave nothing behind. If you come across any garbage on your travels, take the time to clean it up and leave your surroundings better than you found them.

Feeling inspired for your next adventure? Check out our trips here