Six Simple Ways to Be a Green Traveler


MARCH 10, 2018

Jakarta. Every picturesque photo of a bucket-list tourist destination on Instagram – even if it's one of the green terrace fields of Bali or the deep forest of the Amazon jungle – might actually leave a long trail of carbon footprint that contributes to climate change.

In the age of budget airlines and Airbnb, the tourism industry's contribution to climate change is multiplying. The old adage, "Take only pictures, leave only footprints," still carries some truth, but now it matters more how much carbon footprint you're going to accumulate to get to your destination in the first place.

So, how does one become a green traveler? Here are six simple ways:

1. Reduce Your Carbon Footprint

When traveling by air, you should take the most direct flight routes since takeoffs and landings use up the most fuel during a flight.

Bus is the most carbon footprint-friendly public transportation to get around on land. Catching public buses, rather than driving your own rented car, reduces carbon emissions massively.

A bus passes the Ampera Bridge in Palembang, South Sumatra. (Antara Photo/Feny Selly)

If you do rent a car, you should choose the smallest car possible or rent a hybrid if it’s available.

But first, try to avoid renting any sort of vehicle that runs on gas or diesel. There are other more eco-friendly options, including electric motorbikes and bicycles.

2. BYO Water Bottle

Avoid buying mineral water in plastic bottles during your travel. It's best to bring your own drink bottle. The goal is simple: reduce plastic waste.

Plastic is not fantastic when you're traveling. (Reuters Photo/Neil Hall)

You should avoid non-environmentally friendly products including paper coffee cups, plastic cutlery, plastic bags, disposable razors, styrofoam packaging and other non-recyclables.

3. Eat Green and Eat Local

Buy food produced by local farmers. Discover all the exciting local options instead of sticking with tried and true but boring imported brands (getting them all the way to a third world country also leaves a massive amount of carbon footprint).

A market in Kupang, East Nusa Tenggara. (JG Photo/Yudhi Sukma Wijaya)

Eat at restaurants with locally sourced ingredients. Doing so will not only benefit the environment but also empower local businesses, particularly in developing countries.

4. Be Paperless

Wet wipes are often a lifesaver when you're traveling, but it's a scourge of the environment. Have you heard about fatbergs? Use a towel to dry your face.

So, always bring a hand towel when traveling. Remember, trees are still being felled for those perfumed tissues.

(Photo courtesy of Greenpeace/Ulet Ifansasti)

5. Buy Eco-Friendly Souvenirs

Even when you're not an avid shopper, buying souvenirs from a place you love is almost unavoidable. But beware, some souvenirs could be made using ingredients and methods that hurt local ecosystems.

Number one thing to avoid: any accessories made of corals, shells or other natural products pulled out from the ocean. Avoid these at all costs.

A visitor looks at antiques for sale at Windujenar market in Solo, Central Java. (Antara Photo/Maulana Surya)

Only buy souvenirs made of natural and recyclable materials that do not pollute the local environment to produce.

6. Save Water

People on holidays tend to drink more water than they do at home. Use water efficiently wherever you are, but be even more considerate when you visit a region where water is scarce.

A woman pumps water from a well in Andhra Pradesh, India. (Reuters Photo/Munish Sharma)