8 Easy Ways To Be More Eco-Friendly When You Travel


Atiqah Mokhtar •  Jul 31, 2019

Travelling is an act that is encouraged in Islam, as it can help us learn about different places and cultures, see new horizons, marvel at the glory of Allah SWT's creations, and interact with different communities.

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While travelling is often seen as a fun, recreational thing to do (which it is!), it's important to remember that to be a traveller is a privilege, and with that privilege comes certain responsibilities to uphold. As a traveller, one thing that we definitely should be striving to do is to be more respectful of nature and the environment when we travel.

If you're wondering how you can be a more eco-friendly traveller, it doesn't have to be hard! We've rounded up 8 steps that you can do to help the environment as you go off on your adventures.

1. Bring a water bottle

This is probably one of the easiest things you can do which will go a long way! By now most of us are well aware of the impact of single-use plastics and how it's causing overwhelming amounts of plastic waste that's detrimental to the environment. Plastic drinking bottles are a major contributor to this that's easily avoidable by bringing your own reusable water bottle and refilling it as you go about on your trip.

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Check the countries where you travel to whether their tap water is safe for consumption. Most developed countries have public drinking or water-filling amenities easily available, and don't be afraid to ask for help at the eateries you dine at to help refill your bottle - while travelling in London, my colleague Shasha would go into coffee shops with her reusable tumbler and they would usually be more than happy to help her fill it up with water ?

Credit: @lifestraw on Instagram

For countries in developing parts of the world where tap water may not be suitable to drink, you can reduce your dependency on bottled water by boiling water at your accommodation at night, cooling it overnight and using that to fill your bottle in the mornings before you head out to sightsee. In addition, you can consider investing in water bottles with built-in filtration systems like those by Brita or LifeStraw.

#HHWT Tip: Fill up your water bottle at the airport (after security checks) before you get on the aeroplane so you won't need to get water poured into plastic cups during your flight.

2. Aim for environmentally-friendly transport options

It probably comes as no surprise that air travel has the largest carbon footprint out of the available modes of transport. So when planning your journeys think about where you can opt for the transport with smaller carbon emissions - for example, taking a train to a particular destination instead of flight. Journeys like these often take longer but can provide opportunities to enjoy scenic routes less traversed ?

This concept also applies to your movement within a particular city. Where possible, opt for public transport over private transport like taxis.

3. Be wise with airline choices

Airline travel is still inevitable for many of us, so here are some pointers for what you can do to help reduce your carbon footprint:

  • Flying Economy Class tends to be more environmentally friendly as it reduces the carbon emissions per passenger as compared to Business or First Class, which is significant especially for long-haul flights.
  • Flying non-stop is associated with being a greener choice rather than taking multiple flights, as fuel is consumed (and therefore carbon emissions produced) the most during take-off and landing.
  • Be efficient in your packing to avoid unnecessary luggage weight aboard planes. Heavier planes contribute to more fuel usage which in turn increases carbon emissions.
  • Fuel efficiency can vary greatly among airlines, depending on passenger load, aircraft. An increasing number of airlines are striving to be more carbon-efficient by investing in newer aircraft that have lower emissions, such as the Airbus A319 and Boeing 787 Dreamliner. Fuel efficiency among airlines is regularly studied and ranked - so do your research for the airlines and the routes that you plan to travel on.
  • An increasing number of airlines are investing in carbon offset programs. These are programs aimed at reversing the impact of carbon emissions from their operations through conservation and environmental efforts. The nature of carbon offset programs varies from airline to airline -  for example, airlines in the States such as Delta and United Airlines quantify the carbon emissions for each flight and translate it to a dollar amount that passengers can opt to pay for when purchasing their flight ticket, with the proceeds going to conservation programs. Other airlines, like Emirates, don't believe in passing on the cost for carbon offsetting to passengers and fund their conservation efforts in-house.  You can also choose to calculate your emission and donate voluntarily on your own through organisations like Gold Standard and Carbon Footprint. Overall, however, carbon offsetting is still an inexact science and it boils down to which airline your take as well as your own preferences for where you want your monetary donations to go towards reducing your carbon footprint.

4. Pack a reusable bag

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Packing a reusable bag is another easy way to help reduce the usage of plastic for when you're in places like grocery stores, carrying shopping items or taking away food. Given how an increasing number of countries are also taking steps such as charging extra for plastic bags at grocery stores or banning shopping plastic bags altogether (in places like New Zealand and Australia), it's become an increasingly useful thing just to have on hand. There are various types of reusable bags available nowadays, including foldable ones that are perfect for travellers.

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#HHWT Tip: Cheap reusable bags are easy to find, but don't skimp too much on it and choose a sturdy material. I've had reusable bags tear after one use when I used it to carry heavy stuff!

5. Bring your own utensils and cup

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Continuing our journey on reducing single plastics, another good option is to bring your own cutlery as well as reusable cups. This reduces the need for plastic cutlery or cups when you buy takeaway food or when you pop into a coffee shop for that much-needed caffeine fix ? We recommend buying travel cutlery sets (which tend to be smaller and lighter) that come with a carrying case so you can store your used cutlery securely in the event you don't have a sink handy to wash it right away. For reusable cups, we love the silicone collapsible ones - they're lightweight and don't take up much space in your bag! Browse for these items on places likeLazada for affordable options to get before your next trip!

6. Choose eco-friendly accommodations and practice mindful habits during your stay

Credit: @nexusresort on Instagram

An increasing number of hotels and accommodations are moving towards going green, with eco-resorts now more commonly available than before. What does it mean to be an eco-friendly resort? Well, it basically implies that the resort strives to be sustainable and have minimal impact on the environment by practising environmentally-responsible processes (for example it uses energy-efficient lights or cooling systems, harvests rainwater, has strong recycling activities, etc.).

One thing important to note about this, however, is that given the positive perception associated with being eco-friendly, there are accommodations that may call themselves green or an eco-resort without actually implementing policies that are environmentally friendly ☹️There isn't a central body that polices resorts or accommodations for this, which makes it easier for them to do. That's why it's important to look into the resort you choose and see what are the practices that make them sustainable so you can make a judgement call on whether it really is eco-friendly.

#HHWT Tip: This phenomenon of businesses falsely claiming they or their products are green just to attract customers is called greenwashing and is something we have to look out for not just while travelling (it applies to airlines, tour operators and other service providers too) but also in everyday life!

But besides considering eco-friendly resorts, a basic and sensible practice to apply while you travel is to just be mindful during your stay to treat your hotel or accommodation as you would your home. Reuse your towels rather than having them switched out every day. Switch off lights and electronics when you're not using them, and reduce water wastage by taking shorter showers and turning off the faucets when not in use.

7. Do your research on animal-related attractions

Many of us are animal lovers and when we travel abroad, it's easy to be attracted to places where we can see animals up-close. However, an unfortunate truth is that many of these attractions operate under unethical circumstances where the animals are treated poorly or are living in subpar conditions. Given the lack of legislation or law enforcement in some parts of the world, these unethical operations go unchecked, with some of them even posing as animal sanctuaries!

So if you're planning to visit an animal attraction of any sort during your travels, do your research on the company in question first - look at reviews online, check the attraction's website for info they may share about where their animals come from and how the animals are taken care of. Red flags to spot may be specific to types of animals - for example in Thailand, places that allow tourists to ride on top of elephants or where elephants have to perform tricks during shows are often key indicators of unethically-run operations.

8. Be respectful of our environment  and go the extra mile to keep it clean

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This is another easy one that sometimes gets forgotten - it's important to be mindful of our environment and to be respectful of it. Which admittedly sounds really broad ? But it generally means to be mindful of our actions within our surroundings. In addition to the things we've highlighted in this list, other things to look out for can include:

  • Being mindful of the trash we produce and making sure that it's disposed of responsibly.
  • If you're out seeing nature spots, take the time to know the area's rules and regulations to help keep it well maintained. This also includes things like staying on designated trails when hiking so you don't trample plants or wildlife unnecessarily.
  • Help pick-up trash you see lying around places that you visit - you could even have your #trashtagchallenge!

And there you have it! 8 easy things to implement that can go a long way in helping our planet! This list is by no means exhaustive - do share with us any other tips you may do during your travels that are  eco-friendly ?