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5 Ways to Travel More Sustainably

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Baylor chapter.

Traveling, whether for work or pleasure, is often not inherently the most eco-friendly endeavor. Between the plastic mini hotel shampoos and the plastic bags from souvenir shopping, it can feel difficult to enjoy your vacation and find ways to be more friendly to the Earth. I’ve developed five sustainable travel tips that will not just make your life easier, but the Earth’s too.

Forget Clothing at Home? Thrift It.

One of the biggest lessons I have learned while traveling is that you don’t have to buy everything from a name brand store. Let’s say you’re traveling somewhere cold and you forget to pack more than one layer—go to your destination’s local thrift shop. More often than not, you’ll be able to find a well-kept, warm coat in great condition. Not only are you contributing to the cycle of reusing, you’re also buying a great product at a fraction of the price that fast-fashion stores will be selling it for. The best part is that the money from your thrift shop coat purchase will go back to the community and ensure the survival of the thrift shop which will continue the process of reusing. 

Let’s say you’ve bought something thrifted to get you through your trip but you don’t have enough space to take it back with you… donate it! Sell it to a consignment shop! Take it to another thrift store! Keep the cycle going! And if you do have enough space to bring it back, you’ll return home knowing you gave that coat a great second chance.

Know You’ll Be Shopping? Bring a Tote.

Ya’ll, I can’t even begin to tell you how helpful and easy this is. If you’re going to a place where you’ll be buying your own groceries or you just know you’ll want to shop at, bring a tote or two from home. I’m not talking about the fat insulated totes with a zipper, more along the flexible canvas kind—something that can easily be squished into your backpack or folded into your purse. In fact, there are all sorts of travel totes that can be ordered on the Internet. Go find one that fits your needs and style! Bring it with you wherever you go, you’ll never know when you’ll need an extra bag to carry something. Even more so, this allows you to say no to plastic bags while on the go. Just bought a souvenir? Put it in your tote. Leftovers from lunch? Put it in your tote. The travel tote is not just a handy item to keep on you, it also benefits the Earth. And if you’re in a place where a bag is an extra ten cents with your purchase, you’re saving money!

Out at Dinner? Whip Out Your Reusable Straw.

If you’re anything like me, you exclusively drink out of a straw. I’m not sure if it’s because I don’t trust the cleanliness of glasses at restaurants or if I am just weird, but I almost always ask for a straw wherever I am dining. Thankfully, most places have switched to paper straws in an effort to be green. The unfortunate thing is, everyone I know (myself included) hates them. They melt into your drink and start to collapse with each sip. It’s not a pleasant drinking experience in any sense of the word. Additionally, if you are traveling anywhere outside the US, there are many places that just don’t carry straws! The solution? Carry your own reusable straw. There are so many cool brands out there that have created some truly creative reusable straws. There are some that collapse and hook onto your bag, others come with a case! Either way, carrying one around will keep you from having to use both plastic and paper straws. It is in both your best interest and the Earth’s best interest to invest in a reusable straw. Trust me, it is a life saver.

Ditch Plastic Water Bottles. Embrace a Refillable One!

This is most likely the tip I have used the most during my travels! Whether traveling by plane, train, or automobile—you need a refillable water bottle. Countless times have I walked through security at the airport just to see a stranger at the vending machine buying a plastic water bottle. With a refillable one, I just go to the water fountain near the bathrooms and fill it up. It’s both free and eco-friendly. Instead of buying plastic water bottles, just carry a reusable one around. Most reusable water bottles are easy to pack in a day bag and if you get an insulated one? Your water stays ice cold all day. Most restaurants, or any place that serves food, will be more than happy to fill up your water bottle. Don’t be afraid to ask! This saves you money, keeps your water cold, and is good in reducing the use of single-use plastics. (Plus you can get a reusable water bottle with a straw—something most single-use plastic water bottles don’t have).

Skip the Printing and Switch to Online

For my final tip, stop printing out your tickets. Whether you’re going to the zoo or boarding a plane, most (if not all) places have the option for an online ticket.  If you have an iPhone, there is even a feature on your Apple Wallet that allows you to download your tickets. This is something that is practical for you to do. Have you ever been in a situation where you were searching your bag for your ticket, your heart racing because you couldn’t find it? This is the perfect solution. You’d never be so careless as to lose your phone, so just download your ticket instead! It reduces the use of paper and ensures that you will never lose your ticket! Not to mention, knowing you have a ticket on your phone will keep you on top of charging your phone. It truly is a win for everybody!

Traveling and being eco-conscious can seem impossible, but it doesn’t have to be. Use these tips and not only will you be making your life easier and saving money, you’ll also be helping the Earth. 

Liz McRae

Baylor '23

Hi, friends! I'm Liz. I love writing (obvi 😉), reading, and basically anything with a good plot. I am passionate about justice and fairness, especially in regards to women's issues and rights. I hope to go to law school and put that passion to use. In the meantime, I am a regular contributor here with a lot of opinions and stories to share!