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With travel on the horizon, the world is anxiously waiting to jump on a plane and explore a new country. While the excitement is understandable, it is important to think about how we can travel more sustainably. The wildlife returning to its natural habitat after tourists were forced to flee the area is no mere coincidence, so how can we resume our travels while letting the world maintain its semi-restored state? No traveler is perfect and no habits are without error, but we can all do better. Here are five ways to travel more sustainably through lifestyle and product choices.

Travel Slower

Although it may be tempting to check as many countries off of your bucket list as soon as you are able to travel again, you should think twice about doing this. Traveling slower, i.e. with minimal flights and by staying within one economic zone, is better for everyone involved. Not only does avoiding countless short flights save on carbon dioxide emissions, but it also helps you to support the local economy more directly. It truly is a win-win in that it is economically and environmentally more sustainable.

Use Less Plastic

Yes, save the turtles. But no, it does not stop with simply eliminating plastic straws from your life. Use less plastic by not using single-use shopping bags or utensils, reduce plastic consumption by using a reusable water bottle and a water filter, use less plastic by not taking meals to go. There are so many ways to decrease your plastic consumption, and straws are just the beginning.

Invest Locally

When you are picking which hotel to stay at or where to eat your next meal, try to stay locally to support the local economy. By spending money that will in higher percentages return directly to locals, you are directly supporting the local economy, which is one of the most important aspects of sustainable tourism. Big brand hotel loyalty is tempting, and sometimes is the best option, but supporting the local economy should always be at the forefront of your mind when selecting your next hotel or meal. Also, mom-and-pop places often have great deals, great recommendations and local flair.

Eat Locally

Eating at restaurants that are owned by locals is one of the best ways to support the local economy of where you are visiting. Additionally, by eating locally sourced food, especially produce, the carbon footprint of your actions will be lower than eating imported food. This is not to say that you should never have your favorite fruit when traveling if it is not local to the area you are visiting, but you should eat it sparingly and favor the local produce. Plus, it’s important to try the local produce — maybe you will find your new favorite fruit or vegetable!

Remember the Impact of Your Actions

Your digital footprint is still a footprint. If you post a spot that people may not otherwise know about, the foot traffic towards it will increase and have adverse implications on the environment surrounding the place. Depending on the location, this can also lead to large-scale gentrification causing the place to become overrun with non-locals mistreating the environment and place. Do not be this person. If you want to go to a place and it is safe to go to and it is not trespassing, go. But, it is unnecessary to post the exact location.

If you are anything like me, you are surely looking forward to getting back on the road and traveling again. However, with some key lifestyle and travel changes, we can begin to travel more sustainably for the benefit of not only the Earth, but ourselves. I hope that you learned something and may consider some of these changes moving forward in your travels. Until the next trip, ciao!

MaryCate (she/her/hers) is a Senior International Studies major with a concentration in the Environment & Development and minors in African Studies and French Studies at the University of San Francisco. MaryCate is Campus Correspondent of HC at USFCA. She loves traveling, baking and all things related to coffee. While in San Francisco, you can find MaryCate getting brunch with her friends or indoor rock climbing in the Presidio. While not in San Francisco, MaryCate is frequently passing time at home with her parents in France or traveling anywhere, when safe.
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