How to Be an Eco-Friendly Traveler

Categories:Travel, Travel Tips
Jessica Peterson

Girl at Ubud Monkey Forest Sanctuary, Bali

As of December 2014, I’ve traveled to 82 cities in 18 countries and have few regrets… besides not being a more eco-friendly traveler. This earth is a gift to us and as travelers we should always hold it in high esteem. That means being more conscious of the impact we make not only on nature, but on animals and people too. Here’s to practicing what I preach going forward…


Nature is self-cleaning and travelers should be too!

Pack Reusable Water Bottles

sip n go travel containers

I know, I know — buying more stuff to use less? Yes, sometimes that’s the solution! I get sick when I push a koala-sized amount of food trash into a bin, especially when it’s from a single meal. It’s ridiculous to carry around your own utensils, or is it? Not when it’s a collapsible water bottle. I just bought one of these and it will definitely be a travel essential wherever I go, even at home!

Pick Up After Yourself

trash and Japanese bunker in Palau's Rock Islands

It goes without saying that littering anywhere is a sin, but even moreso when you travel. It doesn’t matter how dirty the place is, being a tourist who litters is the worst kind of tourist. If you’re a really good person, you’ll even seek out a recycling bin!

Avoid Questionable Tour Companies

Kayaking through Palau's Rock Islands

When doing research for a trip to Thailand, I discovered that some elephant tour companies treat their animals harshly, even abusively. Animals are a vital part of any eco-system so it’s just as important to respect wildlife as it is to avoid damaging the environment. Do your homework before you book tours and activities anyway, but especially in places with fragile ecosystems, corrupt governments, or endangered animals.

>> READ NEXT:  20 Photos of Bali That Will Make You Pack Your Bags and Go

Take Public Transportation

Crowded metro train in Tokyo, Japan

If you can avoid renting a car, do so. Public transportation in most countries is cheaper than car rental and can be a wild ride. Ever ridden in the back of a Jeepney in the Philippines? How about Tokyo trains at rush hour? Using public transportation is another way to avoid traveling like a tourist.

Smoking is Air Pollution — Don’t Do It

Borneo orangutans in Tanjung Puting

Even third-hand smoke — smoke left over in the room — has now been linked to health problems. Be a darling and just don’t light up! People like me will be very glad you didn’t, especially in crowded places like tourist sites, train stations, outdoor cafes, etc. And definitely do not smoke at nature preserves!

Respect Protected Environments

Drakensberg Mountains, South Africa

Some nature preserves are off-limits and for good reason. Even if we don’t know why a certain park or sight is forbidden, respect the signage and stay out. Some ecosystems are so fragile, even footprints are destructive.

How do you strive to be an eco-friendly traveler?

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Jessica Peterson

Jessica Peterson is a travel filmmaker, photographer, and journalist. She released her first documentary film about indigenous culture on Guam in 2016, after having lived nearly 7 years on the Pacific island.
Jessica Peterson
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  1. TravelingWellForLess
    January 2, 2017 at 11:18 pm

    Yes, I try to be as eco-friendly as possible both at home and traveling.

  2. The Travel Ninjas
    January 3, 2017 at 12:10 am

    Good tips on being more eco-friendly. We’re always learning too and always trying to do better.

  3. Chris Nash
    January 3, 2017 at 2:08 am

    I think you mention some great ideas, which you would think are simple common sense (but somehow, sadly are not).

    When we don’t have the opportunity to travel with our own water bottles, we simply re-use the plastic ones we purchase!

    Nothing annoys me more than people dis-respecting the local rules of their own gratification (like the 4 young Americans who decided it was a good idea to not only climb the off limits temples in Tikal, but even scribe their names into the ruins).

    As for getting around, we always walk when possible, or public transport 🙂

  4. Mar Pages
    January 3, 2017 at 3:35 am

    These are all very pertinent points and I hope more travelers can read this post. There’s nothing worse than seeing foreigners disrespect the nature, animals and people of other countries. I’m all for eco-friendly and sustainable travel. Thanks for your awesome points and for practicing what you preach!

  5. AdventureFaktory
    January 3, 2017 at 2:53 pm

    I see more and more travellers taking care of this topic and encouraging it. We try the most to optimize the eco-friendliness of our travels, although some activities and places don’t always help as it is the only option..

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