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Whether you're planning a family vacation abroad or a weekend city break, there are a number of ways to make your next trip more sustainable.

What is sustainable travel?

Sustainable travel means travelling in a way that strengthens the positive effects of tourism on culture, communities and the environment while lightening its negative impacts.

78 percent of Canadians think sustainable travel is a “vital” to reducing their impact on the environment.

Reducing your carbon footprint, avoiding waste, and spending more thoughtfully are just some things worth considering on your next vacation.

Here are a few ideas for sustainable travel that might work for your next trip:

1. Travel closer to home

While you may be tired of staycations and ready to see new scenery, the general rule is that the greater your travel distance, the larger your carbon footprint will be.

2. Consider transportation alternatives

Depending on your destination, it might be worth digging deeper into your transportation options to make travelling less carbon-intensive. Consider lower-emitting alternatives to flying when possible — especially when going from A to B can be achieved via a reasonable car, bus or train ride. Trains almost always have lighter carbon footprints than planes, and they can be a fun, road-trip-style experience for friends or family travelling together.

3. Book your flights consciously

With the attention now on sustainability in travel, you have many options at your disposal for assessing a flight’s climate impact. You can research an airline’s commitment to reducing its carbon impact, and Google now offers added carbon emissions scores to its flight-searching tool.

Also, avoid layovers when you can. Planes burn a significant amount of fuel during takeoffs and landings. (There’s another reason to splurge on that direct flight!)

4. Purchase carbon offsets for air travel

Companies offset their carbon footprint by funding renewable energy and carbon-removal projects through carbon credits — and you can too. Using an online carbon calculator, calculate the estimated amount of CO2 emitted by an activity — say, a flight to Orlando. Then purchase an equal amount of carbon credits. You can buy credits for certified carbon-offset programs through carbon retailers such as Sterling Planet and Cool Effect.

5. Choose a sustainable vacation destination

Thanks to the heightened demand for sustainable travel, your ultimate eco-friendly destination is only a quick web search away. Top “eco-friendly destination” lists abound.

A good place to start your search: The Government of Canada’s Destination Canada can help you find inspiration for your next trip.

6. Book eco-friendly accommodations

Good news: Thanks to consumer demand for sustainable options, booking climate-conscious budget-friendly accommodations is easier. Seek out sites specializing in sustainable stays, whether they’re reporting on carbon footprint scores or only featuring locations that meet a strict level of eco-conscious standards.

7. Pack lightly and mindfully

Sustainable travel can also start in your suitcase. Remember, the lighter your bag, the lighter your carbon footprint — less weight equals less fuel when flying. Pack a smaller amount of clothing. Consider bringing biodegradable shampoos, laundry detergent and non-toxic sunscreen, as some have chemicals that can cause damage to coral reefs.

8. Avoid single-use plastics

Single-use items can be convenient abroad, but they’re still avoidable. Consider packing things like your water bottle, travel mug, reusable shopping tote, and even cutlery (in your checked bag) when you travel. And consider a water filter or purifier so you don’t have to buy bottled water.

9. Dine on local ingredients

Adopting a farm-to-table approach and exploring local ingredients can help reduce your carbon footprint while travelling. Plus, it ensures you’re enjoying authentic, local meals.

10. Embrace slow travel

On your next vacation, avoid visiting numerous destinations — checking off as many cities and sites as possible. Slow travel is a trend that lets you soak up what a single place has to offer and immerse yourself in the culture.

11. Live climate consciously while you’re there

All the ways that you reduce your carbon footprint at home could also apply when you’re abroad.

  • Recycle where possible.
  • Try to be mindful of your water, air conditioning and energy usage.
  • Opt out of the daily sheet and towel turnover at your hotel.
  • Many cities have bike-share programs you can take part in or look into renting an e-bike or electric scooter.
  • If you rent a car, consider a more climate-friendly option, such as an electric vehicle.

Your road to sustainable travel

Travelling more sustainably is doable. With a little research, planning, and mindfulness, making changes on your next vacation can be easy. The best part is that your eco-friendly getaways can combine your desire to help the planet with your desire to see the planet.