5 Tips for Sustainable Travel

By Sharon Schweitzer


The Global Sustainable Tourism Council and the United Nations emphasize numerous criteria for responsible travel. Many travelers have inquired about the Global Sustainable Tourism Council Criteria. The GSTC provides a set of minimum requirements that a tourism business or destination must aspire to for approval:

  • environmentally friendly tourism practices;
  • protecting cultural heritage and natural sites; and
  • social and economic benefits to the local people and economy.

So what can you do, whether traveling in the U.S. or abroad, to reduce your carbon footprint, and have a positive impact on your destination and local culture? Consider these tips while traveling: 

  1. Lodge with Locals. If you want to stay in an environmentally and socially responsible establishment, look for certified accommodation providers like boutique hotels, B&Bs, and eco-lodges. Beware of “Greenwashing,” which is an attempt to make people believe that an organization is doing more to protect the environment than it is in reality. If you’re uncertain, research and ask questions. There are many world-class sustainable resorts that are committed to their environmental and social responsibilities. One resort example includes Soneva; they are using sustainable materials, recycling waste, eliminating plastics, conserving water, and protecting the local ecosystem. www.soneva.com/soneva-fushi
  2. Dine Local. Sustainability is a movement in many of the world’s restaurants. Farm-to-table dining provides an opportunity to learn about the area’s culture and traditions. Two years ago, we explored our adventurous side in a mustard cooking class in France, and it was a fun cultural experience. In Burgundy, six of us sipped our way through a wine-pairing at a vineyard to savor the local terroir. Looking for a specific restaurant? Jean-Georges restaurants have made a public commitment to sustainability. “We have started small by focusing on produce. We are committed to examining each aspect of our businesses to determine the cause and effect of what we do each day with the goal of erasing our carbon footprint and focusing on the health and well-being of the individuals who consume our food.” When making dinner reservations, research online, or ask your concierge to find a sustainable choice. www.jean-georges.com
  3. Shop Locally. A great way to understand a culture is to connect with the locals by supporting area designers, artists and craftspeople in the local community. Destination Geneva, Paris, Moscow, Tokyo, or Toronto after the pandemic? Shop Charlotte Bialas, where every piece of clothing is designed with a purpose; to be durable and sustainable. By producing garments for long term enjoyment, and manufacturing them locally in Paris, they reduce their carbon footprint. Their collections are produced in small sustainable runs and limited editions, to avoid overproducing excess units. Online at www.charlottebialas.com.
  4. Transportation. Inevitably, there are unavoidable carbon emissions from your travel itineraries. According to www.carbonfootprint.com, the travel sector accounts for 8% of global carbon emissions. Consider the tips below to reduce your footprint:
    • Take a direct flight whenever possible. Direct is most likely a more desirable choice, so how can you stay proactive once you arrive at your destination?
    • Consider renting a hybrid or electric vehicle. Traveling in the US, Canada, or the UK and need speed? Find a Tesla or a BMW i8 on Turo where you simply enter a location and date and browse thousands of cars shared by local hosts. www.turo.com
    • Feeling sporty? Rent a bike! Taking time to cycle around and explore your destination is a great way to take in the scenery, get some fresh air and exercise.
  1. Skip Single-use. Single-use plastic and styrofoam materials like bags, bottles, cups, and straws pollute our planet and kill our marine life. Consider traveling with your own refillable water bottle, travel mug, reusable straw, and tote bags:
    • Water Bottle: Perfect for travel, the LARQ self-cleaning purification water bottle uses UV-C LED light to eliminate up to 99.9999% of bio-contaminants from your water and bottle. Self-cleaning with a built-in filter? Yes, please. www.livelarq.com
    • Reusable Straw: Miami-based jewelry designer Miansai knows the plastic-straw-ban is a lasting environmental movement. They joined the conversation by creating their own line of eco-conscious Copper and Brass Drinking Straws. The industrial-inspired designs feature classic grooves and lines for a vintage appearance. The four-pack comes with a genuine Italian leather pouch; pack it wherever you drink. www.miansai.com
    • Travel Mug: Even if you had the Versace Medusa Studded Travel Mug, you might be hesitant to travel with it ($1,100 at Neiman Marcus). For a sustainable travel mug, consider the tried and true YETI Tumbler. Available in a variety of colors, it keeps your drink hot (or cold) to the last drop. www.yeti.com
    • Tote Bags: Plastic bags are so 2000, be mindful and B.Y.O.B. (Bring Your Own Bag). If you want a bag that gives back, try a FEED bag. FEED is an impact-driven lifestyle brand with an enduring principle—people’s choices of what to buy and wear have the power to change the world. Sales of their artisan-made products provide meals and sustainable livelihoods for their artisan partners and their families. (Bags range from $38 – $298)  www.feedprojects.com

In part, due to the sustainable travel movement, many people are seeking culturally conscious excursions. We hope this helps you navigate your next luxurious expedition. Bon Voyage!


Photo by  U.S. Army, Spc. Michael Camacho

Sharon Schweitzer JD, is a diversity and inclusion consultant, cross-cultural trainer, etiquette expert, and the founder of Access to Culture. In addition to her accreditation in intercultural management from the HOFSTEDE Centre, she is an attorney and mediator. Sharon served as a Chinese Ceremonial Dining Etiquette Specialist in the documentary series Confucius was a Foodie, on Nat Geo People. Her Amazon #1 Best Selling book in International Business,  Access to Asia: Your Multicultural Business Guide, won a coveted Kirkus Star, and was named to Kirkus Reviews’ Best Books. She’s a winner of numerous awards, including the British Airways International Trade Award at the Greater Austin Business Awards.

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