What Is Green Travel And How Can You Do It?

The Eco Experts

Green travel is travelling whilst limiting your environmental impact

The travel industry accounts for 8%-11% of the world’s carbon emissions

Ways to travel green include flying less and buying locally sourced products

More and more people are becoming conscious of how travel can have a negative impact on the environment.

This isn’t just because travel encourages more high-emission flights, but also because of the negative impact travel can have on the ground, in destination countries.

That’s where the concept of green travel comes in.

We’ll explain what green travel is in this article, and why it’s needed. We’ll also give you tips on how to make your next holiday greener.

woman with arms outspread on suspended wooden bridge going through forest

What is green travel?

Green travel means travelling whilst taking care to limit the negative environmental, economic, and social impacts of travel.

It can also be called sustainable travel, responsible travel, or eco-tourism.

Green travel isn’t just limited to using eco-friendly means of transport to get to a destination. It also applies to the activities leading up to – and during – a trip.

This could mean limiting the use of single-use plastics, shopping and staying at locally owned shops and hotels, and not littering.

Is completely ‘green’ travel realistic?

Completely ‘green’ travel is unrealistic. In many cases, it’s often impossible to avoid the use of fossil-fuel-powered or low-carbon transport, or single-use plastic, as not all countries have the infrastructure in place to avoid these things.

Green travel operates on the principle of “reduce, reuse, and recycle”, with reduction being the most important part. This means reducing travel, and when travelling, reducing the carbon footprint of travel.

Travelling with zero carbon footprint is not only unrealistic, it’s virtually impossible for most people.

What’s the carbon footprint of the travel industry?

The travel industry accounts for between 8% and 11% of the world’s carbon emissions, according to the World Travel and Tourism Council.

However, this could increase as more and more people are travelling each year.

For example, while tourism took a hit during the Covid pandemic lockdowns, it’s already set to bounce back to 80-95% of pre pandemic levels by the end of 2023.

7 tips for achieving green travel in 2023

Here are our seven tips for achieving green travel in 2023:

  1. Fly less
  2. Use public or shared transport
  3. Stay at an eco-friendly hotel
  4. Avoid single-use products
  5. Shop and eat at locally owned businesses that have local products
  6. Book trips with sustainable travel agencies
  7. Use carbon offsetting programs with caution

1. Fly less

The first, and hardest step towards sustainable travel is to fly less.

Aviation is one of the most polluting industries, accounting for 2% of global emissions, according to the International Energy Agency. That might not seem like a lot, but it basically means that global aviation has a bigger carbon footprint than the UK as a whole.

Where possible, choose to travel by train, or electric vehicle. None of these options are totally green, but they have a lower carbon footprint than flights.

In the UK, a domestic flight emits 246 grams (g) of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) per passenger per kilometre, while rail travel emits 35g.

If your only option is to fly, try to book direct flights. Not only are direct flights more time efficient, they’re more energy efficient. Less time in the air means less fossil fuel being burned.

2. Use public or shared transport

Try to use shared or public transport when going to the airport (if you can’t avoid flying), and while you are at your travel destination. Essentially, avoid renting or driving petrol or diesel vehicles.

Road transport of passenger vehicles accounts for around 45% of all transport emissions.

Buses, trains, or trams might not be green-forms of transport, but using shared transport reduces carbon emissions per passenger. Driving one kilometre in a bus equates to around 97g of CO2e per passenger. For a petrol car it’s 170g.

3. Stay at an eco-friendly hotel

Staying at an eco-friendly hotel will help you reduce waste and keep your carbon footprint down at your chosen travel destination.

To be considered eco-friendly, a hotel needs to implement all or most of the following steps:

  • Reduce its energy and water use
  • Reduce the amount of single-use plastic it provides to guests
  • Provide locally sourced food products to guests
  • Use environmentally friendly cleaning products (no harsh chemicals)
  • Encourage guests to be sustainable by providing bike rentals, recycling services, or energy saving tips

Hotels can be certified as eco-friendly by several independent programs, such as Green Globe, Green Key, or the Global Sustainable Tourism Council.

Websites such as Booking.com now also give sustainability measures for hotels on their site. But be sure to check the hotel’s website for full information of their practices, and certifications if they have any.

woman hiker sitting on ground in forest drinking out of reusable water bottle

4. Avoid single-use products

Avoid single-use products when travelling.

Tourists produce up to twice as much waste as local residents in some areas, according to Sustainable Travel International.

That’s not to mention the waste that’s generated whilst getting to a travel destination. For example, airlines generated 5.2 million tonnes of cabin waste in 2016, most of which ended up as landfill.

While you aren’t able to control how airlines manage their waste, you can control how much you produce, especially at your destination.

Measures such as filling up mini travel bottles with shampoo and shower gel from home, using bar soaps and shampoos, and packing a tote bag to carry groceries or souvenirs in at your destination, will all help you reduce waste.

Plastic bottle waste is a particularly big problem, so bring a reusable bottle and fill it up at water fountains, or in the hotel, if the local tap water is safe to drink.

5. Shop and eat at locally owned businesses that have local products

Shopping and eating at locally owned businesses that sell local products during your stay will help the local economy, and help reduce your carbon footprint while travelling.

The reason? Food miles. Food miles refer to the distance a food product travels before it reaches your table. The more miles it travels, the higher the food’s carbon footprint, since most forms of transportation are powered by fossil-fuels.

This doesn’t just apply to food, but all products, including trinkets, art, or clothes you buy as souvenirs.

So, try and shop local where you can. You’ll probably also enjoy fresher food, and get more unique souvenirs if you do. It’s a win-win.

6. Book trips with sustainable travel agencies

Sustainable or eco-friendly travel agencies can make it easier to plan a trip in line with green travel principles.

Many of them are partnered with local hotels and tour operators, so that money from tourism is invested back into the local economy. Some also work with wildlife conservation groups.

One of the largest sustainable travel companies is Intrepid Travel. They claim to be carbon neutral since 2010, and also claim to have contributed over £6 million to 130 community organisations since 2002.

Responsible Travel is a UK based company that helps travellers construct eco-friendly trips. It does this through its network of over 450 travel companies, which Responsible Travel carefully screens against its own sustainability criteria.

7. Use carbon offsetting programs with caution

Many airlines, travel agencies, and hotels have carbon offsetting schemes you can choose to participate in.

Participating in carbon offsetting schemes is not a bad thing, but be wary of claims that it will offset all the carbon emissions from your travel.

Multiple investigations have shown that some of the world’s largest carbon offsetting schemes don’t work, for a variety of reasons, including lack of longevity.

Participating in schemes aimed at reforestation or providing people with green-tech will typically do more good than harm, but it doesn’t completely cancel out your travel carbon footprint.


It’s important to remember that fully green travel – travel that doesn’t result in any CO2 emissions or other forms of pollution or waste – is, currently, impossible.

As individuals, all we can do is limit our impact, and pressure governments and larger bodies to do the rest.

There are lots of ways to limit the negative impacts you have when travelling, and even ways to create positive impacts, by funding and participating in local conservation and community projects for example.

For more ways to be eco-friendly in your everyday life, read our handy tips.

Green travel: FAQs

Green transport includes a variety of modes of transportation, such as electric vehicles, bicycles, e-scooters, or simply walking. Public transport, though not always emissions-free, is also considered a greener alternative to single-occupant petrol or diesel cars.

An example of green travel could be taking trains, or driving an EV from London to Edinburgh, instead of taking a plane. Staying at a certified eco-friendly hotel during your stay also counts as green travel.

Costa Rica, Norway, and Iceland are all good spots for eco-tourism. These countries either have policies that protect wildlife, an abundance of eco-hotels, or use a lot of green energy to power infrastructure and homes.
Written by:
Tatiana has written about multiple environmental topics, including heat pumps, energy-efficient household products, and solar panels. She is dedicated to demystifying green tech to make eco-friendly living more accessible.
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