There is no doubting the beneficial effects that travel can have on the planet, from fostering greater intercultural understanding to assisting in wildlife protection. The travel industry, which generates 313 million employment globally, is one of the most powerful in the world, according to the World Travel & Tourism Council. However, there are also drawbacks, including the burden on cities brought on by tourists, the lack of money going to support regional economies, and the usage of fossil fuels by large aircraft. Fortunately, there are several easy ways to reduce your environmental footprint without completely redoing your trip thanks to advice from travel industry professionals.

1. Choose a destination that values sustainability

The top three most sustainable countries in the world, according to the 2018 Environmental Performance Index, are European countries Switzerland, France, and Denmark. Albania improved its ranking from 61st in 2016 to 40th in 2018 by prioritizing the protection of wild areas, such as its one and only national marine park, Karaburun-Sazan Marine Park, which is supported by the United Nations Development Programme and the Global Environment Facility. Namibia was the first country in Africa to include environmental protection in its constitution, and with the help of the World Wildlife Fund, local communities are given the authority to protect, manage, and profit from the wildlife on their grounds.

2. Consider how you get there

It's time to reevaluate how we travel since, according to the 2018 Environmental Performance Index, air quality poses the greatest environmental risk to human health. Although choosing an environmentally friendly airline is one of the simplest methods for tourists to reduce their carbon footprint, flying by plane is frequently the only practical option to reach some of the world's most desirable locations. When possible, fly direct and choose a carrier that utilizes sustainable aviation biofuel, such as United, Qantas, and KLM. Even better, according to the International Transport Forum, taking the train can result in up to a 10-fold reduction in carbon emissions compared to flying. Additionally, high-speed trains like the carbon-free Eurostar use three times less energy than regional trains.

3. Book eco-conscious accommodations

A sustainable hotel does not imply that the establishment forgoes amenities. Think about how your visit will affect the local ecology before you make your next travel plans. By following a zero-plastics policy, Angama Mara in Kenya's Masaii Mara reduces its environmental effect. By 2019, other EDITION Hotel hotels will do the same. Time + Tide's Mchenja and Chinzombo camps in the South Luangwa region of Zambia use renewable energy from solar panels, a rainwater filtering system, and were constructed with natural resources including grass, thatch, and recycled composite. Additionally, hotels are restoring natural regions. When building Nayara Springs in Costa Rica, no trees were felled, and since Bisate Lodge in Rwanda opened its doors in 2017, Wilderness Safaris has planted 20,000 trees there.

4. Support local economies, and opt for sustainable activities

According to the World Tourism Organization, just $5 of every $100 spent on a trip goes to the destination, which means there is a huge untapped potential for tourism to boost local economies. Intrepid Travel, a company that offers more than 1,000 journeys led by 1,000 local guides, aims to make sure that tourist spending supports small companies rather than large-chain ones. Other businesses make an effort to offer environmentally friendly activities, such as the low-impact hiking offered by REI Adventures and the bicycling tours offered by DuVine Cycling + Adventure Co., which perfectly blend discovery and immersion.

5. Reduce food and plastic waste

Only 9% of plastic is recycled, and over 8.3 billion metric tons of plastic have been manufactured in the past 60 years, according to a 2017 study published in Science Advances. By 2050, if such patterns hold, there will be 12 billion people on the planet. Take into account food options like Patagonia Provisions while packing for road trips. In addition to being portable and packaged in recyclable containers, products like beef jerky and wild salmon fall under the brand's mission to use food to combat climate change. African nations such as South Africa, Ethiopia, and Kenya all forbid, tax, or outright outlaw the use of plastic bags. Single-use bottles may be the most dangerous type of plastic trash.

6. Limit energy use and conserve water

Long, hot showers are the ideal way to wash off a tiring day of travel, but the startling quantity of water and energy consumed by tourists has a considerably greater detrimental impact on residents than most tourists are aware of. According to Nicolas Douillet of the United Nations Development Programme in Europe and Central Asia, "Two billion people around the world don't have access to safe running water." Bruno Correa, the founder of the sustainable tourism organization Bee + Hive, thinks that tourists can demand more of their host destinations and hotels in terms of water and waste management. "Turning off the tap when you brush your teeth, reusing towels, and taking short showers isn't just our moral imperative, it's pure common sense," he says.

7. Leave a place better than you found it

When booking a trip with an outfitter like GeoEx, an environmental donation is already included in the trip price. The same is true of Volcanoes Safaris; a portion of each safari reservation supports local charities and the protection of the great apes of Rwanda and Uganda. This idea, according to Black Tomato co-founder Tom Marchant, is helping out local communities in need. "I'm pleased to see that our customers prefer to travel to places that have recently experienced calamity and the ensuing economic hardship: the Sonoma wildfires, the Mexico earthquakes, and the Cape Town drought. More people than ever need to visit these towns, and many of our customers are moved to make additional philanthropic contributions thereafter.