Travel Light: New Study Reveals Most Effective Ways to Minimise Carbon Footprint When Travelling

Travel Light: New Study Reveals Most Effective Ways to Minimise Carbon Footprint When Travelling

New study reveals the most effective ways to reduce carbon footprint whilst travelling.


With growing interest in sustainable travel, there is lots of advice available – but how do travellers know what actions will have the biggest impact? Luxury safari company Yellow Zebra Safaris has calculated the effectiveness of some of the most common tips in the industry.

The analysis revealed that ocean-friendly suncare and leaving plastic packaging at home are the top two ways to reduce both your carbon footprint and waste impact most efficiently when travelling. 

The score is calculated by working out how each change would lower levels of carbon emissions and waste production. This is then tallied as a total positive impact score out of 20. The higher the score, the better the impact on the environment –

1.Switch to ocean friendly suncare15/20
2.Do away with all plastic bottles15/20
3.Adhere to single-use plastic bans14/20
4.Reduce your meat consumption or try veganism12/20
5.Go sustainable with your swimwear11/20
6.Pack lighter10/20
7.Eat locally9/20
8.Opt out of housekeeping whilst travelling8/20
9.Choose smaller hotels6/20
10.Conserve energy that you don’t need3.5/20

Ocean-friendly suncare earned the top spot due to its high impact on both carbon emissions and waste. By switching to ocean-friendly suncare, you both protect the coral reef from being further polluted by oxybenzone (a common toxic ingredient in sunscreen) and also use less plastic, as most ocean-friendly sunscreens come in zero-waste packaging. Choosing this over plastic bottles of suncare can save up to 132.g of Co2 per person a week, earning this tip a strong 15/20.

Read more: 11 Eco-Friendly, Ocean-Friendly and Coral Reef-Safe Sunscreens For Outdoor Lovers

Image supplied.

Reducing the usage of single-use plastics tied for first place. With the average water bottle taking 450 years to decompose and the huge carbon impact of processing and transporting plastic, making a conscious effort to avoid single-use plastic will make your travel more environmentally-friendly.

Estimates show that one 500ml plastic bottle of water has a total carbon footprint equal to 82.8 grams (about three ounces) of carbon dioxide. Switching plastic single-use bottles to a reusable one will save 0.01449 tonnes of CO2 per year (per person!), lowering the contribution to plastic waste by 175 per cent.

Reduce Your Carbon Footprint? Study Reveals the Best Eco-friendly Tips When Travelling

Other high scoring tips were:

  • adhering to single-use plastic bans – countries such as Tanzania now advise visitors to avoid bringing plastic bags in their luggage.
  • reducing your meat consumption or trying veganism – a meat lover’s carbon footprint is over double that of a vegan’s.
  • buying sustainable swimwear – brands that use recycled materials to create swimsuits lower the overall carbon impact and plastic waste associated with swimwear manufacturing.
  • reducing luggage down to a 15kg overall weight – this could save up to four gallons of fuel per trip.
  • eating locally – this can significantly reduce ‘food miles’ compared to centrally produced food from chain restaurants.
  • opting out of housekeeping – this could save considerable amounts of water waste.

Related Post: My Big Fat Carbon Footprint: Is My Love of Travel Mother Nature’s Worst Nightmare?

Grindelwald, Switzerland. Credit: Sheldon Martineau/Unsplash.

Whilst any effort to reduce a traveller’s carbon footprint and wastage is a positive, our findings scored choosing smaller hotels and conserving unnecessary energy the lowest. Due to the sheer amount of power that is required to still run a hotel, choosing smaller hotels will have less impact. (Although by choosing smaller hotels, guests can save up to 1.3 times the amount of carbon compared to a large hotel!) Conserving unnecessary energy can still be helpful, but technological advances have already greatly reduced the amount of power used by standby-mode electronics.

With the tourism industry predicted to grow by 4% every year, and, on average 24% of an individual’s footprint in greenhouse gas emissions coming from our love of travel, the direct impact we are having on our environment has caused the travel industry to try to find a balance between travelling and respecting the planet at the same time.

Thoughtful travel can provide many benefits to both the traveller and the communities they visit. Making sustainable and manageable choices whilst away will allow us all to continue exploring the world while helping to preserve it.

To learn about carbon offsetting your entire trip, read this.

To access more information about the study and references, click here.

This media release was submitted by Artefact.

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Feature image of Siargao Island in the Philippines by Roland Varsbergs/Unsplash.

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