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THE MASTER ROADMAP: 7 Steps to Sustainable Travels

What is Sustainable Travel?

It’s not as out there as it may sound. Sustainable means anything having an environmental, social and economic benefit. OK, we get it… still a little hard to wrap your head around. Let’s break it down for travel: 

Not so bad, right?

Oh, and one other important note on sustainability: it’s impossible to do perfectly. It’s best done one step at a time, and if we all get that far we’ve made great progress already. And while we’re still uncovering what is truly best for the planet, rest assured doing something is always better than nothing. 

My passport’s ready! Remind me why this is such a big deal? 

Tourism supports 1 in 10 jobs worldwide (10.4% of global GDP)1 and there were 1.4 billion2—yes, with a B—of us traveling last year and growing. Compare that to 25 million in the 1950’s3 and you can understand the buzz about the problem of “overtourism.” We’re trampling our favorite places.

Some other not-fun facts: We’re pouring one dump truck of plastic into the ocean every minute4 and we’re the biggest factor in wiping out 60% of mammals, birds, fish, and reptiles since 1970.5 All this means your actions as a traveler adds up to a big impact as we increasingly threaten natural and cultural treasures. To slow this and have a chance to reverse the damage, we must act now. 

OK, I’m following you, now what?

Welcome to the smart traveler club. Here are the ways you can take action into your own hands to travel responsibly. (Rinse and repeat: remember, best tackled a few steps at a time!)


About 40% the world’s plastic is made for single-use and we’re recycling under 23%.4 Just say no to single-use bags, bottles, cups, and wasteful travel-size plastics.


We need to cut our emissions by more than half to limit global warning this century. But it’s projected global air travel emissions will increase 70 percent from 2005 by 2020.6 It’s critical we cut back where we can.


Break out of the tourist bubble! Where you go, what you do, who you talk to, and what you buy makes a big difference. Often, as little as $5 out of every $100 spent by a visitor stays in the country’s economy.8 Why not spread the wealth and focus on putting your dollar towards experiences that put the local economy first.


Do unto others… Make a point to do a little research on the local cultures and customs, acceptable behavior, current issues, and any other sensitivities before you go and you’ll surely enrich your experience.


Its said 60% of the millions of wildlife tourists a year pay – knowingly or not – to participate in activities with negative animal welfare and/or conservation impacts.9 It’s up to us to ensure, as the saying goes, we “take only pictures, leave only footprints.” Let’s walk the walk on the wild side!


Sometimes even the most well-intended actions can lead to more harm than good. It’s important to be thoughtful about your charitable impacts with these basic do’s and don’ts.


Your actions, from observing the practices above to carrying reusables and other cool responsible gear, naturally set an important example to inspire others. Keep it up.

Phew, well done if you made it to here! It can be a lot to take in, but the bottom line is, do your basic research, plan ahead and don’t hesitate to ask questions. Then simply do your best to put people, planet, and prosperity for all first. As the Zero Waste Chef Anne-Marie Bonneau puts it, “We don’t need a few people doing zero waste perfectly, we need a million people doing it imperfectly.”

Responsible travelers, let the adventure begin!


  1. https://www.wttc.org/about/ 
  2. https://skift.com/2019/01/21/global-tourism-growth-slowed-in-2018-but-arrivals-still-hit-1-4-billion/
  3. https://www.nationalgeographic.com/travel/features/overtourism-how-to-make-global-tourism-sustainable/
  4. https://news.nationalgeographic.com/2018/05/plastics-facts-infographics-ocean-pollution/
  5. https://www.wwf.org.uk/updates/living-planet-report-2018
  6. https://www.vox.com/energy-and-environment/2019/1/11/18177118/airlines-climate-change-emissions-travel
  7. https://www.ucsusa.org/sites/default/files/legacy/assets/documents/clean_vehicles/greentravel_report.pdf
  8. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/13/travel/sustainable-travel.html
  9. https://www.wildcru.org/news/wtm-responsible-wildlife-tourism/
  10. https://www.discoverwildlife.com/uncategorized/the-worlds-most-cruel-animal-attractions/  
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