How can you as a traveler make a difference? The advice we consistently hear from travel industry experts is to start small. “You can quickly become overwhelmed by thinking that huge, sweeping changes are the only way to make a difference,” says Upchurch. “The truth is small changes make a big difference.”

Here are five easy ways to be a more sustainable traveler. The Global Sustainable Tourism Council also provides guidelines at www.gstcouncil.org/for-travelers/.

Contribute to the local economy. Buy locally made arts and crafts; stay in locally owned accommodations, and dine in locally owned and operated eateries. But never, ever buy wildlife products that support trafficking of endangered species.


Reduce waste and help keep plastic out of the system. Avoid using disposable plastic products; refuse plastic shopping bags and straws. Take shorter showers.

Use public transportation. Walk, bike, or use ride shares. Rent fuel-efficient cars, and consider which airlines you fly. The International Council on Clean Transportation (www.theicct.org) compares the fuel efficiency of airlines.

Go off the beaten path. Visit lesser-known places and sites; go off-season and visit popular places during off-peak hours to limit your impact. Travel in small groups, led by local guides.

Pick one new thing to learn during your travels. Ask questions. Be curious. “Conversation is the quickest way to become a more aware traveler,” says Upchurch.

Support sustainably conscious travel companies. Are they protecting the local environment and cultural heritage? How? Don’t sign on with a travel company until you know.