The importance and awareness of becoming environmentally friendly has risen exponentially over the past few years, making ethical travel and incorporating eco-friendly activities into your lifestyle easier than ever before. It may seem difficult to exercise the same habits while travelling since you have so many constraints to consider: time, space, or convenience. However, here we highlight a few ideas that you can follow to take that step forward as a responsible traveller. Responsible travel need not be as tedious or inconvenient as you think!

Disposable Underwear

Wash your underwear instead of using disposable ones, if possible.Credit: Patrick Kool via Unsplash

Disposable underwear may be necessary if you’re running on a tight schedule and don’t have the time to wash your worn intimates, or if you’re out hiking and are trying to keep your backpack as light as possible. But otherwise, washing your clothes at the end of the day is easier than it sounds and saves all that trash from entering the landfills.

Take into account your time available and how much you really need. If you still feel the need for disposable underwear, be sure to get eco-friendly options.

Insect repellents & Reef-friendly Sunscreen options

Various insect repellent optionsPhoto by Sharon on Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0

Insect repellent sprays are notorious for containing CFCs which destroy and deplete our ozone layer. However, keeping insects away when travelling is largely necessary. Insect repellents mainly function by masking your natural scent rather than repelling the creepy crawlies, so by switching to eucalyptus or peppermint oil sprays, you can avoid nasty bloodsuckers and damaging the ozone layer at the same time – killing two birds with one stone! But if the scent of essential oils come across polarising to you, consider getting CFC-free insect repellents. Some examples include: Repel’s Insect Spray, Osana Anti-Mosquito Soap, Deter Insect Repellent Wipes.

Many synthetic sunscreens, especially those produced in USA or Europe, cause damage to coral reefs, so pick your sunscreens wisely. I recommend getting a physical sunscreen such as La Roche-Posay’s Athelios 60, or chemical sunscreens which offer a good range of protection from UV rays as well as being environmentally friendly such as Krave’s Beet The Sun, or COSRX’s Aloe Soothing SPF50 PA +++.

Eat & Shop with Local businesses

Support the small, local businesses instead of large international brands or conglomerates.Credit: Katie on Flickr, CC BY 2.0

Support the local businesses, especially in largely tourist sites. Other than the economical advantages of inspiring competition and boosting the local economy, local businesses often leave a smaller carbon footprint compared to large chains or retail stores. Also, it’s always fun to build a collection of items purchased from mom and pop shops across the globe. Instead of visiting the souvenir shop or luxury boutique, explore the neighbourhood by perusing a hole-in-the-wall shop.

Incorporate eco-friendly activities in your trips

Make it a point to incorporate eco-friendly activities to your holidays - take the phrase "leave a place cleaner than before" literally.Photo by: Brian Yurasits via Unsplash

If you’re willing to go a step further to protecting the environment and setting an example even through your travels, you could incorporate eco-friendly activities during your trip. Some Thai touring agencies encourage tourists to pick up trash as they visit landscape sites, which is an excellent way to extend your help beyond your own measures.

A few eco-friendly activity ideas:

  1. Picking up trash as you hike down a mountain
  2. Cleaning up after yourself and others at the beach
  3. If you like fruits and vegetables, visiting a u-pick farm – This is a great idea for families or a group of friends!

Learn the language

Learning a new language shows the locals that you have put in the effort to learn about their culture.Credit: Daniel Gold via Unsplash

Express enthusiasm when learning about the language/culture, it will allow locals to respect you more and be more inclined to teach and offer advice to you. Even learning the proper hand gestures while saying common greetings or the polite names to address them can speaks volumes about your attitude towards the country.

A few key expressions to take note:

  1. Greeting elders
  2. Thanking restaurant staff after a meal, or train station operators.
  3. “No, thank you.” You’ll be surprised how often you forget to learn how to say this!

Take care of your fellow travel companions

One of the most significant characteristics of a responsible traveller is taking care of their companions.Photo credit: Jude Beck via Unsplash

Making sure you’re being a respectful and responsible traveling companion makes for a smoother, more enjoyable trip for everyone. This includes yourself, your companions, and even the locals. This means making compromises such as going for an attraction you may not be interested in, or forgoing plans when someone is feeling under the weather – a problem not uncommon to travelling.

Do your research of the destination

Doing your research allows you to avoid making mistakes which can potentially offend or upset the locals.Photo credit: John Schnobrich via Unsplash

I don’t mean safety, scams, or packing. Practice local etiquette and keep an open, humble mind to everything you are invited to experience. Travelling is all about widening your horizons and learning about other cultures, so keep that in mind when faced with new challenges or opportunities.

For example, refrain from criticising local beliefs even if you disagree with them. This means wearing covered shoes and modest clothing if you are a woman travelling to an Islamic state, or standing still with the locals when the Thai national anthem is being played out loud at the night market.


Be mindful of the objects and people you photograph - some people may be sensitive to their photo being taken, and some sacrilegious objects shouldn't be photographed.Photo credit: Jakob Owens via Unsplash

Be mindful of the people and objects you photograph. For you camera-heads out there, please make sure that the people and objects you photograph are comfortable or are allowed to be recorded. Photography can be a touchy subject since it can be taken as patronising or be seen as a sign of pity. To avoid such situations, you can ask them if they are okay with being photographed, and always greet them with a smile before and after taking their photo. Remember that they are doing you a favour by allowing you to record them.

In places of religious or cultural sanctity, it is important to know when and where to take photos. Some holy statues or portraits of political figures may not be available for photo-taking. When in doubt, refrain from taking pictures at all.

Don’t support animal tourism

Most forms of animal tourism involve the less-than-ideal treatment of the animals.Photo credit: Daniel Gynn via Unsplash

The rise of animal tourism (elephant bathing, camel riding, or deer parks) has led to an influx of careless mishandling of wildlife in many parts of the world. Please refrain from taking part in any activities which take advantage of or exploit captured wildlife.

If possible, try to avoid travel agencies and hotels that promote these attractions as well – check out their website to make informed decisions.

Stay at known eco-friendly hotels when you can

Finally, support eco-friendly hotels. Hotels are known to use massive amounts of water, electricity, and plastic waste. However, many are starting to become environmentally conscious with their plastic bottles, toiletry provision, etc. Here’s a list of eco-friendly hotels around the world.

Be it reducing the usage of single-use plastics or making the effort to conserve water, any small steps you take to protect the environment builds up in the end. If you’re reading this article, you’re already half-way there, and we couldn’t be more ecstatic! Time to follow through to complete the last half of the journey; here are some things which can help you out further:

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