Take A Green Trip: 10 Things To Avoid As An Eco-Traveller

It’s hard being an eco-traveller—so many lavish vacations, too many excellent meals, and lots of overseas purchases to make mean that being eco-friendly can go right out the door, right?

Wrong. Being an eco-traveller is surprisingly easy if you’re willing to be a little conscious about your spending and your choices while abroad. True, sometimes it requires a little footwork (sometimes more literally than figuratively), but the outcomes are anything but ordinary and can really make the difference between keeping a community thriving and seeing it dissolve under the pressure of industrialisation over the next few years.

But to get around that fear and that guilt, it’s easy to make changes that can help create sustainable travel communities. It just requires a little bit of planning, out of the box thinking, and commitment to having an off the chart time. Are you ready?

1.Tourist hotspots.

1. eco-traveller avoid tourist hotspots www.grassrootsnomad.com national park

Many of the places people pick for their holidays are filled with tourists. I’m not naming any names, but if you are dying to see Radio City Music Hall or the Eiffel Tower, there’s really no way around frequenting a particular city, country, or even neighbourhood these must-see sites come with big carbon emissions and often culture addicted to the traveller’s spending.

Try this instead: A nature inspired adventure. While no one is saying there’s a replacement for getting an apartment overlooking Central Park for a weekend romp in the city, I would suggest that there are equally wonderful vacations that are a little bit off the map and therefore, a little bit more eco-friendly. Getting away from the big metropolises and getting closer to nature through a visit to a National Park not only puts your money towards conservation efforts, but it can also be a breath of fresh air!

2. All-inclusive anything.

1. eco-traveller avoid tourist hotspots www.grassrootsnomad.com national park

All those Sandals resorts are beautiful and very convenient for people wanting to spend their vacation on their back in the sun and sipping lots of beautiful frozen cocktails. But what most of them aren’t is eco-friendly. Many of them don’t have a recycling program, alternative energy resources or sustainable community enrichment programs – for me, it means no deal.

Try this instead: Eco-lodges. There are places all over the world that make staying in an eco-lodge something of a beautiful dream that doesn’t include all of things that you fear when you hear the word ‘eco-lodge’ (like bugs, no air conditioning, bathing in streams…wait, that last one doesn’t sound so bad). Not only are they conservation friendly, but they will also immerse you in an experience so luxurious you’ll forget you’re doing something fairly decent for the earth. Don’t just take my word for it though, you’ve got to see it to believe it!

Laura’s tip: Eco-hostels are a great option and suit every budget. Check out these 4 reasons why travellers should love eco-hostels

3. Getting room service.

3. eco-traveller avoid tourist hotspots www.grassrootsnomad.com hotel room

It doesn’t take a genius to know that getting housekeeping to come pick up after you every day is bad for the environment, but so is leaving your charger in the wall while you’re out for the day, disposing of trash that could be recycled, or taking the extra toiletries when you have your own soap.

Try this instead: Putting your “do not disturb” sign on the door. It’s easy, doesn’t waste the housekeepers’ time, and means you’re being a little more conscious all around. My golden rule when travelling is this: if I don’t need it at home (like sheets changed every day and fresh towels after one shower) then I can live without it while I’m abroad.

4. Global roaming fees.

4. eco-traveller avoid tourist hotspots www.grassrootsnomad.com cell phone

It’s not just about the expense (although the expense is a really, really big deal) but it’s also about outsourcing. While it may seem small to you, the energy that it takes to ping back your signal across the world is significantly smaller than if you opt for something smarter than an international plan.

Try this instead: A local SIM card. Not only are you going to get data roaming fees at the local price (and it’s good for local business!) you’re also going to get better data roaming bars. My suggestion is to turn off your data roaming, stick to free wifi, and download Skype, that way you don’t even have to load a data card with that much money. Make it your first to-do after landing in a new city to make it to a cellphone kiosk to purchase one. Either you can get the service guy to do it or install it yourself (in 99% of cases, it works automatically, but if not, try unlocking your phone, and then you’re good to go!

5. Destinations far, far away.

5. eco-traveller avoid tourist hotspots www.grassrootsnomad.com road trip

Every time a plane lifts off the ground, there’s a lot of carbon emissions getting strapped to your name (sometimes seven times as much as ground travel). While it may seem bad for the environment for you to road trip around Europe, or finally discover the secrets of Route 6, the truth is, it’s actually much better for the environment than a flight.

Try this instead: A destination near you. Sure, it seems less exotic at the time to say you spent your vacation just 4 hours away from home, but what you save in travel time is more time spent on vacation!

6. Take out food.

6. eco-traveller avoid tourist hotspots www.grassrootsnomad.com street food

Bags and styrofoam pile up at the end of the day and even if you’re one to recycle those plastic and paper containers for yourself at home, there’s sometimes no great way to do that while you’re travelling. Those extra things can really add up over a trip if you’re not careful.

Try this instead: While you’re travelling there are delicious snacks around every corner for you to taste test, so I suggest ordering a little less than you think you’ll eat at each place and snacking more frequently. Not only does it save on take-out packaging, but it also means you get to taste more of the local cuisine. Or, alternatively, eat street food. Doner kebabs come wrapped in a small amount of aluminum and chicken satay comes on wooden sticks, but they’re still mobile, more eco-friendly than styrofoam, and as delicious as anything you’ll eat at a table.

7. Taxis.

7. eco-traveller avoid tourist hotspots www.grassrootsnomad.com bike

Some cities require taxis to get around – for example, from the airport to the medina in Marrakech you definitely need a taxi. But once you get to your destination, especially in Marrakech, there’s no reason to take a taxi.

Try this instead: Public transport, renting a bike, or walking. In Amsterdam, the real local experience comes with two wheels and a bike chain! In Marrakech, you discover so much once you’ve let go of wheels and allow yourself to wander on the ground. So don’t be afraid to get a little sweaty — I only know one person who ever suffered from a fatal melting!  

8. Pamphlets handed out in the street.

8. eco-traveller avoid tourist hotspots www.grassrootsnomad.com no

I remember when I was in Stephansplatz in Vienna and I kept getting heckled to the point of actual tears in the square for operas and plays and musical offerings that I decided from then on I would just take whatever pass they were handing out and then be on my way. But taking every card that a promoter hands you may seem easier but is a waste of resources in the end.

Try this instead: Just say no. It gets easier each time you say it, I promise! Keep talking with your travel buddy, keep your head down, or just practice “no” in the mirror instead — it’s the only way to get better!

9. No imports.

9. eco-traveller avoid tourist hotspots www.grassrootsnomad.com beer

It all comes down to the beer (more or less), and here’s my rule: drink like you’re at home. You’d never go to Germany and have a French wine at the bar, would you? When it comes to getting an authentic experience and also being good to the earth, you’ve got to sacrifice a little bit in the way of imported goods. My advice is just not to buy them unless it’s an emergency, and with lots of great brews around in Germany, the best is the one that’s brewed within the borders.

Try this instead: Eat at local places and shop at local markets. It’s great for the local economy if you buy their products, so purchase things that are made in-house. Apply this approach to your food, your souvenirs, your last-minute drugstore runs, and everything else.

10. Pick a carbon offset adventure.

10. eco-traveller avoid tourist hotspots www.grassrootsnomad.com nepal

This isn’t a thing to avoid actually, this is a really good thing! Carbon offset adventures take into account everything that you need to have a great adventure but then they supplement the spending with a little giving as well.

Try this: Companies like Intrepid Travel calculate exactly how much it’s going to take to get your where you’re going, and they let you know upfront, so that when you do things on your trip like take shared transport, or have a shared meal in a local house, or walk with a local guide through the mountains of Nepal, you know that you’re making an impact that goes beyond catching a plane ride and parking it on the beach. Because in the long run, it’s the things that we actively do, the things that we really care about, that are going to last for generations to come.

So pack your bags, remember your manners and refuse to get those noodles take out—it’s a tiny difference maybe, but with enough time can incite real change. And that’s what I’m all about. Bon voyage!

Photos: Creative Commons Zero from Unsplash.

About the Author – Meet Claire!

positive impact www.grassrootsnomad.com

Claire is a self-confessed travel nut. She has been travelling around the world since her Mum farewelled her in a teary goodbye, and she hasn’t looked back since! You can read all about her adventures through 48 cities in 26 countries on 4 continents on her blog Traveltio.com.

Thanks again to Claire for the wonderful guest post. Make sure you check out her blog Traveltio, for more eco-inspiration!!



Learn what to avoid and how to be an eco-traveller and travel responsibly. Read at www.grassrootsnomad.com




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I love the problem-solution style of this entry, it avoids whining about “idiot tourists” but instead gives some good advice.

For the housekeeping: many hotels are already taking it into consideration, telling the guests to leave their towels on the floor if you need them changed or installing toiletries dispensers instead of single packets.

I especially agree with keeping the local economy flowing by using local services which gives you better experience anyway.

Grassroots Nomad

I agree, Anna! Supporting the local economy means you get a better experience while helping out at the same time.


Great tips. All travellers should read this. If only I knew about elephant exploitation before I visited Thailand.. I would have avoided elephant trekking, for example.

Grassroots Nomad

Thanks Roberta. Travel is always about learning and we all do things and then later learn something new and thing….eeek, wish I hadn’t done that! It’s great that you know now and will avoid it in the future and are more aware of these sorts of things 🙂


We avoid touristy spots as much as possible! They’re so crowded and overrun and expensive to boot! These are great tips to go by for a more authentic, responsible tour experience.

Grassroots Nomad

I agree! I did a lot of research when I went to the Great Wall of China to find a quieter time/location to go to and it made the world of difference!


These are great tips. I have to check out Intrepid Travel and Eco Lodges. As an environmental engineer, we have carbon credits for our wastewater treatment plants, I never considered apply the same theory to travel.

Grassroots Nomad

Thanks Aisha – I hope you are able to use your environmental engineering skills in lots of other aspects of your life!


These points on eco travel are excellent! Even though I travel a lot, I have never given serious thought about how much carbon footprint I leave behind. Thanks for reminding me. I would love to try your tips.

Grassroots Nomad

Thanks Salini – I’ve been trying to travel a lot more slowly and by land wherever possible to cut down on my flying time. Every bit counts!

Grassroots Nomad

Local really does matter. I’m in NYC at the moment and have found that people are slowly emphasising ‘local’ a bit more – cooking class at someone’s house, using local farmers and producers, local fabrics, etc. Local is important!


There are a lot of things in this list I didn’t even think about having an effect on the environment. Still a wannabe eco-warrior. 😉 We’re doing quite well on tip 5 though, doing a trip around the world and combining countries that are close together in one trip. 😀


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