12 ways to reduce your carbon footprint when traveling abroad

By Julius
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12 Ways to Reduce Carbon Footprint when Traveling

With global warming on the rise and increasing pollution around the world, it’s super important to reduce our carbon footprint when traveling abroad.

Carbon is a so-called greenhouse gas and the primary driver behind rising temperatures around the globe.

The travel industry is responsible for more than 8% of annual global greenhouse gas emissions. This should give you a perspective on how crucial it is that we adopt more sustainable travel practices and lower our emissions whenever and wherever we can.

Here are 12 ways to reduce your carbon footprint when traveling abroad. Most of them are totally hassle-free to implement!

1. The Green Route: Choose Eco-friendly Transportation

Tourism-related transportation accounts for more than 5% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Airplanes, bus rides, boat trips, taxi rides, rental cars…Anything that burns fossil fuels like gasoline emits carbon dioxide and increases global warming.

When planning your trip, consider the most eco-friendly mode of transport available. Often, the greenest way to travel is using buses, trains, or public transport in general. They generally emit fewer greenhouse gases per passenger than airplanes or boats.

For some destinations, however, air travel is unavoidable. In such cases, direct flights are more fuel-efficient as take-offs and landings generate the most carbon emissions.

2. Less is More: Pack Light

Every extra pound on a plane requires more fuel, leading to higher emissions. So, packing light not only makes travel more convenient but also more sustainable. Limit yourself to essentials, choose lightweight clothing, and consider versatile items that can be mixed and matched.

Open suitcase
Lighter luggage makes traveling easier and more sustainable.

For divers, hikers, or other adventurers, consider renting equipment at your destination rather than bringing it from home.

3. Stay Green: Choose Eco-friendly Accommodation

Where you stay also impacts your carbon footprint. As a rule of thumb: The more a building consumes and the less it’s insulated, the more energy it consumes…and the larger its emissions.

Many hotels and resorts now prioritize green practices, such as energy-efficient lighting, renewable power sources, water conservation, and waste reduction. When choosing your accommodation, look for certifications like Green Globe, LEED, or EarthCheck. You might also consider eco-lodges, homestays, or even camping.

At Social Diving, we offer a number of eco-friendly hotels, lodges, and camps for sustainable traveling!

4. Go Digital: Reduce Paper Waste

Reducing paper use and waste is an easy way to reduce emissions which also makes travel much easier. Use electronic tickets for your flight, train, bus, or event bookings. Download maps and guides onto your phone and ask to be sent your receipts and invoices via email.

Not only will this reduce paper waste, but digital options are also often more convenient and always at your fingertips.

5. Say No to Single-Use Plastics: Carry Reusable Items

Single-use plastics are a significant environmental problem, particularly in countries without robust waste management systems. Check out these numbers from Statista on plastic waste: A whopping 353 megatonnes every year!

Carrying a reusable water bottle, tote bag, cutlery set, and food containers can dramatically reduce your plastic waste. Many cafes and restaurants now offer discounts for customers using their own cups or containers, so you might even save money by going reusable.

6. Food for Thought: Consider Your Dining Choices

Food production accounts for about 26% of global greenhouse gas emissions. By making thoughtful food choices, you can significantly reduce your carbon footprint.

Opt for vegetarian or vegan meals when possible, as plant-based foods generally require less energy and water and produce fewer emissions than meat and dairy.

Salad ingredients
Eat fewer meat and dairy products to reduce carbon emissions.

Meat is your vegetables? In that case, you can still choose locally sourced, seasonal food, which not only supports local farmers but also reduces emissions associated with food transportation. So next time you’re somewhere remote, ditch the food from a big chain and eat the local cuisine!

7. Offset What You Can’t Avoid: Invest in Carbon Offsetting

Carbon offsetting is a way to compensate for your unavoidable emissions by funding projects that reduce or remove greenhouse gases. These projects might include reforestation, community projects, or renewable energy initiatives. Some airlines offer carbon offsetting as part of the booking process, or you can independently purchase offsets from certified organizations.

At Social Diving, we work with our sustainability partner Reegy to offer carbon offsets on all our travel packages.

8. Explore Responsibly: Choose Eco-friendly Activities

It’s not hard to imagine that a hike through nature emits less than driving a four-wheeler through the woods.

Whenever you have the choice, opt for low-impact activities like hiking, biking, or kayaking over energy-intensive options like jet skiing or four-wheel driving. Scuba diving and freediving are also great ways to connect to nature and emit less carbon!

Freediver with group of dolphins
Speak about a low-carbon sport!

If you’re visiting natural reserves, stay on designated paths to avoid damaging ecosystems and disturbing wildlife. Consider participating in eco-tours or volunteering for local conservation efforts to give back to the places you’re visiting.

At Social Diving, we offer coral restoration trips and other eco-friendly options!

9. The Local Way: Support the Local Economy

Supporting local businesses is a critical aspect of sustainable travel. As explained under #7, choose local restaurants that use locally-sourced produce, which reduces the carbon emissions associated with food transportation.

Local tour operators are often more likely to invest back into the local economy. Buying locally crafted souvenirs not only supports artisans but also avoids the carbon emissions tied to mass-produced goods.

However, make sure the local population understands this, too, and only support those that take action to preserve their environment. This also means double-checking that any souvenirs you purchase are authentic and not cheap imports.

10. Choose low-carbon travel destinations

It’s no secret that some countries are more resource-efficient and smaller emitters than others.

While this may have to do with the degree of industrialization, it is also largely connected to the electricity mix used, available public transport, and how educated the population is on sustainability.

For example, the Falkland Islands are among the top 5 lowest-emitting countries in the world. However, they are also extremely hard to get to from most countries and always require high-emitting long-distance travel.

Others like Iceland, Switzerland, and Norway are much more accessible and still considered green travel destinations.

Hallstatt in Austria
Some countries offer easier ways to travel green than others.

11. Knowledge is Power: Educate Yourself and Others

Understanding the impact of your travel choices is the first step towards more sustainable travel. And once you do…educate others, too!

Encourage your travel companions to make eco-friendly choices, and share your experiences and learnings through your social media platforms or travel blogs.

12. Make an Impact: Use Your Holidays to Preserve the Environment

One of the greenest ways to travel is by spending your time actively protecting our environment. There are different ways to do so and at Social Diving, we can help you find the perfect Eco Travel package.

Some things you can do on your next trip:

  • Plant trees for a reforestation project
  • Collect trash with volunteers at local beaches and rivers
  • Help regrow coral reefs

And the list goes on!

For example, at Social Diving we have started our own coral reef protection project and work with local divers and organizations to plant corals.

12 Ways to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint Infographic

12 Ways to Reduce Carbon Footprint when Traveling


While it may seem challenging to reduce your carbon footprint while traveling, it isn’t hard to make an impact. Most of the tips above won’t cost you anything extra and with a little planning ahead, you can even save money.

So, as you set off on your next adventure, remember that every step you take towards sustainable travel helps protect our incredible planet for generations to come.

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About the author

Hey! I'm Julius, professional scuba instructor, diver, outdoor lover, entrepreneur and CEO and founder of Social Diving. I write about scuba diving (including tech, cave, sidemount, and freediving), travel, and love what I do. If you have any questions, send me a message. :-)

©2024 Social Diving. All rights reserved. The content presented here is the exclusive property of Social Diving and may not be copied or distributed, in whole or in part, without the express permission of Social Diving.

Social Diving is your #1 online source for scuba diving, scuba travel, water sports, learning, and having fun in and under water. We have scuba online articles, review plenty of (scuba) gear, and regularly post travel guides around the world.


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