12 Tips to be a More Responsible Traveller

Amy Rutter - Aug 31, 2021 - Inspiration

Here at Adventure Tours UK, we believe that travel shouldn’t cost the earth. 

We’re passionate about responsible travel, and strive to make sure that our adventures are as sustainable as possible, have a minimal environmental impact and have a positive effect on our local community.

We know our guests want to be more responsible travellers. So, we’ve put together this guide to show how you can reduce the impact your travels have on the planet.

By staying informed and aware, making good choices and making a conscious effort to be more responsible and ethical on our travels, we can all make a difference!

What is Responsible Travel and Why Does it Matter

Being a responsible traveller is all about making sure that our trips don’t have a negative impact on the places we visit, or on the world as a whole.

It means trying to make more ethical choices in order to protect the communities, wildlife, and environments of the places we visit.

Responsible travel is also about trying to be more sustainable, in order to protect the planet. Tourism is responsible for roughly 8% of the world’s carbon emissions (source), so it’s vital to make more conscious, environmentally-friendly choices when we travel to help reduce this.

Below, we’ve listed 12 top tips to help you be a more responsible traveller. Most of these are small, simple steps which won’t have much of an impact on your travels. But if we all try to practice responsible travel, these small steps could have a huge positive impact for our planet!

Our 12 Tips to be a More Responsible Traveller

1) Reduce your Carbon Footprint…

A group of responsible travellers on their guided mindful walk

Carbon dioxide is the primary greenhouse gas driving global climate change and it continues to rise every month (source). Lots of things contribute to our individual carbon footprints and many of us are taking conscious steps to combat them in our everyday life.

Travelling can have a pretty large carbon footprint – check out the examples below to give you an idea. We’ll be sharing a few tips for reducing it throughout this article, but the first step is to simply be more conscious of your carbon footprint.

  • The average UK person per day: 22-28kg CO2e
  • An average trip with Adventure Tours UK per person per day: 15kg CO2e
  • Driving 20 miles in the car: 5.6kg CO2e
  • A typical Dubai hotel room for the night: 99kg CO2e
  • An economy ticket from London to Ibiza: 206kg CO2e
  • An economy ticket from London to Vietnam: 1,352kg CO2e
  • A business ticket from London to Vietnam: 3,922kg CO2e

At Adventure Tours UK, we carefully evaluate the carbon footprint of every group tour and each one features a carbon label, so responsible travellers can clearly see just how low their impact is when they travel with us.

We’ve recently published our first Carbon Impact Report. We have measured our carbon footprint and have outlined our plans to reach net zero by 2030 in line with our Climate Emergency Plan.

2) …And Offset what you Can’t Reduce

Carbon offsetting isn’t a perfect solution, but it is a positive step in the right direction.

Offsetting involves calculating the carbon emissions generated through an activity (like flying), then “paying off” the equivalent amount via a scheme which removes carbon from the atmosphere (such as tree planting). There are several charities and organisations out there who can help with this, or you can calculate your emissions yourself and donate directly to a tree-planting charity. At Adventure Tours UK, we plant one tree for every responsible traveller on our small group adventures and tailor-made holidays. Find out more about our Ty’n-y-Pistyll Woodland initiative here.

3) Explore Closer to Home

Responsible travellers walking in North Wales

The last couple of years have seen a real boom in staycations and we’re delighted to see more people discovering just how many amazing places there are to explore in the UK. Opting for staycations instead of overseas travel can massively reduce your carbon footprint, especially if you choose to travel by train.

Plus, there’s been a huge rise in eco-friendly and sustainable travel options in the UK in recent years. From locally-sourced menus in restaurants to off-grid accommodation options, it’s easy to seek out responsible travel choices in our lovely home country.

4) Choose Greener Air Travel

Of course, there are lots of benefits to travelling abroad, too. There’s a lot to be said for exploring a brand-new culture and tourism greatly benefits the global economy. But the simple fact is that air travel has a huge impact on the environment. The global aviation industry contributes 2% of all human-produced CO2 emissions (source) and that figure is expected to rise unless action is taken.

Thankfully, progress is being made, with low-carbon jet fuel and electric and hybrid aircrafts in development. Hopefully the future will bring much greener methods of flying. In the meantime, we can take a few steps to ensure our air travel is as green as possible:

  • Choose the airline with the lowest average emissions
  • Do research and choose an airline that’s doing more to be efficient and sustainable.
  • Try to choose aeroplanes with the lowest emissions. For example, Boeing’s 787 and the Airbus A350 are more efficient than a Boeing 747 or the A380. Fly economy for lower emissions per seat (four times less than a business class seat)  
  • Try to fly less frequently
  • Avoid detours and layovers, because take-off and landing use the most fuel
  • Pack light: every kg of luggage adds to your personal emissions!

5) Opt for Low-Impact Travel

Responsible traveller paddling along a lake in Snowdonia

On the ground, avoid unnecessary flights such as short internal connections when possible and opt instead for low-impact travel options. Public transport such as trains, boats and buses are usually much more environmentally friendly than flying. It’s also a great way to see a county from the ground and get an in-depth experience of local life. 

When you’re exploring locally, travel on foot or by bike. As well as having almost no carbon footprint, this is another excellent way to immerse yourself in the local environment.

6) Seek Out Responsible and Ethical Tour Operators

One of the best ways you can be a more responsible traveller is to spend your money in the right places. And that starts with your tour operator! Look for tour operators who are supporting local businesses, helping their local communities, making ethical choices, and doing the right thing for the environment.

Responsible tour operators will usually have their brand ethics highlighted on their website and promotional materials – like our Adventure Promise. Seek out and support businesses who are doing the right thing, and hopefully that will encourage other travel companies to follow suit.

7) Book Eco-Friendly Accomodation

North Wales wild wellness retreat taken by a responsible traveller

It’s not only air travel that has a big carbon footprint. The hotel or accommodation you choose can also have an impact on your travel footprint too. 

Smaller accommodation, such as boutique hotels, homestays, cabins, camping and glamping all tend to be much more eco-friendly, as are hostels and shared accommodation.

Larger hotels and resorts often create more carbon emissions per person, although with the rise of eco-tourism it’s now easier than ever to find environmentally friendly options. 

A few things for responsible travellers to look out for when it comes to choosing eco-friendly accommodation:

  • Sustainably built properties
  • Carbon-neutral
  • Plastic-free
  • Locally sourced menu
  • Committed to reducing waste
  • Powered by green energy (or taking steps to minimise energy usage)

8) Help Counter Over-Tourism

If you want to become a more responsible traveller and reduce your impact on the places you visit, a good start is to consider where you go a little more carefully. Over-tourism is putting a burden on places we love; by pricing out residents, changing the local culture, causing environmental damage and putting a huge strain on infrastructure. 

Avoid popular destinations at peak times and/or try to visit them in the low or shoulder seasons instead. Better yet, swap busier destinations for slightly more “off the beaten track” places. Visit second cities instead of capitals, or state/county parks instead of national parks. Not only will you benefit from fewer crowds, but you’ll also be helping spread tourism out and boosting the economy of places that might not normally benefit from tourism.

9) Pack Plastic-Free

Picture of reusable aluminium bottle taken by a responsible traveller at Lake Coruisk

There are several things a responsible traveller can take with them on their travels in order to avoid single-use plastics while they’re away. 

  • Water Bottle. If you’re travelling to places where water sources might not be clean, a filtering water bottle is a great way to avoid buying plastic bottles of water
  • Plastic-free reusable cutlery and straws
  • Reusable coffee cup
  • Reusable food containers and/or silicone food pouch
  • Recyclable toiletry bottles and eco-friendly toiletries
  • Reusable Shopping Bag
  • Plastic-free razors
  • Bamboo Toothbrush
  • Fabric Face-Mask
  • Eco-friendly reusable period products, such as a menstrual cup or period-proof underwear

10) Eat Local and Seasonal

A team of responsible travellers cooking food on a glamping site

Discovering the local cuisine is a brilliant way to immerse yourself in the culture, experience new foods and get to know a bit more about the place you’re visiting. Plus, locally sourced food is much better for the environment. 

Food that’s had to travel hundreds (sometimes even thousands) of miles to reach your plate has a big carbon footprint. Eating local, seasonal food means less energy used to transport and store the ingredients. It also helps support local farmers and producers and gives the local economy a boost. And it just tastes so much better!

Even locally-produced meat tends to have a much higher carbon footprint than it’s plant-based alternatives, so mix it up and choose meat-free options when you can to reduce your impact even further.

11) Leave only Footprints

Storytelling around the campfire for a group of responsible travellers

Responsible travellers help keep the world’s beautiful wild spaces pristine. Whether you’re snorkelling on a coral reef or hiking in a national park, put all your responsible travel tips into practice and leave every destination exactly as you found it. 

  • Take all your rubbish away with you (or to the nearest bin, as long as it’s not overflowing). This includes organic waste, which can impact the local environment and encourage wildlife to rely on scavenging 
  • Stay on designated trails to avoid damaging the environment and wildlife. Getting lost also puts a strain on local rescue services, so it’s always best to stick to the paths 
  • Pack your plastic-free reusable dishes and cutlery
  • Seek out less-visited spots and avoid overcrowding popular attractions
  • Park safely and sensibly: don’t block roads or park in places that can cause inconvenience to locals, or worse, a safety issue. If the carpark is full, look for another hiking spot
  • Use existing firepits for cooking, practice fire safety and ensure all fires are completely out before leaving them 
  • Pay attention to any fire warnings and avoid using BBQs or campfires in areas where there is a risk of wildfire
  • If you’re camping, stick to designated spots on a campsite. Move your tent every few days when wild camping to let the grass recover 
  • Use eco-friendly, biodegradable washing up liquid and soaps
  • Use reef-friendly suncream for swimming in the sea

12) Be an Ambassador for Change

Practicing responsible travel is vital if we want to protect and preserve our planet and its incredible landscapes for future generations. It’s something we at Adventure Tours UK strive for with all our trips and we hope that more and more travellers and travel businesses will continue the current push towards more ethical, sustainable and responsible travel. 

One last thing you can do as a responsible traveller to help is to be an ambassador for change. There are lots of easy ways you can do that, such as sharing tips with your fellow travellers, or using your social media to highlight problems (as well as solutions). If you feel confident enough, you can also try calling out businesses who are making bad choices. 

Even a very small step can make a huge impact!