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How To Travel More Sustainably In 2024

Learn What Is Sustainable Travel + 8 Ways To Travel More Sustainably

|July 4, 2023
Anhelina is a travel writer with over five years of experience specializing in Iceland. With a background in foreign languages and translation, she conducts in-depth research to provide readers with detailed insights into Iceland's landscapes, culture, and hidden gems.

Sustainable travel shouldn't just be a trend; it should be a new normal in today's world. But where do we begin? We set out the list of ways how you can travel more responsibly and sustainably in 2024.

The tourism industry can come at a cost to the environment and local communities if humans behave irresponsibly. Crowded streets, pollution, habitat loss, and gentrification are problems in many tourist destinations. To address these issues, countries implement various measures, such as banning reef-toxic sunscreens, limiting cruise ship numbers, and protecting marine ecosystems. However, much work still must be done to ensure sustainable tourism practices.

In this article, let’s dive into the concept of responsible tourism and look at some sustainable travel tips below!

What Is Sustainable Travel?

According to the World Tourism Organization, sustainable tourism is "tourism that takes full account of its current and future economic, social and environmental impacts, addressing the needs of visitors, the industry, the environment and host communities."

Sustainable travel could be named as an antonym to "over-tourism", which describes a situation where an excessive number of tourists visit a popular destination resulting in damaging the local environment and disrupting the well-being of its local residents.

To summarize, sustainable tourism is a set of principles and practices that aim to minimize the negative impacts of tourism on the environment, society, and economy. Sustainable travel promotes responsible travel choices that conserve natural resources, preserve cultural heritage, and benefit local communities.

Key concepts of sustainable travel

You need to know that sustainable travel has three key concepts: environmental protection, social responsibility, and economic benefits. By minimizing pollution, conserving biodiversity, respecting local cultures, and supporting local economies, you can also contribute to the overall sustainability of your travel destinations.

Adventurous Sustainable Travel in Iceland

Woman Standing In the Icelandic Landscape

Types of sustainable travel

You might have heard about different forms of sustainable travel, including eco-tourism, community tourism, and responsible tourism. Eco-tourism focuses on experiencing and conserving natural environments, while community tourism emphasizes engaging with local communities. Responsible tourism promotes ethical practices and seeks to minimize negative impacts on the environment and local cultures.

How To Travel Sustainably?

Traveling more sustainably is easy. If you want to become a more conscious traveler, there are several ways in which you can adapt your behavior, from using fewer plastics to choosing a more sustainable travel destination. See our sustainable travel tips below!

What Is The Most Sustainable Way To Travel?

There is no straight answer to this question as sustainable way to travel varies between individuals, different distances and locations. Generally, modes of transportation with lower carbon emissions, such as trains or buses, are more sustainable than flying. However, if flying is necessary, opting for direct flights and choosing airlines with efficient aircraft can help reduce environmental impact. 

Other considerations include embracing slow travel, avoiding single-use plastic, offsetting your footprint, and packing light and efficiently. We talk more about sustainable travel tips below, so you can enjoy a greener journey in the way that suits your situation.

The Future Of Sustainable Tourism

Sustainable tourism future looks promising, as there are new trends focusing on innovation, technology, and collaboration. Sustainable practices, such as renewable energy adoption, smart destination management, and community-driven initiatives, will continue to shape the future of travel, and you can be a part of it!

8 Ways To Travel Sustainably

Environmentally friendly travel starts with each one of us. 

That’s why we collected these sustainable travel tips that will empower you to make your trip more planet-friendly! From eco-friendly accommodations to responsible transportation choices, you can embrace sustainable travel practices and create unforgettable experiences (with minimal ecological footprint!).

1. Plan A Longer Vacation

travelers planning trip and writing on map

Friends planning a trip

It is clear that air travel contributes greatly to air pollution, and it is very difficult to avoid flying while traveling. But there are several ways to reduce your carbon footprint. One of them is planning a longer vacation. 

Slow travel is a mindset that encourages travelers to embrace a more leisurely and immersive approach to exploration. By staying longer in one place, engaging with local communities, and minimizing travel distances, slow travel allows for a deeper connection with the environment and culture, while reducing carbon emissions. 

So how does it work? Instead of taking dozen of flights per year, travel once or twice per year, but longer. Why not exchange a long weekend in Paris for a 2-week trip around Europe? A lot of great memories are guaranteed. Plus, you'll be flying maybe twice instead of 12 times!

2. Avoid Single-Use Plastics

man holding thermos bottle in mountains

Man standing at viewpoint and holding thermos bottle

We are all already familiar with the downside of plastics. Even though the hotel chains and other travel companies are doing their best to switch plastics into more sustainable materials, there is something you can do right now. This might be the easiest sustainable travel tip: start by traveling with your own reusable water bottle, ditch the plastic bags at the supermarket, and try to bring your own cutlery and metal straw, if possible.

3. Leave Nothing Other Than Footprints

man camping in  Iceland inside car rooftop tent

A man camping in a car roof top tent mounted in Hofn camping site, Iceland

You probably heard this before, but respecting nature is the essence of responsible travel. Local environments are often fragile, and touristic activity can easily harm its wildlife or the natural landscape. 

So our sustainable travel tips for camping enthusiasts is to camp only at the places it is permitted to camp, respect the boundaries and rules defined by local authorities, correctly dispose of waste, and be careful not to leave any rubbish behind. Be especially mindful while visiting national parks and nature reserves as the environment there tends to be extremely fragile.

woman picking trash from ground into garbage bag

A woman picking up the bottles and cans outdoors

4. Choose A Sustainable Travel Destination

Try to avoid destinations that suffer from over-tourism and choose destinations with good sustainability credentials. Iceland is among the world's most sustainable countries with almost 100% of electricity provided by renewable energy. Although, as in many countries, Iceland has suffered from over-tourism. Try to travel during the off-season when the crowds tend to be smaller, so you can enjoy nature and local culture to the fullest.

Panoramic view of Kirkjufell mountain in Iceland

Scenic view of Kirkjufell Mountain in Iceland

5. Choose Green Travel Experiences

Make sure that the experiences and activities you partake in while traveling have a positive impact on the local economy and well-being of locals. Are the animals treated ethically? Is the money going back to the local economy? Are people being paid fair wages? These and other factors should be considered while booking any activity.

We at Arctic Adventures do our best each day to contribute to the local economy and to the well-being of both nature and people. For example, we have planted over 10,000 trees which helped to offset 46% of yearly CO2 emissions. Check out our sustainability page to learn more.

6. Make Sustainable Food Choices

Eat locally grown and organic food, shop at farmers' markets, and avoid imported or chain restaurants. By choosing locally sourced food, you can reduce the carbon footprint associated with transportation, support sustainable farming practices, and strengthen local economies. Research local markets, seek recommendations from locals, choose farm-to-table restaurants, pack sustainable snacks, and be mindful of seafood choices to ensure a sustainable and flavorful culinary experience!

7. Choose Eco-Friendly Sustainable Transportation

When possible, choose sustainable transportation options, such as using public transportation, cycling, or walking, which significantly reduces carbon emissions and environmental impact. Minimizing flights, especially for shorter distances, and opting for train or bus travel can also contribute to more sustainable journeys. Of course, fllying to some destinations might be unavoidable, but you can choose a more sustainable way to move around the country. Switch cars to trains or other public transportation. If you do decide to rent a car, choose a more economic model, or ideally, an electrical one.

young woman with backpack walking in train station

A woman standing at train station platform

At Arctic Adventures, we are gradually renewing our vehicle fleet with 100% electric cars in order to lower CO2 emissions. For example, in 2019 alone, our fleet was extended with three 100% electric cars, which helped to lower our yearly emissions by 50.8 tons of CO2.

Electric van in Iceland

Electric van by Arctic Adventures

8. Support Local Businesses

Some local businesses, like family-run souvenir shops and restaurants, rely on tourism for their living. Choose smaller hotels or B&B's over big hotel chains. Dine at the local restaurants where you will not only support small businesses of the local communities but also get a real taste of their local food.

tourists looking at local Icelandic souvenirs

Tourists buying local souvenirs at the Christmas market in Iceland

During our multi-day tours, we try to visit small local businesses, so our guests can purchase handmade souvenirs and try real local food.

Traveling more consciously may seem daunting at first, especially if you're used to traveling differently. But the sooner you try it, the sooner you'll notice the beauty of traveling with consideration. In the end, Earth is only one planet, and we all have to share it.

Eco-Friendly Travel In Iceland: What Can You Do?

What is the most sustainable way to travel in Iceland?

In Iceland, the most sustainable way to travel is by utilizing public transportation, renting a fully electric vehicle, or joining group tours that prioritize sustainable practices. Strætó, the public bus system in Iceland, operates in Reykjavík and throughout the country. Visit for timetables, route planning, and ticket purchases. The bus network is extensive, so you can travel around the whole island. Note the summer/winter schedules and local bus networks in the East and Westfjords.

How can I reduce my carbon footprint while traveling in Iceland?

To reduce your carbon footprint in Iceland, consider opting for eco-friendly accommodations that utilize renewable energy sources and have implemented energy-saving measures. Take advantage of the country's well-established network of hiking trails or join hiking tours to explore natural areas on foot or take a bicycle trip. Additionally, support local food producers and choose restaurants that serve locally sourced Icelandic cuisine.

Are there sustainable alternatives to traditional accommodations in Iceland?

Yes, Iceland offers sustainable alternatives to traditional accommodations. Look for eco-friendly hotels, guesthouses, or farm stays that follow green practices such as waste reduction, energy efficiency, and responsible water usage. Another option is staying in camping sites that provide facilities for environmentally conscious campers.

How can I support local communities and minimize my impact while traveling in Iceland?

Choose locally owned accommodations, restaurants, and tour operators to contribute directly to the local economy. Respect the fragile nature of Iceland's environment by staying on marked paths, not disturbing wildlife, and following the "leave no trace" principle. Additionally, learn about Icelandic customs and traditions to interact respectfully with locals and their way of life.

What are some sustainable practices when visiting natural areas in Iceland?

When visiting Iceland's natural areas, prioritize responsible practices to preserve the pristine environment. Stick to designated trails to protect fragile ecosystems and avoid damaging delicate vegetation. Follow wildlife viewing guidelines and maintain a safe distance to minimize disturbances. Properly dispose of waste, including human waste if camping, and leave the natural environment as you found it.

How can I incorporate sustainability into my travel planning in Iceland?

Incorporating sustainability into your travel planning for Iceland can be simply choosing accommodations certified by the Icelandic Tourist Board's environmental program, which signifies their commitment to sustainable practices. Research and book tours and activities with operators that prioritize environmental responsibility and promote local culture. Consider supporting conservation projects and initiatives dedicated to preserving Iceland's natural beauty.

Wooden Cabin Accommodation in Iceland

Cabins in Icelandic Landscape

What can I do to support sustainable tourism in Iceland beyond my individual choices?

Consider engaging with organizations and initiatives dedicated to preserving the country's natural environment and promoting responsible travel, such as the Icelandic Pledge. Educate others about sustainable travel practices in Iceland, share your experiences, and encourage them to make conscious choices. Support local conservation efforts and contribute to projects aimed at preserving Iceland's unique ecosystems.

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