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5 tips for being a greener traveller

The start of a new year is officially the time to reflect on travel habits, says Daisy Cropper. Here are five ways to make your next trip a better one for planet Earth

How to travel greener in 2014 (Jessica Melling)

1. Hotel habits

Last year, international tourism grew to over one billion, meaning more than one billion people travelled, whether on a one-night trip or six-month backpacking adventure. Imagine if every single one of those travellers each had a new towel and sheets every single night. The mind simply boggles.

While it's nice to have fresh sheets, it's not entirely necessary on your holidays so if your hotel/B&B/guesthouse/hostel offers you the option to change them daily, don't. It's the same with towels – no-one needs a new towel every day. So don't leave them to get soggy on the floor.

Also, look into the establishment’s habits before you book where to stay – some have a one-towel policy, others won’t let you use facilities unless you’re actually in the room (air con, TV on stand-by etc) – this way, you can support those already doing their bit to cut back.

2. Plastic not-so-fantastic

Although they're tiny (and never last much longer than a few days), the toiletries many hotels supply take a lot of time, effort, plastic and eventually waste to produce. Plus, most people (unless they're cheapskates) take toiletries with them on a trip so don't need them. It's just not necessary.

This also applies for water bottles and general waste while you’re on the road. In many destinations visitors can’t drink the tap water; if you’re staying somewhere for a few days, buy a larger bottle to sustain you, rather than multiple small ones and fill up a water flask you’ve brought from home. Alternatively take a SteriPEN or water tablets to cut back on any plastic rubbish.

Steer clear of using face or baby wipes to keep hands clean: they can clog up drainage systems if flushed away and create a lot of waste. Instead take a bar of soap or anti-bacterial hand gel – both of which will help you save on space too.

3. Explore closer to home

If you want to minimise your carbon footprint from your trips, take time to explore your home country before heading off long-haul. It could be a short break camping in the countryside, exploring your capital city or plenty of trips in between – skipping on the flight can save on emissions and, another bonus, your hard-earned cash.

For those living in the UK – we have tonnes of trip ideas: explore them all here. And those based in the US can find trip ideas here. Do you live somewhere else in the world? Find your destination, and our suggested trip ideas, here.

4. Keep it man-powered

Alternatively, if you do want to escape your home country, why not make your trip man-powered? Take your bicycle with you and cut out the car hire, take a horse-riding trip to save on local transport, or use your own two feet and walk one of the world's many spectacular trails. The opportunities to travel under your own steam are endless.

Wanderlust's very-own Lyn Hughes added: “Walk, cycle or horse ride while you’re away – you will see and appreciate so much more, and get closer to the wildlife and the people.”

Need ideas for your adventure? Find walking and trekking trips here and cycling and mountain biking adventures here.

5. Finders keepers?

Ever been tempted to take a piece of coral on a dive? Or a tiny stone from a temple? Or – possibly the most horrifying – left your mark/scrawl/name on a travel icon?

Although you may think it's great to have a unique souvenir from your travels and time on the road, these types of trinkets are not sustainable. Imagine if every visitor to Angkor Wat took a stone away with them – there would soon be little of the iconic temple left. Similarly, what would happen if each person who snorkelled at the Great Barrier Reef took a piece home with them? You get the idea...

In the other extreme, try not to leave things behind – from graffiti to rubbish. More and more (link to stories) travel icons are being defaced in the name of 'tagging' and tourists wanting to leave their name behind. If every person who travelled tried to do this what would the world be left with?

Do you have a tip for making your trips green and eco-friendly? Have you stayed in a super-sustainable lodge? Post your comments and experiences below.

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