I grew up on a solar-powered, eco ranch on the Central Coast of California. For as long as I can remember my step-father was into living a forward thinking, sustainable lifestyle. We were not hippies by any means – quite the opposite as my dad has always been extremely tech savvy.
We had the first electric car in San Luis Obispo County back in 1999, he converted our family motorhome to run on biodiesel, and the cutting-edge tracking solar power system he installed on the hill above our home produced enough power to run our entire 30-acre ranch with a surplus of energy left over for us to sell back to the grid.
My dad was way ahead of the times when he started looking at our lifestyle and trying to figure out how our family of five could live more sustainably. I have to admit though that over the years I have struggled to travel sustainably and live a sustainable lifestyle I am proud of.
My family creates way too much trash. I drive a gas guzzling SUV. I fly a lot. But I have to keep reminding myself no one is perfect. None of us can live a 100% sustainable lifestyle, but we each have a responsibility to make an effort on a regular basis to live more sustainably.
It is easy to get discouraged and feel like your small choices don’t make a difference but in reality each of our small choices make a big change collectively. It is up to each of us individually to build a sustainable foundation for our collective future. So I created this post 24 ways to easily live and travel more sustainably to help inspire you to do your part.
REDUCE FOSSIL FUEL USE
Burning fossil fuel is the single worst contributing factor to climate change. We can all reduce our carbon footprint (total emissions we each cause) by changing how we get places and how we travel around when we get there. Here are some easy ways to reduce your fossil fuel use.
1) EXPLORE A NEW CITY ON FOOT
One of the best ways to travel more sustainably is to explore a new city on foot. Passenger vehicles (cars, taxis etc) are a major pollution contributor. By walking you will not only save money but you will help reduce toxic air pollutants emitted from cars which destroy our ozone layer, and have been linked to different types of cancers.
To make the most of exploring a new city on foot I suggest using the GPSmyCity.com app which offers unique, self guided walking tours. With GPSmyCity you can be your own tour guide and go at your own pace. Walking around a new city is really the best way to experience it – you get great exercise, reduce your carbon footprint, and are able to discover hidden gems off the beaten path!
2) RIDE A BIKE
Ride a bike! Bikes are a great way to get around at home and when you are traveling. Most major cities now have bike rentals racks everywhere so you can easily explore a new city by bike while getting great exercise and reducing your carbon footprint.
3) USE PUBLIC TRANSPORT & CARPOOL
If you are visiting or living in a city like NYC or London where public transport is good take the bus, tube or subway which also saves you money. Drive places with friends when possible or share a taxi.
If your child has the same after school activity as a friend give each other rides. If you use Uber try UberPool which is their carpool option. In addition to reducing your personal fossil fuel use sharing an Uber will save you money!
4) GO ON A SAILING TRIP
Taking a sailing trip is a great way to reduce the carbon footprint of your next trip! We are currently working on plans for a Travel Girls Getaways sailing trip so be sure to subscribe to our email list to be notified when we open bookings!
5) DON’T FLY PRIVATE
Don’t fly private. Since most of us can’t afford to fly private this is a very easy way to travel more sustainably. Per person a private aircraft makes more carbon than a normal family will produce in a year!
I have never booked a private jet myself but I have flown on private jets that my friends have booked and I have to admit I felt pretty guilty after my dad told me this statistic.
But instead of feeling bad he suggested I go to CarbonFund.org to calculate and pay my voluntary carbon tax. At this site you can check your carbon footprint, and pay the carbon tax you owe, to help offset the environmental impact of your flights.
6) DRIVE AN ELECTRIC CAR OR A HYBRID CAR
When buying a new car, try to buy a new or used electric car. If an electric car is not practical for your lifestyle buy a used or new hybrid car. Driving a more fuel efficient vehicle is an easy way to get around more sustainably. Think of these three car scenarios:
Scenario 1: You drive a regular gas powered car. The crude oil must be pumped from the ground using energy, then pumped into storage tanks, then transported to supertankers and a pipeline or via the railway using more energy to deliver the oil to the refineries.
We then use massive chemicals and more energy to produce a gallon of gas, then pump the refined gas into holding tanks, then pump it into delivery trucks using more energy, then drive the trucks to gas stations using diesel fuel, then feed the fuel into the holding tanks in the ground, then pump it back up and into your car where you finally use the gas. So how much electricity did one gallon of gas take to make about 6kW? (The kilowatt hour is a composite unit of energy equivalent to one kilowatt (1 kW) of power sustained for one hour).
Scenario 2: You drive an electric powered car and have solar panels. The sun hits the solar panels, the energy is converted and stored in your car batteries. You now use the energy by driving your car.
Scenario 3: You drive a hybrid car. Hybrid cars like the Prius typically get 48 to 60 mpg, about 20% to 35% better than a fuel efficient, gasoline powered vehicle like the Honda Civic. Given what you now know from Scenario 1 think about how much energy you are saving just by driving a more fuel efficient car.
REDUCE, REUSE, RECYCLE
When I was in elementary school in the 80’s we learned the phrase everyone knows well – Recycle. Reduce. Reuse. But in order of importance it should actually be Reduce. Reuse. Recycle.
One easy way to live a more sustainable lifestyle is to consume less. We all need to eat less, buy less, and stop putting material objects on a pedestal. Material possessions will not make you happier – you get an endorphin high when you buy something you want or think you need – but that high soon fades away leaving a hole in your wallet and your heart.
Instead of buying a new purse or a new pair of shoes you can donate that money to a charity doing incredible work to help people and the planet – which will give you a real reason to feel good about yourself. Check out our Charities We Love series for inspiration.
8) REUSE & UPCYCLE
You can also easily reuse things. For instance, if I use a plastic zip-lock bag for something that is not messy like crackers, I wash it out after and reuse it again later.
I wear the same pair of boots until the soles wear off and then if they are in good enough condition I have them re-soled and use them again like new. You can also easily upcycle old stuff you have lying around. For instance, an old CD case can become the perfect bagel carrier! Check out this list for more upcycle ideas.
It is shocking to me how many people don’t recycle and how many people don’t even know what is recyclable and what is not. If you are reading this and thinking this is me then PLEASE start recycling now. It is so easy. Just buy an extra trash can, mark is as recycle only and start using it.
You will be surprised how much can actually be recycled and how much of a reduction you will see in your non-recycled trash output. Here is a simple list of what can and not be recycled. You might be surprised that pizza boxes can NOT be recycled!
BUY ECO PRODUCTS & SUPPORT ECO COMPANIES
Another easy way to live and travel more sustainably is to buy and use eco products and support eco companies. Here are some examples.
10) USE RECYCLED PAPER HOUSEHOLD PRODUCTS
I always buy 100% recycled toilet paper, paper towels, and napkins. These are items that we use every day in our home so by using recycled paper products we are helping to reduce waste and support eco companies that care.
11) USE NON-APPLICATOR OR CARDBOARD APPLICATOR TAMPONS
Reusable sanitary products are best for the environment, but if you use tampons it is best to use a nonapplicator tampon or at least a cardboard applicator tampon. I use Tampax Cardboard Applicator Tampons.
All tampons have a big environmental footprint – the average woman uses 11,000 – 16,000 tampons in her lifetime and these are being thrown into the garbage, filling up our landfills – but the plastic applicators don’t biodegrade. By simply switching to cardboard applicator tampons you can reduce a huge amount of non-biodegradable waste over the span of your life (source).
12) BUY AND USE A REUSABLE TRAVEL MUG
When traveling take a reusable cup with you! I bought a reusable collapsing travel mug off Amazon and I take it in my carry on during trips so I always have it with me. And when I am home I leave it in my purse so when I am out and want coffee or tea I don’t have to waste another cup.
13) SAY NO TO SINGLE-USE PLASTICS
Our plastic water bottle use around the world is out of control! When did we stop using drinking fountains? Bring a reusable water bottle with you on trips and fill up your bottle at restaurants and water fountains.
Try not to use plastic straws and say no to plastic bags. Shoppers worldwide are still using approximately 500 billion single-use plastic bags per year. This translates to about a million bags every minute across the globe, or 150 bags a year for every person on earth (source).
14) STAY AT ECO HOTELS
One of the easiest ways to travel more sustainably is to stay at eco-hotels. Two luxury eco-hotels I love are Six Senses Yao Noi in Thailand and Mumbo Island in Malawi.
Six Senses Yao Noi bottles their own water on-site and supplies drinking water to guests in reusable glass bottles. They also sell water locally and a portion of the profits are donated to help bring clean drinking water to poor communities in Cambodia.
Mumbo Island is an amazing rustic luxury hotel we stay at during our Malawi Safari & Charity Trip. Voted one of the top 100 hotels in the world by The Sunday Times Travel, Mumbo Island, in the middle of Lake Malawi, has no power, cell service or running water allowing you to completely disconnect from technology and your dependence on fossil fuels.
You can charge your phone at a solar-powered charging station during the day and have a hot bucket shower at night. It doesn’t sound amazing but it is literally heaven on earth so if you are interested in joining our next trip you can find out details here.
15) BUY USED CLOTHING & USED FURNITURE
Buying used clothing and used furniture a very easy way to live more sustainably. Some of my favorite childhood memories are from going to the swap meets with my dad.
I couldn’t wait to see what cool, used treasures we would find! Used clothing stores, vintage stores, flea markets, and swap meets are great places to find unique used stuff, and on top of helping the environment, you will save a lot of money buying used goods.
16) BUY RECYCLED CLOTHING
When you need to buy new clothing buy recycled clothing. Back when I first started working on my eco swimwear line there were not many stylish green brands on the market. These days there are tons of cool companies making hip recycled clothing that you can’t even tell is recycled.
My brand SummerLove Swimwear is one of them. All our bikinis are made in California out of lux recycled fabric created from fishing nets rescued from the sea – so when you buy one of my swimsuits you are also helping clean up the ocean! The bikini bags are made out of organic cotton, and my hang tags and shipping bags are also made out of recycled paper.
Another eco brand I love is Kelly Slater’s company OUTERKNOWN which focuses on its supply chain making sure every aspect of production is transparent, minimizing environmental impact. There are thousands of awesome eco brands out there to choose from these days. Just make sure you don’t buy from brands that are “greenwashing” – pretending to be eco-friendly to capture the eco market.
17) BUY ECO SOUVENIRS
If you are going to buy souvenirs when you travel buy eco souvenirs. Look for souvenirs that are handmade, locally produced and created out of sustainable or recycled materials.
Buying locally-made, eco products is not only better for the environment is also helps the local economy of the place you are visiting.
18) USE LED LIGHTING AND UPDATE OLD APPLIANCES
If you are a homeowner updating old lighting and old appliances is a very effective way to live more sustainably. Replace all old fluorescent and
You can also update appliances to more
Air conditioning units, refrigerators, freezers, motors of all kinds, pumps, pool motors – all can be upgraded with variable frequency drives and new more efficient motors and compressors. These updates all have an immediate benefit to an overall reduction in energy use and thus cut carbon production.
CHANGE YOUR EATING HABITS
Changing your daily eating habits (even slightly) is a powerful way you can live more sustainably. Here are a few ideas.
19) CUT BACK ON EATING MEAT – COW FARTS ARE KILLING US
One of the best ways to help the environment is to stop eating meat or cut back on your meat intake. Did you know that cow farts and belches are one of the top contributors to global methane gas emissions!
Livestock pushed about 119.1 million tons of methane into the air in 2011 alone. Carbon dioxide emissions are far greater in terms of volume, but because methane captures more of the sun’s energy, it’s actually a more potent greenhouse gas (source).
On our ranch, we grew up eating meat at every meal but when I learned how bad cow farts and burps were for the environment I vowed to stop eating meat for good. It was hard initially though and I needed some extra motivation, so I read the book Skinny Bitch which is hugely insightful into all the health benefits that come along with not eating meat.
I eventually went back to eating fish, eggs, and cheese but I have proudly been a pescatarian now for almost 20 years. When people ask me why I don’t eat meat I explain it is for environmental reasons, but the other obvious benefit is that a lot of animals’ lives are being spared.
20) EAT LOCALLY SOURCED FOOD
An easy way to live a more sustainably is to eat locally sourced food. My husband and I went to Mastro’s Ocean Club in Malibu this week for our date night. The waiter told us the specials and suggested we try the Wagyu Beef that was flown in from Japan. When he walked away I looked at my husband in disgust.
It is so embarrassing that it has become socially acceptable to fly meat in from other countries and that it has become a sign of affluence to be able to afford the huge monetary and environmental price tag that comes with it. I can’t think of a more unsustainable meal than to have beef flown in from Japan when you are having dinner in LA!
Don’t eat meat (or any kind of food) flown in from anywhere. If you eat meat try to choose locally sourced meat, local fish, and buy locally grown produce. Shopping at your nearest farmer’s market is a great way to support local farmers and find fresh, organic fruits, vegetables and meats (if you can’t give up meat).
21) EAT LESS
Most of us would like to lose weight, and you can do that and help the environment if you just eat less! It is that simple.
Stop overeating. Just eat what you actually need and you will eat a lot less, look and feel healthier, and you can also feel good about helping the environment at the same time.
SMART CONSUMPTION & CLEANUP
There are tons of ways to use energy more efficiently, and help clean up our earth, creating a more sustainable future for us all. Here are a few suggestions.
22) USE SOLAR POWER
If you are building a new house try to incorporate solar power. I really don’t understand why all new houses built-in sunny climates are not required to have solar panels. It is ridiculous that we have this awesome green technology and do not take advantage of it.
The state of Nevada averages over 290 sunny days a year and is 110,567 square miles. Did you know if we put up 21,250 square miles of solar panels in Nevada we would be able to make enough power to meet the electricity requirements for the entire United States!
Many states do have some type of solar program in place. California has the California Solar Initiative which is a comprehensive statewide solar program that funds solar on existing homes, existing or new commercial, agricultural, government and non-profit buildings.
They also have a program called the California Energy Commission’s New Solar Homes Partnership (NSHP) which provides financial incentives and other support to home builders, encouraging the construction of new, energy-efficient solar homes that save homeowners money on their electric bills and protect the environment.
On their website, it says they are no longer accepting applications but there are plenty of solar power installation companies out there that will help you integrate solar into your new home or remodel.
You can also use solar on a smaller scale. Simply using a solar-powered charger for your phone would save a ton of energy over the span of your life. Every little bit helps!
23) TAKE SHORTER SHOWERS
I love long, hot showers just like the next person but I don’t love them as much as I love our planet. Taking shorter showers is an easy way we can all live a more sustainable lifestyle.
Make sure to also turn the sink water off when you are brushing your teeth.
24) PICK UP TRASH
If you are looking for something productive to do with your friends or family on the weekend why not organize your own beach clean up? When you are traveling and see trash on the beach or on the ground anywhere why not just pick it up?
If we all start picking up trash when we see it our planet will be a lot cleaner! I just moved back to LA from London with my husband and 18-month-old daughter. I want her to grow up knowing that picking up trash is just something you do, so I am going to start doing weekly beach clean-ups with her.
WAYS TO EASILY LIVE AND TRAVEL MORE SUSTAINABLY
Thank you for taking the time to read this post and for caring. This is by no means an extensive list of easy ways to live and travel more sustainably – but I hope the ideas I have presented here inspire you to make small sustainable changes in your life and find new ways to live more sustainably that work for your lifestyle. It is up to all of us to protect our earth for future generations. We are the future. Your small choices matter in a big way.
How do you live more sustainably? Please share your tips or questions in the comments below.
Read More About Eco Travel & Sustainability
- A Guide To Plastic Free Travel
- 5 Ways To Be A Responsible Traveler
- 6 Tips For Traveling More Sustainably
We Are Travel Girls Co-Founder Vanessa Rivers
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Elizabeth Burns says