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Okay so you’ve bought your reusable straw and stainless steel water bottle. You carry around a cute tote bag to do your shopping, and you make your own coffee at home rather than spend $7 at Starbucks every day. Maybe you’ve made the changes to be more environmentally-friendly in your everyday life, but are you taking the same measures when you travel to practice sustainable tourism?

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Far too often when we travel, we don’t realize how wasteful we’re being. As cute as those travel shampoos are, it’s a massive waste of plastic. As convenient and cheap that private taxi might be, it’s far more environmentally friendly to rent a bicycle (and also heaps more fun). Mad Monkey was founded on the principles of social responsibility, and this includes being mindful of how we affect the environment at every destination we’re located. We’ve come up with the best environmentally-friendly tips so you can be the ultimate green traveller!


Sustainable Tourism Infographic
Sustainable Tourism Infographic


1. Pack Lightly – Green Travel Luggage

We know you’ve heard it a million times but this isn’t just to save you money on baggage and overweight fees (although, these are bonuses as well). Remember that every extra kilo you pack is more fuel being used when you’re flying. Packing light also means you won’t be sweating your ass off dragging a giant suitcase around dirt roads and up dozens of flights of stairs. Less clothes also means it’ll be easier to pick out what to wear. Pack neutral colors and mix and match tops, bottoms and cardigans. Bring a few accessories to jazz up your outfit.


1. Pack Lightly - Green Travel Luggage - 20 Ways to be a Green Traveler Now: Instant Sustainable Tourism Guide
Sustainable tourism: Who wants to lug around a giant suitcase when you travel like this? © Courtesy of Kirsten Muolic/Mad Monkey


2. Use packing cubes – Green Traveler Tips

Avoid using plastic bags when you pack and instead, invest in packing cubes! These babies are game-changers, trust us. Use them to separate your dirty clothes from your clean clothes to reduce the amount of times you’ll have to do laundry.


3. Use a reusable shopping bag – Sustainable Travel Tip

Carry one around with you everywhere; not just when you’re grocery shopping. Use it when you’re clothes/souvenir/anything shopping to avoid plastic or even paper bags.


4. Drink from a reusable water bottle – Sustainable Travel Trend To Follow

We all know plastic water bottles are super wasteful. Sometimes it’s the only option, but most of the time you’ll find that there are plenty of places to refill a bottle with clean, potable water. Aluminium water bottles are our personal favourite, as they’re lightweight, durable and easy to clean. Opt for the ones with the simple screw-top lid and avoid fancy sippy-cup types of tops that harbour bacteria (and will make you less inclined to use it).


4. Drink from a reusable water bottle - Sustainable Travel Trend To Follow  - 20 Ways to be a Green Traveler Now: Instant Sustainable Tourism Guide
A very well-loved travelling water bottle © Courtesy of Kirsten Muolic/Mad Monkey


5. Refill shampoo and conditioner bottles – Green Travel Tip

Either buy some durable travel bottles (the cheap ones won’t last long and you’ll end up buying them fairly regularly, which defeats the purpose) or reuse travel-size containers.


6. Buy soap/shampoo bars – Reduce Plastic Waste

Reusing shampoo and conditioner bottles is sadly still pretty wasteful, as you’re probably still getting your products from bigger plastic bottles. A more environmentally-friendly route to go is to get those shampoo bars that have gone viral. Not only are they plastic-free, but they’re lighter in weight, which means they’re cheaper to ship. They’re also usually without all those nasty chemicals that dry out your hair, as well. Seems like a win-win to us!


7. Opt for reusable cotton pads – Go Reusable

These are all the rage right now, if you didn’t know. Instead of using numerous disposable cotton pads a day, invest in the ones that you can pop in the washing machine and use literally thousands of times. They can be used to remove makeup, apply different facial products, the list goes on.


8. Use less-wasteful feminine products

Instead of using tampons and pads, switch to those menstruation cups you’ve surely heard about (probably from Instagram; their ad-targeting game is on point). There’s a bit of a learning curve with the whole process, but it’s infinitely more environmentally friendly.


9. Use sustainable methods of transport – Green Transportation Trend

Sure, sometimes the only way to get somewhere is to fly, but always try to keep in mind alternative ways of travel. A 27-hour bus ride might not seem super ideal, but a certain type of bonding happens with your fellow travellers on those long journeys, and they often make the most memorable experiences. Plus, taking overland travel is heaps more eco-friendly, but we know you know this already.
When you’re exploring new cities, walk or rent a bicycle instead of taking taxis or Ubers. You’ll burn off those travel calories, giving you an excuse to have extra gelato every day.


9. Use sustainable methods of transport - Green Transportation Trend - 20 Ways to be a Green Traveler Now: Instant Sustainable Tourism Guide
Sustainable Tourism: Mad Monkey walking tour exploring Phnom Penh © Courtesy of Kirsten Muolic/Mad Monkey


10. Make smart travel purchases – Consume Less

You’re getting ready for a big trip and it’s so tempting to buy dozens of travel gadgets that you think you’ll most definitely use over and over. Chances are, you probably won’t use that drying line, your hostel or Airbnb will have hair dryers so you don’t need to buy the super-cute travel dryer, and who are you kidding — you don’t even iron at home so you likely won’t need that travel iron. In addition to not overpacking unnecessary items, invest more in the things you do purchase. Get the sturdier backpack that will last you decades, invest in the more durable packing cubes, buy the better-quality clothes. When you buy well-made products, they will last longer and you won’t end up throwing things out more frequently.


11. Save electricity – Reduce your energy waste

When you’re not in your room, turn off all the lights, the aircon, fan — everything. Just because you’re not paying the electricity bill, doesn’t mean you should be wasteful.


12. Conserve water – Reduce water consumption

Same goes for water. Be even more conscious about saving water when you’re travelling, especially in developing countries where water is more precious. Take shorter showers, turn the tap off when you’re brushing your teeth, etc.


13. Don’t be excessive

Sustainable tourism should extend to your downtime as well. At your hotel, hostel, Airbnb or guest house, don’t request housekeeping when it’s not needed and refrain from getting your towels or linens changed frequently.


14. Be mindful where you dine – buy locally

Support the businesses that are doing their part to be more eco-friendly and socially responsible. Cafes and restaurants that don’t use single-use plastics and source local ingredients are a great start. You’ll often find that these types of eateries also often donate a certain amount of proceeds to a great cause.


14. Be mindful where you dine - buy locally  - 20 Ways to be a Green Traveler Now: Instant Sustainable Tourism Guide
Sustainable Tourism: Daughters of Cambodia is a cafe, shop and salon in Phnom Penh that aims to help women get out of sex trafficking © Courtesy of Kirsten Muolic/Mad Monkey


Read more: Discover more sustainable cafes in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.


15. Ditch the souvenirs

Because your nephews will only wear those T-shirts to bed, nobody wants those plastic key chains, and those bracelets are tacky when worn outside of Southeast Asia. Send a postcard instead; way more meaningful and everybody loves getting mail.


16. Order local food and drinks – Spend locally

Not only is trying the local food all part of traveling and experiencing new cultures, but it’s more eco-friendly. Local dishes will generally use local ingredients, which means your food is traveling shorter distances to get to your plate. It’s also always fun to try the local beers in every destination you travel to. Same goes for grocery shopping; buy local produce and goods when possible.


16. Order local food and drinks - Spend locally  - 20 Ways to be a Green Traveler Now: Instant Sustainable Tourism Guide
Sustainable Tourism: Babi Guling (pig roast), a traditional Indonesian dish © Courtesy of Kirsten Muolic/Mad Monkey


17. Don’t participate in unethical tourist attractions

Hopefully you know by now not to ride elephants. And sorry if this is news to you, but pretty much all tourism that involves animals is unethical. Of course, there are some legitimate conservation and rehabilitation centers, but many places pose as “sanctuaries” to get tourists in. Do your research, read reviews, and remember that wild animals generally shouldn’t be held in captivity.



17. Don’t participate in unethical tourist attractions - 20 Ways to be a Green Traveler Now: Instant Sustainable Tourism Guide
Sustainable Tourism: The Elephant Nature Park near Chiang Mai, Thailand is a credible and ethical sanctuary that also allows visitors to interact with the elephants © Courtesy of Kirsten Muolic/Mad Monkey


Read more: Learn about volunteering at the Elephant Nature Park in northern Thailand.
Read more: Discover how to eat, shop, and travel responsibly in Chiang Mai, Thailand.


18. Be an example to aspiring green travellers

You don’t need to shame your friends for using plastic bags or asking for a straw; showing that there are easy alternatives is a far more effective method for creating awareness. They might snigger at the stainless steel straw that you carry everywhere, but you can bet they’ll be wondering if using a plastic straw is really necessary for their next drink.


19. Stay on the path

When you’re hiking or trekking, always stay on the designated path. This is to prevent people from trampling on endangered or protected plants and also keeps you away from wildlife you’d probably want to avoid anyway.


20. Find sustainable green hostel accommodation

Let’s face it: sustainable tourism is in right now. And there are now loads of accommodation options that promote sustainability. Whether it be employing locals and offering them above-average wages, reducing the amount of single-use plastics, or contributing to local causes, there are a multitude of ways businesses are becoming more mindful.
You can be sure that your stay at Mad Monkey is contributing to sustainable efforts. Read more about our local projects here and book your epic stay in Cambodia, Thailand, the Philippines or Australia here.


20. Find sustainable green hostel accommodation - 20. Find sustainable green hostel accommodation
Sustainable Tourism: Mad Monkey Siem Reap donates a percentage of its revenue to a water wells project that helps bring clean water to families in rural Cambodia © Courtesy of Tom Carder



More information about sustainable tourism:

Looking for even more tips about how to be a green traveller? Then check out these other articles we’ve rounded up to help you become a more ethical and responsible traveller!


Pin now, read later:

Pin now, read later: - 20 Ways to be a Green Traveler Now: Instant Sustainable Tourism Guide

About the Author

Kirsten Joelle is the RevOps Marketing Director for Mad Monkey. When she’s not working, you can find her doing yoga while Netflix binging, or more so just the latter.