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Study reveals the most effective ways to reduce your carbon footprint whilst travelling

Ocean-friendly suncare and leaving plastic packaging at home are the top two ways to reduce both your carbon footprint and waste impact most efficiently when travelling.

With growing interest in sustainable travel, there is lots of advice available – but how do travellers know what actions will have the biggest impact? Luxury safari company Yellow Zebra Safaris has calculated the effectiveness of some of the most common tips in the industry.

The analysis revealed that ocean-friendly suncare and leaving plastic packaging at home are the top two ways to reduce both your carbon footprint and waste impact most efficiently when travelling. 

The score is calculated by working out how each change would lower levels of carbon emissions and waste production. This is then tallied as a total positive impact score out of 20. The higher the score, the better the impact on the environment –

  1. Switch to ocean friendly suncare 15/20
  2. Do away with all plastic bottles 15/20
  3. Adhere to single-use plastic bans 14/20
  4. Reduce your meat consumption or try veganism 12/20
  5. Go sustainable with your swimwear 11/20
  6. Pack lighter 10/20
  7. Eat locally 9/20
  8. Opt out of housekeeping whilst travelling 8/20
  9. Choose smaller hotels 6/20
  10. Conserve energy that you don’t need 3.5/20

Ocean-friendly suncare earned the top spot due to its high impact on both carbon emissions and waste. By switching to ocean-friendly suncare, you both protect the coral reef from being further polluted by oxybenzone (a common toxic ingredient in sunscreen) and also use less plastic, as most ocean-friendly sunscreens come in zero-waste packaging. Choosing this over plastic bottles of suncare can save up to 132.g of Co2 per person a week, earning this tip a strong 15/20.

Reducing the usage of single-use plastics tied for first place. With the average water bottle taking 450 years to decompose and the huge carbon impact of processing and transporting plastic, making a conscious effort to avoid single-use plastic will make your travel more environmentally-friendly.

Estimates show that one 500ml plastic bottle of water has a total carbon footprint equal to 82.8 grams (about 3 ounces) of carbon dioxide. Switching plastic single-use bottles to a reusable one will save 0.01449 tonnes of CO2 per year (per person!), lowering the contribution to plastic waste by 175 per cent.

Other high scoring tips were:

  • adhering to single-use plastic bans – countries such as Tanzania now advise visitors to avoid bringing plastic bags in their luggage.
  • reducing your meat consumption or trying veganism – a meat lover’s carbon footprint is over double that of a vegan’s.
  • buying in to sustainable swimwear – brands that use recycled materials to create swimsuits lower the overall carbon impact and plastic waste associated with swimwear manufacturing.
  • reducing luggage down to a 15kg overall weight – this could save up to 4 gallons of fuel per trip.
  • eating locally – this can significantly reduce ‘food miles’ compared to centrally produced food from chain restaurants.
  • opting out of housekeeping – this could save considerable amounts of water waste.  

Whilst any effort to reduce a traveller’s carbon footprint and wastage is a positive, our findings scored choosing smaller hotels and conserving unnecessary energy the lowest. Due to the sheer amount of power that is required to still run a hotel, choosing smaller hotels will have less impact. (Although by choosing smaller hotels, guests can save up to 1.3 times the amount of carbon compared to a large hotel!) Conserving unnecessary energy can still be helpful, but technological advances have already greatly reduced the amount of power used by standby-mode electronics.

With the tourism industry predicted to grow by 4% every year, and, on average 24% of an individual’s footprint in greenhouse gas emissions coming from our love of travel, the direct impact we are having on our environment has caused the travel industry to try to find a balance between travelling and respecting the planet at the same time.

Thoughtful travel can provide many benefits to both the traveller and the communities they visit. Making sustainable and manageable choices whilst away will allow us all to continue exploring the world while helping to preserve it.

News Editor - TravelDailyNews Media Network | + Posts

Tatiana is the news coordinator for TravelDailyNews Media Network (, and Her role includes monitoring the hundreds of news sources of TravelDailyNews Media Network and skimming the most important according to our strategy.

She holds a Bachelor's degree in Communication & Mass Media from Panteion University of Political & Social Studies of Athens and she has been editor and editor-in-chief in various economic magazines and newspapers.