Travel is exciting, fulfilling, and educational. It helps individuals to widen their perspectives and gain an understanding of other cultures and global issues, which in turn leads to more ethically conscious world citizens. However, there is no getting away from the fact that travel can damage the environment. Despite the increase in low emission public transport, digital nomads often stick to planes and taxis as the easiest, fastest, and most convenient options.

People on the move may cook less and therefore over consume takeaways with plastic straws and cutlery. Then there are the plastic mini toiletry bottles you get in hotels and take through airport security. This hotel lifestyle, where you don’t pay your own bills or wash your own towels, can quickly become a damaging way to live. However, it needn’t be. By being a more environmentally aware digital nomad, you can cut your carbon emissions and help to protect this beautiful planet, leaving more for future generations to explore.

Transport Options

Green tourism begins with careful planning. Rather than taking the easy and convenient route, look for more sustainable options. Digital nomads spend many hours on flights, but it might not be as necessary as you think. Especially when you take into account that a single transcontinental flight equates to 25% of the carbon footprint created by an average Westerner in a year. For many people, this might require a shift in the way you think about travel.

Many nomads want to clock up as many miles and visit as many countries in as short a time as possible. If you are looking to embrace responsible travel, however, then consider a new approach. Traveling slower and across the land can be more fulfilling, not to mention cheaper experience. The continent of Europe is extremely interconnected, with direct buses between all the major cities. Unlike the budget airlines, these buses are comfortable, with free WiFi, and power outlets. This means you can work while you move, giving you more time at your destination.

You will also save time because the buses go directly to the city center, so you won’t need a taxi from the airport to the hotel. There are no security or passport checks to worry about either, especially if you are moving around the Schengen zone. If you are clever, you could get night buses, meaning that you can sleep and therefore not be wasting any time, while also saving on a night’s worth of accommodation. Being close to the ground allows you to see more and get a feel for the landscape and small towns, which are important experiences for the full-time explorer.

Once in a city, try to walk or cycle as much as possible. Many cities have a public bike share scheme, which is usually a quicker method of transport than driving anyway. Not only are your carbon emissions lowered to zero, but you are keeping fit, which aids productivity, and you are more deeply connected to the area around you. Breathing in the aromas of local market stalls sure beats watching the world from behind a windscreen. There will, of course, be times when a plane or car is the only sensible option, but prioritize low carbon transportation where you can.

Daily Living

The practice of being in constant motion can make it challenging to run a sustainable business or go on sustainable holidays. Once you have booked a hotel, it is easy to slip into bad habits. You’re not paying the electric bill, so lights often stay on longer than needed. Travelers start to expect free shower gels and clean towels on a daily basis, but this really isn’t a necessity. Leave the soap for the next guest and bring your own, preferably in biodegradable packaging. From here, just embrace the most eco-friendly lifestyle that you can.

Adopting a minimalist way of life is one way to do this. Put together a packing list full of clothes which are built to last and rarely need washing. You will be able to achieve your dream of one bag travel and limit the amount of clothes you are getting through. Consider the sustainability credentials of everything else you pack, such as choosing a toothbrush made of bamboo over a plastic one.

The single most significant step a responsible tourist can take to lower their carbon footprint is to stop flying. However, a close second is to embrace a plant-based diet. Whether you are eating the freshest mangos in Thailand or dining on authentic Mexican avocados, this is the most sustainable way to eat. A third of global freshwater use is used for animal agriculture, and it can take up to 200 times more water to produce a pound of beef than a pound of plants. Meanwhile, 91% of Amazon deforestation is to make room for animals bred to be eaten. You may not be ready to embrace full veganism, but choosing locally grown fruits and vegetables over a meat dish is one of the easiest and most effective ways to travel sustainably.

You are desperate to see the world, but ironically, you may be destroying that very planet in the act of exploring it. A digital nomad should be aware of ethical and global issues, taking steps to limit their impact. By embracing low carbon transport and living a minimalist life on a plant-heavy diet, you will dramatically reduce your carbon footprint. Not to mention the fact you will have better experiences, be living a cleaner and healthier life, and will likely feel happier. It is all about making conscious decisions and being aware of the impacts of your lifestyle and travel habits.

Written by Thom Brown