Travel is great! Provided you’re an eco-tourist...

Travel broadens your experience, gives you new perspectives and has many other benefits. It offers adventure and allows you to encounter different societies and cultures. You aren’t the only one who benefits – travel provides jobs and revenue to communities catering to tourists. If you travel often, for business or pleasure, you’re supporting a vital global industry.

But the dark side of travelling is that it contributes to climate change through the resources it consumes and the greenhouse gases it emits. The planes that take us to our favourite destinations release tons of harmful carbon emissions. The hotels we stay in use kilolitres of water to launder sheets and towels, and travellers go through billions of plastic bottles of water, even where the local tap water is safe to drink.

At the same time, tourism is suffering increasing threats from climate change, like higher sea levels, beach erosion, more frequent storms and reduced freshwater reserves. It’s a vicious cycle that many tourism stakeholders agree can be broken only if the sector can cut emissions by 50% by 2030, in line with the Paris Agreement on climate change. The future resilience of tourism also depends on travellers doing their part to reduce their carbon footprint.

6 tips to help reduce your carbon footprint when travelling

1. Pack smartly

Packing smartly means reducing the weight of your luggage to reduce your carbon footprint – whether you’re taking a plane, train, car or boat. It can also make your life simpler while travelling. Take as few clothes as possible, picking items that you can mix and match or layer as required. Choose items that are easily hand-washed and air-dried.

2. Don’t pack clothes only

Some tourist accommodations don’t provide eco-friendly cleaning products, so include small travel packs of biodegradable shampoos and laundry detergent, and your own environmentally friendly sunscreen. Pack a cloth bag for souvenir shopping and your own glass or metal water bottle (and perhaps a stainless-steel travel cutlery kit), so you won’t be relying on plastic or single-use items. A pegless clothesline is another handy addition, so you can hang small laundry loads on a balcony or in a bathroom.

3. Avoid flying by exploring overland destinations

You can cut out the carbon costs of flying completely by travelling to destinations closer to home – there are plenty of magnificent places to visit in South Africa and neighbouring countries. Some travel gems are right under our noses, not half the world away.


By travelling outside of peak summer season, you reduce the pressure on local infrastructure


Taking a road trip leaves you free to explore more. You can make detours whenever you discover a new local attraction to enrich your journey – unlike flying, when you tend to plan a rigid itinerary to fit all your sightseeing into the time available at your destination.

4. Choose green destinations and adopt low-carbon habits

As an eco-traveller, you vote with your feet and your wallet. By choosing destinations where authorities and citizens are committed to real action on climate change, you not only help these communities to prosper, but you also encourage less eco-friendly tourist destinations to adopt better policies if they want to keep attracting visitors.

There are several countries or cities with a solid reputation for taking environmental protection seriously, so when you do fly abroad, pick destinations committed to offering visitors greener choices. For example, Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia, is regarded as one of the greenest cities in the world.

You should be able to get around greener cities in environmentally friendly ways – like reliable, safe public transport, exploring on a bike, or taking guided walking tours. You should also be able to rent an electric car, or an extremely fuel-efficient one. If you want to do even more to be a greener traveller, you could support local environmental efforts like beach clean-ups during your visit.

5. Travel during off-peak season

By travelling outside of peak summer season, you reduce the pressure on local infrastructure that occurs in peak season. This allows your host destination to manage water and food resources, traffic, sanitation, waste management and pollution control more consistently and in more environmentally conscious ways. The bonus for you is that when these places are not crowded with visitors, the prices for food, accommodation and local attractions are cheaper. You can expand your impact by spending your money on local goods and activities, rather than global corporate franchises.

6. Donate Greenbacks to the Nedbank Green Affinity

If you book flights, accommodation or car hire using your Nedbank card linked to Greenbacks, you’ll earn Greenbacks with every qualifying purchase, which you can spend in a variety of ways – including donating them to the Nedbank Green Affinity. The Green Affinity supports numerous conservation projects through community-based programmes that are key to looking after our oceans, wildlife and fresh water, improving land stewardship and environmental leadership, and fighting climate change.

Talk to your banker about opening a Nedbank Green Affinity savings or investment account.

If you have an eco-friendly destination in mind for your next trip, be sure to browse the travel deals available on the Avo SuperShop.