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The Eco Traveller's Code

By: Dr Gareth Evans - Updated: 16 Nov 2010 | comments*Discuss
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Almost all of us like to travel and take the opportunity to visit somewhere different; even when today’s multi-channel digital TV beams the remotest corners of the world into our living rooms, there’s still nothing quite like seeing it for yourself. As every eco-aware person on the planet knows, however, it all comes at a cost – and that means more than simply the price of a budget airline ticket, or the entrance fee to visitor attractions. Fortunately, it certainly doesn’t have to be all bad news; with a bit of care, it is perfectly possible to still enjoy your trip, without quite literally costing the earth.

With that in mind, here’s our simple, 15-point eco-travellers’ code to help you on your way.


  1. Always try to use the least harmful method of transport for each part of your journey; don’t forget that how you get to the airport and the way you choose to explore your destination has an effect on the overall environmental cost of your trip too.
  2. If you can, try to find an eco-friendly or ethical travel agent or tour company to help you plan your trip. They should be able to advise you about the important things you need to know – and what to avoid – for your chosen destination. Look for companies which have a recognised code of ethics or have been recognised by the industry for their green approach.
  3. Once you return home again, you might like to consider a carbon offset – either as part of an official scheme, or something less formal such as planting an extra tree in your back garden.

Packing and Luggage

  1. If you don’t really need it, leave it behind. Added weight means more fuel has to be burnt, and that means more emissions!
  2. Take as little packaging away with you as you can; it reduces weight and minimises the need to dispose of your rubbish where you’re going.
  3. Bring as much of your waste back with you as you can, especially if you’ve gone somewhere where local facilities to recycle don’t exist.

Wildlife and the Environment

  1. Always aim to leave anywhere you visit just as you found it – no litter, no damage, no mess.
  2. Enjoy what you see, but always leave animals, plants and the places they live as undisturbed as you can.
  3. Remember the old saying “leave nothing but footprints, take nothing but photographs.”

Local Impact

  1. Find out about the people, their culture and traditions before you go, to make sure you don’t cause offence; they will respect you for it.
  2. Try to use services and companies which benefit the local economy and people where you can.
  3. On the other hand, don’t overburden local resources; things like water, food and energy may not be as plentiful as back home, and facilities for recycling and waste disposal less freely available.

Photos and Souvenirs

  1. Ask before you take photographs – not everyone welcomes having their picture taken.
  2. Try to buy local, ethically produced souvenirs which will benefit the people who actually made them, not a faceless multi-national company and always pay a fair price. Haggling is often part of the local way of doing things, but don’t go too far in your search for a bargain – these families have to live!
  3. Be careful about anything made from materials that were once living – shells, bones, feathers, coral, flowers or wood. Make sure you don’t buy anything endangered; some items may be OK to sell where you’re staying, but you can’t legally bring them back into the UK.

No one wants to have their holiday enjoyment spoilt by having to remember a whole packet of rules – but if you’re trying to be an eco-friendly traveller, you hardly want to go around wrecking the planet either. Most of the ideas in this eco-traveller’s code come down to a bit of common sense and simply thinking “eco” before you act. Do that and you won’t go far wrong, wherever you go in the world – so enjoy your trip!

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