Green Hotels & Responsible Tourism Initiative

The Responsible Traveler Guide

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Transportation represents over one quarter of the world's energy consumption and emissions of greenhouse gases. The number of vehicles on the road (700 million in 2005) [3] has increased tenfold in the last 60 years. The car is the most prevalent form of motorized transportation, ahead of bus and train. Airlines transport over 2.5 billion people a year [4], and represent two to five percent of all global green house gas emissions.

Today's business and leisure travelers face numerous opportunities to reduce their negative impact on the environment. The first step is to understand how each transportation mode affects the environment, and then try to minimize pollution and carbon dioxide emissions by making the best possible choices for your particular travel circumstances and preference.

Some important considerations for your journey are:

  • How far are you going?
  • How much time do you have to get there?
  • How long are you staying in the destination?
  • Are you traveling for business or pleasure?
  • What is your budget?
  • How many people are traveling?
  • How frequently do you travel in that form of transport (loyalty points)?

When choosing the form of transport, consider the following:

  • Which transportation mode is the most fuel efficient and has the least carbon emissions i.e. air, car, train, bus, boat?
  • Are there alternatives to my preferred form of transport for short, mid and long haul trips i.e. air vs. train?
  • Are there environmental alternatives available for my chosen form of transport i.e. hybrid or electric car rental
  • Are there things I can do differently to lessen the environmental impact i.e. travel light, use alternative forms of transport for the journey, buy carbon offsets?

Having explored the various travel options and transportation alternatives, we can now explore each one of them in more detail.

Air Travel

Air Travel Pic

In 2009, 2.5 billion people traveled by plane worldwide. Flying is a time efficient way of traveling, however airplanes are very fuel intensive and produce considerable amounts of carbon emissions, pollution and noise. The airline industry has recognized these environmental concerns and has been actively addressing them for decades. Airlines work closely with:

  • Aircraft manufacturers who are designing next generation of fuel efficient planes.
  • Air traffic controllers who are improving the flow of traffic at airports worldwide
  • Scientists who are researching non-fossil jet fuel options.

Although airlines have progressively increased fuel efficiency, reduced noise, pollution and carbon emissions, until an alternative to jet fuel is found, air travel will continue to be the largest part of your travel footprint.

There are nevertheless, several things you can do to travel smarter by air:

  • Select airlines which have a published environmental and / or corporate social responsibility policy.
  • Select airlines which have newer aircraft as these are more fuel efficient.
  • Take longer trips instead of many shorter ones, thus reducing the overall number of flights per year.
  • Fly direct as multiple take offs and landings on route to the final destination will increase emissions considerably
  • Fly during the day where possible as scientists have found that the warming effect of an aircraft is much greater in the dark, because of the effects of the condensation trails (contrails) they leave
  • Keep your baggage weight to a minimum, as lighter baggage helps to save fuel and carbon emissions.
  • Purchase reputable certified carbon offsets if you wish to support carbon reduction projects in your community or around the world.

Car Travel

Whether you use your own car to embark on a road trip, or rent a vehicle abroad, there are many green driving tips that will assist you to cut down fuel consumption, greenhouse gas emissions and save money on the way

The good news is that the auto industry is continuing to develop more fuel efficient cars, as well as alternative fuel technology. Many car rental agencies are therefore upgrading their fleets, and hybrid and electric vehicles are becoming more widely accepted.

Renting a car with the environment in mind includes:

  • Selecting car rental companies that have a published environmental and / or corporate social responsibility policy.
  • Selecting a car that fits your needs including:
    • number of passengers
    • distance
    • terrain
    • length of trip
  • Turning down upgrades as larger vehicles use more fuel.
  • Requesting cars that have the best mileage possible.
  • Asking if they have hybrid or electric cars

Some general green driving tips include:

  • Know where you are going. Planning your itinerary in advance may save time and frustrating detours which will consume more fuel, create pollution, and carbon emissions.
  • Do several trips in one. Where possible, combine sightseeing trips and other errands in one trip.
  • Travel light. Heavy loaded cars consume more fuel and take up more room, making the trip less comfortable for the passengers.
  • Avoid speeding. Cars driven at higher speeds increase drag and lower fuel economy.
  • Fill up with the most efficient fuel. Follow the car manufacturer guidelines for the fuel type needed. This will make the car run better and emit less pollution and emissions.
  • Share your ride - carpooling may avoid another vehicle clogging up the road and it can also be fun to have company. Check with friends or car pooling websites.
  • Keep your tires inflated. Check tire pressure and follow the car manufacturer guidelines. Overtime tires lose pressure and increase rolling resistance, thus wasting fuel.
  • Stay light on the breaks. Cars use the most gas with abrupt acceleration and breaking. Keep a reasonable distance from the car ahead and watch for any slowdowns to avoid sudden breaking..
  • Use AC wisely. At lower speeds having the windows down may be more efficient, but on the highway, it will increase drag substantially and reduce fuel efficiency.


Research has shown that one full coach has five times less carbon dioxide emissions, per passenger per kilometer, than a jet aircraft on the same route. For every full coach, there are 16 fewer cars on the road. This makes bus/coach transport a very environmentally efficient mode of transport [5].

Intercity Coaches are a green alternative to cars as they carry more people across long distances. Modern coaches are fuel efficient and are often equipped with toilets, onboard entertainment, and offer express routes.

Public Buses are often seen as a budget-conscious mode of transport in some countries, but they provide an environmentally friendly option that allows you to learn more about the local community's way of life.

Shuttles allow you to hop aboard mini-vans with passengers headed to the same hotel or attraction. You will save money by sharing the ride and won't have to worry about getting lost.


Train   Travel Pic

As a form of mass transport, trains have the potential to be an efficient and environmental way to travel. Many countries have extensive rail networks, which allow for intermodal connectivity between airports and urban centers, substantially reducing car traffic.

As operational efficiencies, route networks, and environmental best practices vary widely around the world, be sure to check train company websites to see what they are doing about sustainability in their country, and choose those that advertise their green efforts.

There are of course other benefits to train travel; it is generally cheaper than flying, it uses less fuel than air travel, cities and regions can be explored in a slower and more relaxed way, it supports national rail systems which employ people from the area, and it is used by locals and tourist alike.

Water Transport

Water Travel Pic

Traveling by sea on a cruise ship, taking a passenger ferry, or lazily drifting on a river boat, are all great ways of exploring the world.

However, the environmental and socio-economic impact of the various marine sectors has not been clearly established. The responsible traveler should research more into sustainable best practices in water transport, especially large cruise ships, if are considering booking a sea-bound vacation.

Over 13.5 million people worldwide took a cruise in 2009, making the cruise industry a mass form of tourism [6]. Inevitably, such high passenger volume raises concerns about the impact of large vessels at sea and in ports. The cruise sector acknowledges the issues related to pollution and waste and is making industry-wide efforts to implement a range of initiatives aimed at minimizing its environmental impact, support conservation of marine ecosystems, and work to improve the livelihood of the communities in which they operate.

These include:

  • Check cruise line and other marine transportation websites for sustainable practices. Select the company which is making the most environmental and social effort.
  • Check cruise line industry websites to learn about the latest technological advances for sea vessels as well innovative retrofitting of existing fleets.
  • Visit travel and cruising websites to see passenger reviews about environmental practices.

For those who love the sea, there are also small cruise line options, sailing, and yachting.


Bicycle Travel Pic

Bicycles are four to five times faster than walking, and in traffic jams, faster than motor vehicles! Bicycles provide the most efficient human powered form of transport, they are economical, environmentally sustainable, and provide an incredible opportunity to explore off the beaten track and share real life experiences with the locals.

Bike tours have gained popularity in recent years as more people want to keep fit while experiencing a slower and authentic form of travel.

Many cities also offer bike rentals allowing for an economical, clean, and easy way to move about urban areas.

Inquire if your hotel or resort provides bikes for guests and take the opportunity to pedal your way through the local community.

Always be sure to abide by local traffic and safety laws, and respect the dress codes of the places you ride in.


The ultimate in fuel efficiency, with the added bonus of a health benefit! Many destinations are highly accessible on foot. Where possible, try to take the extra time to sightsee, visit a restaurant, go to your hotel, or shop, using the oldest form of transport.