5 Eco-Friendly Travel Ideas for Your Summer Vacation

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As summer approaches, you’re likely itching to travel. This year, consider making your vacation a time for relaxation, adventure and a chance to contribute positively to the environment.

Eco-friendly travel is a growing trend focusing on sustainability and conservation. Here are some ideas to help you plan an eco-friendly vacation this summer.

1. Embrace Minimalist Packing

a woman packing her suitcase
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Pack only essential items, reducing physical and mental clutter and your carbon footprint. By packing light, you can save space in your luggage and reduce the weight you have to carry.

This method encourages mindfulness, focusing on versatile clothing, multi-purpose items and compact gadgets. For instance, experts recommend packing 10–15 neutral items you can mix and match.

Opt for travel-sized toiletries and use digital devices for reading and entertainment to avoid carrying books and magazines. Carrying less reduces the energy and resources necessary for transportation, particularly if you’re flying.

A lighter load means a lower carbon footprint. You minimize single-use plastics and waste by consciously choosing sustainable and reusable items, such as stainless steel water bottles and cloth shopping bags.

2. Choose an Eco-Friendly Destination

There are plenty of destinations to choose from, but if sustainability is your top priority, consider these locations for an eco-friendly summer vacation.

Asheville, North Carolina

the sun rises over the mountains and clouds

Asheville — nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains — is a haven for eco-conscious travelers. The city is known for its vibrant arts scene, farm-to-table dining, and extensive hiking and biking trails.

Its commitment to sustainability is evident in its numerous green initiatives, including the Asheville GreenWorks program, which promotes tree planting and waste production.

Mountain vacations often include organic and sustainable food options with locally sourced ingredients. This commitment enhances the dining scene, offering fresh, flavorful meals.

Moab, Utah 

brown rock formation under the blue sky
Photo by Clément Proust on Pexels.com

For those who love adventure, Moab offers a unique blend of stunning natural beauty and eco-friendly tourism. Located near Arches and Canyonlands National Parks, Moab is a gateway to some of the most breathtaking landscapes in the U.S.

The town promotes sustainable tourism practices through initiatives such as the Moab Area Travel Council, which focuses on protecting natural resources and encouraging responsible tourism.

Costa Rica

green plants near mountain under white clouds

Costa Rica is a global leader in ecotourism. Approximately 25% of the country is protected by the National System of Conservation Areas. Its eco-lodges and sustainable tourism practices make it a top choice for environmentally conscious travelers.

New Zealand

aerial photography of island

New Zealand’s stunning views and robust environmental policies make it an ideal destination for eco-friendly travel. Its strict tourism policies and conservation efforts reflect the country’s commitment to maintaining its cultural heritage and natural environment.

Visitors can enjoy various sustainable activities, from exploring the geothermal wonders of Rotorua to hiking the scenic trails of Fiordland National Park.

3. Find Sustainable Accommodations

man and woman walks on dock
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Finding sustainable accommodations is a key aspect of planning an eco-friendly getaway. When searching for a place to stay, look for properties prioritizing environmental stewardship and sustainable practices.

Many such hotels and lodges use renewable power, implement water and energy conservation measures, and support local communities by sourcing goods and services from them.

Online platforms like EcoHotels or Green Pearls can help you find certified sustainable accommodations. Additionally, reading reviews and checking a hotel’s sustainability page can provide insight into their commitment to green practices.

Another great lodging option is camping or using an RV, especially if you travel locally. Many RVs are equipped with solar panels and composting toilets, offering a more sustainable way to travel.

Look out for these certifications when booking your lodging:

  • LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design)
  • Green Key
  • Green Globe
  • EarthCheck
  • Rainforest Alliance Certified
  • Energy Star
  • Travelife
  • EcoRooms and EcoSuites

4. Consider Green Transport Options

woman and man waiting on train station

One of the most effective ways to reduce your carbon footprint is by switching to public transportation like trains and buses, which emit significantly less carbon dioxide than cars and airplanes.

Besides walking or cycling, rail transport is the most sustainable option, offering a scenic and relaxing experience with a much lower environmental impact.

In bigger cities, bicycles or walking are fantastic ways to explore your surroundings. Choosing a hybrid or electric vehicle can drastically reduce emissions for those needing to rent a car.

Many rental companies now offer a range of eco-friendly vehicles, making it easier to travel sustainably.

5. Schedule Environmentally Friendly Activities

Eco-friendly activities are an excellent way to protect the environment. Swap shopping sprees and tourist traps for activities that emphasize conservation and eco-consciousness.


man standing on a rock
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Exploring the great outdoors through hiking and nature walks is a great way to connect with the environment. Many national parks and nature reserves boast well-maintained trails that allow you to experience stunning landscapes and diverse wildlife.

Remember to stick to the marked trails and follow Leave No Trace principles to minimize your impact.


man wearing diving mask underwater photo
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Snorkeling is a fun way to explore vibrant underwater ecosystems with minimal environmental impact and no damage to the sea creatures.

By simply using a mask, snorkel and flippers, you can observe diverse marine life and colorful coral reefs up close. Choose reputable operators who prioritize sustainability, such as avoiding contact with marine life.

Bird and Wildlife Watching

a blue throated macaw perched on a tree branch

Wildlife watching can be incredibly exciting if you’re not used to seeing animals in nature. Look for guided tours prioritizing ethical wildlife viewing practices. This ensures you observe animals in their natural habitats without disturbing them.

Botanical Gardens and Eco-Parks

green house
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Botanical gardens and eco-parks are perfect for those who want to learn more about local flora and conservation efforts. These spaces often feature educational programs, guided tours and exhibits highlighting biodiversity. Supporting these institutions helps fund their initiatives.

Kayaking and Canoeing

person riding on gray kayak
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Exploring rivers, lakes and coastal areas by kayak or canoe is a low-impact way to enjoy the water. These activities allow you to access remote areas and experience nature quietly and intimately. Choose rental businesses that promote environmental stewardship and provide eco-friendly equipment.

Walking Tours

people walking on brick road
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If you travel to a city, sustainable activities may be more limited. Walking tours are a wonderful way to explore a new place without contributing to harmful emissions. They allow you to connect with the local culture, history and environment, all while getting some steps in.

Walking tours offer a unique perspective on the area, supporting local economies and promoting sustainable tourism practices. Whether you navigate city streets or historical landmarks, these experiences provide a low-impact, enriching experience.

Choose Eco-Friendly Vacations This Summer

Sustainable travel isn’t just beneficial for the environment, but it can also enrich your journey, creating a more authentic and fulfilling adventure. By incorporating these eco-friendly summer vacation tips, you can protect the planet while enjoying memorable experiences.

  • Beth Rush

    Beth Rush is the green wellness editor at Body+Mind, a health and wellness brand. She covers topics like sustainable agriculture and plant-based recipes. You can find Beth on Twitter @bodymindmag. Subscribe to Body+Mind for more posts by Beth!

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