Welcome to Second Nature, a Q+A series with Jute founder, Ali Davin, that explores all things healthy living, with a fond emphasis on that thing she does best—interior design.
Whether you’re a beach person or a city person, travel is a way to connect with different cultures, appreciate the beauty of the world, and create memories to last a lifetime. It’s also an opportunity to protect and preserve our planet.
Traveling sustainably supports local communities, lightens your environmental impact, and immerses you in your destination in a more meaningful way. Here’s how to take a sustainable approach to your next trip.
I love to travel—and do so every chance I get. But doing it sustainably is not always easy. At this point, sustainable travel is in its infancy and hasn’t spread to all facets of the industry. To lighten your footprint while traveling, you need to do a lot of research first.
I seek out destinations that were built to be sustainable, from supporting local communities to using local materials and resources. I recently stayed at Amangiri, which is this insanely beautiful resort in the middle of Navajo territory in Utah. Aman Resorts invest in amazing geography and architecture, they create jobs in remote areas, and they build using materials from within a small radius of the property. Everything is simple and pared down and built into the landscape.
As far as hotels go, I care a lot about air quality, so I try to stay at properties that don’t spray with pesticides. It’s not a problem if you’re going to a city, but if you’re on an island or somewhere more remote, they’re often spraying nonstop to keep the bugs away. I also call ahead of time and ask them not to clean my room with chemicals. Hotels never have a problem with that!
I try to avoid staying in a recently built or renovated hotel—whatever materials they used are likely still off-gassing, even if they built as sustainably as possible. And always stay away from hotels with lots of carpet—it’s the biggest offender for VOCs, and the chemicals they use to clean it make it even worse. In some high-end hotels, there’s been a movement towards less carpet. The Four Seasons, for example, has a wellness floor at some of their properties. It has water filtration, HEPA air filters, no carpet, no chemical cleaners, hypoallergenic bedding, and all organic everything. It makes a huge difference, and it’s the same price as a regular room.
Ideally, you want a place that’s completely self-sufficient. I traveled throughout Africa with a company called And Beyond, and their properties use wells and biodynamic farming—all of the food comes from the property, and everything gets composted, so there’s no waste, no plastic bottles. Obviously these are locations that are hard to get to, so they need a specific infrastructure, but it’s thoughtfully planned.
Whether you’re in the middle of nowhere or in a huge city, it’s important to immerse yourself in your destination for a longer time instead of jumping from place to place. You get a much better sense of a place and its culture when you stay put, and your transportation footprint is much less.
Flying is the least sustainable part of traveling, because planes emit tons of carbon dioxide into the air. To lessen your impact, the best thing to do is fly direct on a commercial airline. Avoid layovers if you can—a plane uses 25% of its fuel during takeoff, so the fewer takeoffs you have, the lower your carbon footprint.
If you can, take a train—they emit half as much carbon as planes. If you have to fly, purchase a carbon offset for your flight. Many airlines offer the option when you’re buying your ticket, and it’s way more affordable than you think. The money goes toward planting trees or renewable energy sources—things that help the entire planet.
Look for hotels who build from materials sourced from the local landscape.