Responsible travel is more than just a trend. It’s a genre of tourism that’s had a hand in all kinds of positive change, like ethical conservation experiences and eco-friendly transport. The latest aspect of responsible travel to get global traction is that of the mindful traveler. It’s the notion that everyone can have a positive impact on their vacation destination. Here are six ways to be a mindful traveler during your next trip.
Interact with elephants at the cruelty-free Lanna Kingdom Elephant Sanctuary in Chiang Mai.

1. Support ethical animal sanctuaries

Great strides have been made to ensure animal sanctuaries around the world are ethically run. If you have the opportunity to pay a visit to happy animals (they’re well-fed, comfortable, safe, and healthy) at an ethical sanctuary, go for it! Choosing an animal-friendly activity, such as visiting this elephant sanctuary in Thailand or this kiwi bird sanctuary in New Zealand is a win-win — you get to spend time with amazing members of the animal kingdom and have a clear conscience.

Discover your destination through its food culture.

2. Eat local (it’s delicious)

You’ve come all this way to experience something different and new, right? Right. Alas, the siren call of “that meal” is all too familiar. You know the one: it’s comforting, dependable, and you can pronounce its name. If you find yourself drawn to the neon lights of a certain fast-food establishment, check yourself. There are so many delicious things to try right where you are. Things you can’t get at home! Plus, dining locally, like on this food tour of Athens, supports the community you’re visiting. Giving back never tasted so good.

Cycling around your destination helps offset your carbon footprint.

3. Balance your carbon footprint

The rise of e-scooters and bike-sharing apps mean you can really cut down on your carbon footprint when out exploring. Cities around the world have taken to such initiatives, so you’re never far from pedaling your way around the top sights. Lots of destinations even offer tours via green transport.

In Singapore, you can learn all about the sustainable development of Marina Bay while on an e-scooter. As good as swapping cars for bicycles is for the environment, chances are you flew to your destination. Thankfully, there are ways to mitigate the impact your travels have on the environment. Skyscanner now highlights planes that emit less CO₂, so you can find the most eco-friendly route. Several airlines have also started programs that, for a small fee, will offset your carbon emissions.

Fly through the Thai rainforest on an eco zip-line experience.

4. Seek out experiences that fund preservation

The rise of ecotourism is awesome and unstoppable. Once a niche trend, it’s now easier than ever to do some good for the environment when on vacation.  There are plenty of large organizations and local companies that run eco-friendly tours. Take this zip line experience in Thailand, for example. You’ll spend your day whizzing across the canopy of a rainforest that’s teeming with biodiversity. The money raised from the zip line is essential to the conservation of this precious ecosystem.

Volunteering at a wildlife rescue center is a great way to give back to the community you visit.

5. Help the community that welcomes you

Giving something back to the community you visit on vacation is a staple of the mindful traveler. In Costa Rica, the La Fortuna Wildlife Rescue Center educates guests on the protection and rehabilitation of local animals. This educational experience lets you shadow a trained guide as they save wild animals and reintroduce them into their natural habitat. Volunteering here for an afternoon or two is the ideal way to connect with and understand one of the world’s most fragile ecosystems.

Say no to plastic. Bring a reusable thermos or water bottle on your next trip.

6. Ditch plastic for reusable alternatives

This is something that doesn’t just apply to while we’re on the road. We can all agree that single-use plastic is the worst: our beaches, countrysides, and oceans are filled with it. Thankfully, the tide is turning against its use. Places like Kenya, Bali, and Sri Lanka have banned the use of either all single-use plastics or plastic bags.

When you’re on vacation, it’s all too easy to slip into the habit of ordering a drink with a disposable straw or buying a plastic bottle of water and chucking it into the trash as soon as you’re done. The solution is simple: take a reusable bottle with you and fill it up whenever you pass by a fountain or a tap with a water purification system. It may seem like a small act, but you’ll save a lot (a lot!) of plastic this way.

Are you a mindful traveler? Tell us how you make a positive impact on your destination in the comments. Hint: make sure you’re logged into Facebook to share your tips with us.