Nina Karnikowski’s 5 achievable tips for travelling more sustainably

Photography: Peter Windrim

Photography: Peter Windrim

Travelling more sustainably doesn’t necessarily mean restricting your adventure, in many ways it can enrich it.

As the world becomes more conscious of the impact of human activity on the environment, sustainable travel is becoming increasingly important to those with a passion for exploring the world. Those of us with itchy feet are always seeking ways to satisfy our wanderlust, although now, the focus is also on minimising our carbon footprint and making a positive contribution to the places we visit.

Author, travel writer and sustainability communicator Nina Karnikowski has spent years exploring the world and writing about sustainable travel practices. Here, she shares her top five tips for travelers who want to make a positive impact while exploring the world. From choosing eco-friendly accommodations to supporting local communities, her tips will help travelers create a more sustainable and responsible travel experience. With these tips, you can satisfy your wanderlust while also contributing to a more sustainable future for the planet.

Nina’s top 5 tips for travelling more sustainably

1. Go local as much as possible.

Staying in locally owned hotels, eating in locally owned restaurants, employing local indigenous guides and buying locally made handicrafts are ways to ensure that our powerful travel dollars are going directly into the pockets of locals, one of the most powerful ways to positively impact the places we're visiting. Every consumer decision we make counts, and this is particularly true when we travel. 

2. Give back more than you take from the destination.

Whether that be by shedding light on a particular issue and talking about it or fundraising for it via our social media accounts, getting involved in a conservation or rewilding program while we're away, or supporting ethical, sustainable local businesses or companies. ‘Going lightly’ is all about reciprocity.

3. Put nature at the centre of your adventures.

Working things like hiking, camping and boat trips into our journeys. Being surrounded by a flourishing natural environment helps us feel awe for our planet, which research proves makes us feel kinder and more generous, and encourages us to forgo our personal interests for those of others and the world. We protect what we love, so by surrounding ourselves with nature during our travels we’ll be more likely to fight for it when we get home.

4. Plan slower adventures.

An antidote to mindless, warp-speed travel, slow journeys are about harking back to the way we used to travel, and remembering what a privilege travel really is. Take fewer but longer trips, savour the journey, and leave plenty of unscheduled time for discovery.

5. Travel closer to home

Whether it’s a camping trip in a forest a few hours away or a stay in a nearby beach cabin, journeying close to home is one of the best ways to lighten our carbon footprint. It’s all about retraining ourselves to be as curious about the places close to home as we are about foreign lands.

Sustainable travel mishaps

Something you mightn’t know

It’s incredible how little money we spend as travellers stays in the communities we’re visiting. The term ‘leakage’ describes how the money we spend as travellers leaks out of the host countries and into the hands of multinational corporations. According to the UN’s World Tourism Organisation, just 5 percent of money spent by tourists actually stays in the local community. We can and must change that.

Handy resources

- Ancient Futures by Helena Norberg Hodge, is essential for anyone wanting to understand how we can embrace the localisation movement and rebuild place-based culture, in order to strengthen community and our connection with nature. Which, of course, has the added benefit of lowering global carbon emissions.

- Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants by indigenous botanist Robin Wall Kimmerer. It’s a poetic bible for anyone wanting to move towards a more reciprocal relationship with the natural world, and understand the interconnectedness of all things.

- Emergence Magazine’s podcast tells another story of what nature is - something that’s not as different from us as we currently believe, but something that we are.

- Earthrise Studio on Instagram. This account covers radical stories of hope and of possibility for the new world, related to indigenous land rights, environmental justice, climate solutions and much more.

Nina is currently working on…

My memoir The Mindful Traveller will be releasing on August 29. It is about my travels, but it’s also about the gifts of stillness and reflection and coming into deeper connection to the natural world. It is very intimate, and I hope it will be a friend to anyone else out there wondering how they can be a better steward of our planet, who loves travel and nature, and who is searching for ways to wriggle closer to themselves and Earth. I also have a deck of writing prompt cards called The Writer Within emerging in July. They’ll be similar to a deck of tarot cards but for journalling, to connect and inspire and transform. I hope it will help people orientate themselves in the world, to savour and amplify goodness, and to drop an anchor into the choppy waters of life. Finally, for anyone interested in mindful travel, I’m leading a trek to the Everest region of Nepal in October, centred around mindfulness with World Expeditions


Curious to know about Vida Glow's sustainable and responsible practices? Read more here