19 Ways to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint During a Nature trip to Colombia

Global warming is an issue that should concern everybody on this planet. Therefore, reduce your carbon footprint. Sadly, what we love the most, which is to travel, generates a significant contribution to greenhouse gas emissions in general, and carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in particular. And this is why many authors and organizations call on travelers to change their travel behaviors.

However, some of the proposals are not the most attractive for many tourists, among them:

  • Travel less often, which is unmotivating.
  • Stay longer in the destination, which could be unaffordable in terms of money or time.
  • Reduce aerial transportation, which becomes difficult if you live very far away, as in another continent…
  • Switch from air transport to train, ship, public transport or bicycle, which may be very unfeasible in less developed countries.
  • Choose destinations that are closer to home, which sounds boring
  • Participate in carbon offsetting programs or purchase carbon credits, from what you know nothing about, and
  • Purchase goods only from certified tour operators, hotels and destinations, but without falling into the hands of greenwashers*!

*By definition, a greenwasher is someone who does greenwashing. And greenwashing is “behaviour or activities that make people believe that a company is doing more to protect the environment than it really is” (Source: Cambridge Dictionary).

Changes to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint Begins Through Your Own Habits

Studies on environmental behavioral change identified a significant gap between awareness and action. There are even studies suggesting that the most aware individuals are unlikely to change their behaviors when traveling.

On the other hand, some extreme conservationists and journalists have come to say that tourism, traveling, is an expendable activity and that it only fulfills superficial and selfish interests.

Reduce Your Carbon Footprint ©Glasbergen Cartoon Service

But nothing could be further from the truth. Tourism is one of the main sources of income in many places. Also, it can even bring benefits for the conservation of local biodiversity and the maintenance of surrounding human populations.

However, if our attitude to travel does not change, they will be right. Today sustainability is a must. It is also a must to be aware of the impact we produce when we travel, or when we do whatever other activity.

Thus, tourism development must be ecologically bearable in the long term, and economically viable and equitable for local communities from an ethical and social perspective.

Realistic Ways to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint

If you are looking for realistic ways to reduce your carbon footprint while traveling, here are your options:

1. Know your impact.

Calculate your carbon footprint. By definition, the carbon footprint is “the amount of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere as a result of the activities of a particular individual, organization, or community” (Source: Oxford Languages).

Now, try to understand what it is. Make your numbers with this FREE CARBON CALCULATOR by Carbon Footprint TM:

I also recommend you to visit CeroCO2 (In Spanish) to calculate your carbon footprint, and just in case you feel motivated to help. Also visit Flight2Fart (very funny!) to know your flight emissions.

2. Investigate the tour operators and destinations

Do some research on the measures taken to care for the environment in the place where you are going to travel.

Look for information on how sustainable development is applied, how you can support this practice, how to make your carbon footprint lower when you visit the area.

  • Try to choose environmentally responsible suppliers: Choose service providers that are environmentally responsible and try to reduce their carbon footprint as much as possible.
  • Try to choose socially responsible suppliers: Choose service providers that are respectful of local communities and also help their economic and social development.

Read our blog: Recommended Sustainable Tourism Destinations in Colombia.

The Government of Colombia recognizes that the country’s wealth does not correspond to the policy of sustainability. So, the Ministry of Industry and Commerce (MinCIT) is working on the creation of Colombia’s first sustainable development policy, to be released at the end of 2020.

Today, Colombia is part of VIRTUOSO, the tourism committee of the OSD, among other important organizations related to sustainable tourism worldwide.

Colombia’s first sustainable development policy may become the most important and best made policy at regional and worldwide level. It has 6 strategies, 120 lines of action, among other things.

It goes hand in hand with updated definitions of sustainable development, ecotourism, carrying capacity, sanctions for environmental violations, incentives.

It also proposes the development of manuals for nature guides in Colombia, with the support of USAID, to strengthen the guidance of nature tourism in the country.

3. Choose sustainable and eco-friendly hotels.

In Colombia there are several options among nature reserves, eco lodges, and hotels. For more information, read our entry Complete Guide to the Best Eco lodges in Colombia.

Zero Footprint Project at Rancho Camaná in Meta

4. Travel also to help and care.

Look for a trip that has something else to offer, not only for you but also for the local community you visit and for the environment. Look for value-added tours.

For example, you can go plant trees during your trip, help remove trash from nature, saving animals, providing humanitarian aid etc. We recommend one of our trips to Casanare, which support the conservation of the moriche palm and the anteater.

5. Bring your own towel.

It sounds funny, but bringing your own towel avoids huge expenses in water, chemicals, and energy. Nowadays, there are towels that don’t weigh anything and dry very fast in a natural way. One of the most reviewed and recommended is the Wise Owl Outfitters Camping Travel Towel. If you are already in Colombia, go to any Decathlon store and find your towel there.

6. Use good, durable clothing.

Poor quality, non-durable clothing has devastating effects on the environment. Buy durable clothing produced in your country and in environmentally responsible factories. If you travel to Colombia, buy at local stores as GEF, Velez, Tennis

7. Unplug all electrical chargers.

If you are not using your electrical chargers or do not need to have your devices connected, please unplug them. Although chargers are not in direct use, they still consume energy and contribute to global warming, which is why they are called “energy vampires”.

8. Don’t produce unnecessary waste.

Avoid single-use plastics. Always carry your reusable bottle with you. Also use cloth or recycled material bags to carry your objects. Use your own cutlery and containers for your meals.

9. Leave no trace.

Do not leave trash everywhere. If you produce garbage, take it with you until you find the right place to dispose of it. The Leave No Trace Seven Principles are:

  • Plan ahead and prepare.
  • Travel and camp on durable surfaces.
  • Dispose of waste properly.
  • Leave what you find.
  • Minimize campfire impacts (be careful with fire).
  • Respect wildlife.
  • Be considerate of other visitors.

10. Try not to waste water or light.

Use only the essential water. Do the same with light. Remember that in some places these resources are very limited. Turn off lights when they’re not needed.

And don’t leave devices on standby — some of them use quite a lot of energy still, adding to your footprint. Turn off the lights and air conditioning when you leave your room in a hotel.

11. Apply the rule of the 3 “R” plus two.

Try to apply this rule whenever you can: REDUCE, REUSE, RECYCLE, REJECT and RECOVER. Read our entry: Top 5 Tools for Sustainable Nature Tourism in Colombia.

Reduce – Reuse -Recycle – Reject – Recover

12. Eat with the locals.

Having breakfast in Caquetá at the main square of Morelia

Visit farm-to-table restaurants and hotels. Eat at the local squares. And do not waste food! Buy local and seasonal food, both at home and during your trip.

13. Support Local Economies

Locally made crafts and souvenirs are not always the cheapest, but buying them ensures that your contribution to the economy will have a more direct and positive impact.

Buying local products contributes to the maintenance of cultural heritage and makes the work of local residents sustainable.

Find here what you can buy when you visit Colombia:

Masks made by local designer LifeWings with the Multicolored tanager as an inspiration. ©Sula’s Instagram

14. Try to use eco-friendly products.

Try to use animal and environmentally friendly cleaning and personal care products. Here some examples from Colombia:

  • ArthroFood: producing flour made from crickets to eradicate hunger in vulnerable populations by giving them the opportunity to use cricket flour in their cooking.
  • Carton Made: Design customized products made with cardboard.
  • Natpacking: 100% organic bags made with Cassava.
  • Magnolia: Handmade food bags made with beeswax, essential oils and natural textiles.
  • Conceptos Plasticos: Bricks made from recycled plastic to construct houses at a cheaper rate.
  • Baobab: Circular-economy fashion, without waste of water.
  • Lifepack: Biodegradable plates made with corn and pineapple to create disposable plates, which can then be planted.
  • Mayorga Design: Bags made with natural fibers, exalting the Wayuu indigenous people.
  • Papelyco: Biodegradable products. 
  • Vana: Clothes made with recyclable material.

15. Say no to trafficking.

Picture by Agencia EFE. Saimiri sciureus at the Wildlife Center in Bogotá, Colombia, after it was seized from animal traffickers. EFE-EPA/ Mauricio Dueñas Castañeda

Never buy products made from animals. Period. And don’t eat exotic animals either. Look what happened to us with the coronavirus! When you do that, you’re contributing to a growing market for trafficking in products made from rare and endangered animals or plants such as souvenirs. Just say no.

16. Travel light.

Don’t carry what you don’t need. Besides, there are many places in Colombia where you will have a baggage limit of 15 kg per person. Some of these places are:

17. If you can, offset your flights.

You could try to offset the emissions that you are unable to reduce using transparent and recognized certified carbon offsets. Search for Gold Standard offset projects.

There are websites where you can calculate your flight carbon footprint and then offset your Flight’s Carbon Emissions for Free such as FlyGreen.

18. Offset your travel to reduce your carbon footprint.

Some travel agencies make it easy to offset emissions. Or just make your calculations and PLANT TREES! For more information about the initiatives in Colombia to plant trees, read the blog Colombia wants to plant 180 million trees: Is it a realistic goal? at Mongabay News Website.

Tree Counter – Environmental Minister of Colombia

“The Ministry of the Environment has a dedicated area for the Sembratón campaign on its website. They have a tree “counter” figure that allows Colombians to know exactly how many trees are being planted and where. The objective is to keep track of how close or far the country is from achieving its goal of planting 180 million trees between 2018 and 2022.”

Wrote Antonio José Paz Cardona in the Mongabay Report. 23 April 2020. Mongabay Series: Global Forests

Follow the Tree Counter at Cifras Contador de Árboles.

19. For smokers

If you are used to smoking, bring your portable ashtray (buy it on Amazon) so that you do not fall into the temptation of throwing away your cigarette butts.

If you are interested in knowing about sustainable destinations in Colombia, how to help local communities or the conservation of biodiversity, follow our blog, visit the entries … And contact us!


About the author

Sara Colmenares

Current director of Sula. Doctor in Biological Sciences. Her main interests are to explore and understand the organism – environment interactions, taking advantage of emerging knowledge for the management and conservation of species and ecosystem services. She is currently working as a consultant in functional ecology, ecosystem services and conservation projects in Colombia related to ecotourism and birdwatching.