9 Innovative Platforms Making Sustainable Travel Easy (& Fun!)

*A big thanks to Hilton Hotels & Resorts for sponsoring this post. This post originally appeared on Jessie on a Journey

Did you know it’s possible to help change the world through travel?

Often when people think of travel, their mind wanders to what they’ll get out of the trip experience.

Whether it’s self-discovery, personal growth or a broader perspective, we travelers want to make sure our money and time are spent in a way that benefits us.

Which makes total sense, because travel can change your life; however, if we allow our minds to wander beyond the ways a trip can add value to ourselves — and focus on the positive impact we can have on the places we visit — incredible things can happen.

For Passport Awareness Month (September), I’ve partnered with Hilton Hotels & Resorts to help spread the word about the benefits of getting your passport.

This an especially important topic because, according to The US Department of State, nearly 60% of Americans do not own a passport.

Why is this a big deal?

Well, obtaining a passport — and traveling the world — has many benefits.

Not only does your passport act as a form of identification, but traveling…

  • Expands your mind and opens you up to new ideas
  • Makes you a more tolerant person
  • Helps you grow your relationship with yourself (especially if you travel solo!)
  • Allows you to make wonderful memories
  • Transforms you into a true global citizen, which Oxfam defines as being “someone who is aware of and understands the wider world – and their place in it”

And the first step to becoming a global citizen?

Getting your passport.

Psst! Don’t forget to pin this post for later!

Whether you volunteer ethically, curb your carbon footprint or support local nonprofits, these platforms make sustainable travel simple. 

 

An Easier Way To Obtain A Passport

Conrad Hilton — the founder of Hilton — believed travel had the power to break down cultural barriers and inspire the world.

This is why the brand has worked with the US Department of State since 2017 on their Hilton Passport Project.

Through the project, the brand hosts pop-up Passport Concierge Booths around the USA.

getting my passport

Walking through the steps to my passport at Hilton’s Passport Project event in NYC

During these events, you can fill out your new passport application (or passport renewal application), get free passport photos taken, ask represenatives from the Department of State any questions you may have in person, and submit everything on-site.

Bonus:

When I attended their September Passport Concierge Booth in NYC, I was also able to get my makeup done by celebrity makeup artist Daniel Martin — complimentary!

makeup done by daniel martin

Getting my makeup done by Daniel Martin for my passport photo

Make sure to follow Hilton on Instagram to stay informed about when the next Passport Project pop-up is, so you can save yourself the trip to the passport office.

On that note, let’s dive into how you can help change the world through travel once you get your passport.

What Is Sustainable Tourism?

What we’ll be focusing on in this guide is a little something called sustainable tourism.

More than a buzzword, through this lens you use your trips as an opportunity to help the local community you’re visiting, as well as the environment.

Instead of simply going on vacation, you consider how to make a positive impact while traveling.

This might be through ethical volunteer work abroad, though this is far from the only way to travel sustainably.

Also note that not all volunteer trips are created equal, and you’ll want to spend time vetting any volunteer travel organizations before choosing one.

help change the world in nature

Part of sustainable tourism is championing nature

Additionally, this might mean booking through sustainable travel companies — a number of which are highlighted below — supporting local projects, shopping at small businesses and keeping sustainable travel tips in mind.

Yes, there are different ways to travel; but whether you’re a solo nomad, family traveler, jetsetter, budget backpacker or something else, realize that as global citizens we can change the world.

Positive Impact Tourism: Ethical Trips & Travel Tips

Ready to make sustainable travel your preferred way of exploring the world?

Add these impact trips and travel tips to your itinerary.

1. Book Local Tours With Visit.org

Visit.org — a certified B-Corp — focuses on impact travel experiences.

In fact, every tour they offer benefits a local organization, project or cause.

Their tours take place in cities around the world, and with each listing you’ll learn exactly how your dollars are helping the community.

For instance, in Lima you might do a workshop with Ayacucho artisans and hear their stories of being displaced due to domestic terrorism, with booking revenue assisting local infrastructure projects and heritage preservation efforts.

Or, in Cape Town, you could visit and support a rescued penguin preserve.

Search by destination or, if your travel itinerary is flexible, by cause, like education or women’s empowerment.

visit.org vetting criteria

Screenshot from Visit.org website explaining how they vet the organizations they work with

All the organizations they work with are rigorously vetted against a number of criteria.

For instance, tours must keep environmental sustainability in mind and can’t interact with particularly vulnerable populations.

Bonus:

Visit.org doesn’t take money from the organizations to get listed. Instead, they’re funded through a portion of your booking payment and through grants.

2. Go Local With Lokal

Lokal is another platform for booking conscious local experiences.

Their focus:

Putting dollars directly into the hands of locals and helping to protect local environments and  heritage.

red travel mexico turtle project

Photo via Lokal, from a marine support experience they offer with RED Travel Mexico

Whether you want to work with animals, experience local community life, spend time in nature or get a first-hand account of community agriculture, you’ll find it in the form of single and multi-day excursions.

A few noteworthy additions to your travel itinerary:

These tours offer prime examples of how fun and immersive sustainable tourism can be.

3. Pack Thoughtfully With Pack For A Purpose

Along with the usual travel essentials like a safety whistle, medications and pickpocket-proof clothing, consider saving some room in your suitcase for needed supplies in the destination you’ll be visiting.

Not sure what supplies are needed?

That’s where Pack For A Purpose comes in.

pack for a purpose

Photo via Pack For A Purpose, from one of the communities they support in Costa Rica

Once on their website, you can search by destination or cause, such as health or animal welfare.

The beauty of their platform is it highlights the relevant projects and exactly what you can bring to be of service.

For instance, if you’re going to Indonesia, you might choose to support the Yayasan Rare Angon Giri Indrawati NGO, bringing school supplies, educational games, and new or gently used clothing.

4. Volunteer Ethically With Unearth The World

Here’s the deal:

Applying to volunteer overseas usually shouldn’t be as easy as booking a flight.

When you volunteer with Unearth The World, they work hard to pair you with the right NGOs so that your skills and passions match the project.

Here is a visual they created to clearly show what their volunteer application process looks like:

unearth the world volunteer application process

Graphic via Unearth The World

Some volunteer projects for travelers they offer include hut building in Zambia, coffee farming in Guatemala and food security in Nicaragua.

5. Donate Time Through Grassroots Volunteering

Another recommended volunteer travel platform is Grassroots Volunteering, started by one of my favorite ethical travel bloggers, Shannon O’Donnell.

Ms. O’Donnell goes to incredible lengths to ensure the projects listed are ethical.

Here’s an example:

If you’re heading to Cambodia, you might consider working with AboutAsia Schools. This organization is careful not to replace local teachers with “free” volunteers, but to train helpers to make a lasting impact on their pupils.

Or, if you’re visiting India, you might volunteer with Animal Aid.

animal aid india

One of hundreds of dogs at Animal Aid. Photo via Jessie Festa.

This organization — which I’ve personally volunteered with — rescues thousands of injured animals annually.

Moreover, they work to educate the community on animal rights, and hire paid local workers alongside volunteers.

Bonus:

On the Grassroots Volunteering website you’ll also find a unique global list of small businesses supporting social good causes for you to frequent.

6. Book Travel Insurance With Conscious

You never want to leave home without travel insurance.

And if you’re interested in helping to change the world through travel, I recommend booking yours through World Nomads Footprints Network.

Here’s how it works:

  • Choose a policy through World Nomads
  • Choose a project
  • Donate a small contribution
paragliding over medellin

It’s smart to get travel insurance, and even smarter to get it *and* donate to social good projects

Just a few ways this program has left a positive impact on communities in need, at the time of writing, include:

  • Raising almost $29,000 AUD toward educating disadvantaged youth in Australia
  • Raising almost $28,000 AUD toward cleaning up litter in Nepal
  • Raising almost $20,000 AUD toward protecting sharks and rays in Belize

7. Purchase Your Gear Using AmazonSmile

Most likely, you’ve bought something on Amazon in your life, whether it’s for an upcoming trip or something else.

But did you know you can turn your Amazon purchases into charitable contributions?

punta cana

When buying your travel gear online, make a contribution at no additional cost via AmazonSmile. Photo taken by Jessie Festa in the Dominican Republic.

AmazonSmile works just like regular Amazon, with the added bonus that 0.5% of your spending goes to the charity of your choice, at no extra cost to you.

Neat feature:

When you’re logged into AmazonSmile, you can click the “See Your Impact” link to track exactly how much you’ve raised for charity over time.

8. Offset Your Footprint With CarbonFund

Truth:

Even when you travel with conscious, you leave a carbon footprint.

Along with making more thoughtful decisions on how you travel, you can use CarbonFund‘s platform to offset the greenhouse gases produced by your trip.

hiking in vail

Help plant trees and support other carbon-reducing projects via CarbonFund. Photo taken in Colordo by Jessie Festa.

Their website has a handy calculator that lets you assess your footprint.

From there, you can “offset” by donating the calculated cost to the carbon reduction project of your choice.

9. Support Small Business Through Urban Adventures

Full disclosure:

I’ve been a local guide with Urban Adventures in NYC for about four years, though I’ve taken their tours around the world since before then.

What I love about their tours — which operate in 150+ cities around the world — is they focus on taking visitors beyond the typical tourist sites to really experience a place like a local.

And by going local, they support local.

arthur avenue bronx

Supporting the locals along Arthur Avenue on an Urban Adventures tour

One of Urban Adventures’ most exciting offerings is their In Focus Tours, described as “witnessing the most inspiring story you’ve ever heard in real life.”

These tours are created in partnership with local NGOs and social good organizations, and help bring local issues to life and support relief efforts.

One example is a souvenir-making workshop in Poland, that also supports the homeless.

Another is visiting Santiago, Chile to learn how street art helped to revitalize the San Miguel commune.

This way, visitors can learn how to truly help change the world through tourism.

Love booking travel on a budget?

You can use code UANYC8 to get 10% off any Urban Adventures tour around the world!

Have other suggestions for how to help change the world with your passport? Please share in the comments below! 

***Are you a content creator focused on responsible tourism? Click here to apply to join the Impact Travel Alliance Media Network!

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Whether you volunteer ethically, curb your carbon footprint or support local nonprofits, these platforms make sustainable travel simple.

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Jessica Festa

Jessica Festa is the editor of Epicure & Culture as well as Jessie on a Journey. She enjoys getting lost in new cities and having experiences you don’t read about in guidebooks. Some of her favorite travel experiences have been teaching English in Thailand, trekking her way through South America, backpacking Europe solo, road tripping through Australia, agritouring through Tuscany, and volunteering in Ghana.

2 Comments

  1. Interesting post 🙂

    I don’t know any of these platforms, so it’s time to pay them a visit 😀

    In my opinion, another way for sustainable travel is to use more public transportation, cycling and hiking to reduce the greenhouse emission.

  2. So many great platforms here that I’d never even heard of! Grassroots make a very important point in not recruiting short-term volunteers in place of enthusiastic and qualified locals. That’s a great initiative and will definitely have a positive long-term effect.

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