5 Ways to Travel Sustainably in California

Written by Paisley Hansen


California is a state of endless wonders. Up north, you can walk through the Redwood forest and see the world’s tallest trees, and you can drive across the Golden Gate Bridge just like you’ve seen in the movies. Then, you can Road Trip down the beautiful Big Sur coastline to Southern California, where you can enjoy sunny San Diego and check out Beverly Hills’ Rodeo Drive.


There is no shortage of things to do and see in California, and it’s definitely worth a trip. But just as you should be conscious of your energy usage at home investing in solar panels and a solar panel battery for power and using less water for showers and brushing your teeth — you also need to be conscious of your carbon footprint while traveling. Here are some ways to get the most out of your California vacation while taking the least from the environment around you.

  1. Travel By Land When Possible

California is a big country, and it might be tempting to fly from North to South (or vice-versa) by plane. However, air travel is bad for the environment; flights produce a great deal of carbon dioxide, a massive contributor to climate change. If you want to travel long distances within California and you’re not too pressed for time, it’s a lot more environmentally friendly to drive, take a train, or take a bus. Plus, the views of the water, desert, and mountains out your window during land travel will be well worth it.


  1. Bike or Walk Short Distances

You might feel tired after a long day and just want an Uber or Taxi driver to take you from your hotel down the block to your dinner reservation. Try to avoid this. If you’re traveling short distances within a city, walking or biking is much better for the environment than transportation by car. Most of California’s big cities have a bike-sharing system, where you can rent a bike for a few dollars a day and ride it around the city. Not only will this be cheaper than an Uber or a Taxi, but you’ll get some exercise and feel like a true California local.


  1. Eat at Sustainable Restaurants

Like most cities in the United States, California has a lot of “farm-to-table” restaurants. But what does that really mean, and how can you make sure you’re eating at an environmentally-conscious food establishment? Before you choose a restaurant, look at its website and its menu. Does it mention sustainability? Does it have seasonal options? Does it mention where they source their food from and if that place is local and environmentally friendly? If the answer is yes to these questions, then you’ve probably chosen a good restaurant. If not, you should probably look elsewhere.


  1. Eat Mostly Vegetarian

In the same vein, cutting out meat during your California vacation can drastically reduce your diet’s ecological impact. Eating vegetarian reduces greenhouse gas emotions, saves water, helps avoid pollution, and reduces wildlife destruction — among other positive environmental impacts. Therefore, committing to eating vegetarian as much as possible during your trip to California can help you be a more sustainable traveler.


  1. Stay in a Multi-Person Dorm Room

You probably think of hostels in the European context, but they exist in California, too — and are great for the environment. Private hotel rooms (and private hotel bathrooms) require more electric energy and water to keep you comfortable than dorm-room style accommodations. Plus, hostels are a great way to meet other travelers and save money: a win-win. If you feel like you would rather have more privacy, and a hotel stay is your preferred option, make sure the hotel you choose is  LEED-certified. This way, you’ll be able to rest easy knowing that the hotel you’re staying in has gone through rigorous efforts to remain sustainable and green.


California is a travel destination you don’t want to miss. Just make sure you’re being conscious of how your presence affects the environment you’re visiting, and try to do as much as you can to offset the damage your traveling does to the land around you. That way, when you visit again ten years later, California will be just as beautiful as you left it.