Take only pictures, leave only footprints. We’ve all heard it, but how many of us actually heed it? Today, with more than 1 billion people traveling every year, it’s imperative for frequent travelers to engage in sustainable practices that tread lightly on the Earth. To that end, a multitude of useful apps and websites have emerged to help us be greener globe-trotters: before, during, and after the journey. The following digital resources feature functions that range from finding flights with the lowest C02 emissions to locating sustainably sourced, seasonal food. What’s more—each of these environmentally friendly tools is totally free to use.
If you like eating local, Locavore will be your friend for life. This free iOS app uses your phone’s GPS to help you determine which fruits and vegetables are in season wherever you are in the world. In addition, it pinpoints the location of nearby farmers’ markets, farms open to the public, and community-supported agricultural venues. The mobile app also offers quick and easy recipes for an extra fee and prompts users to share their finds on Facebook, inspiring other farm-to-table travelers to join the locavore movement.
It’s not always easy to find safe, ethical, and environmentally friendly products, especially while you’re on the go. Until you discover GoodGuide, that is. Powered by its online database, the free app provides sustainability ratings for more than 75,000 food, personal care, and household products—all in real time. Users can even customize the app by selecting issues they care about most, such as the environment, animal welfare, or organic certification.
Created by two Swedish programmers, this website allows travelers to compare data across a multitude of booking sites, highlighting the most fuel-efficient flights and eco-friendly hotels in destinations around the world. Glooby’s online search engine even offers the option to refine results by flights with the lowest C02 emissions—making the act of reducing your impact on the environment as simple as checking off one box.
Aside from your own two feet, cycling is hands down the most eco-friendly way to get around town. That’s where this Android and iOS app comes in. Spinlister locates bike rentals (as well as skis, snowboards, paddleboards, and surfboards) from “peers” in over 100 countries on six continents, and connects you to coordinate a “meet up.” Pricing varies, but can run from about $15 a day for a cruiser bike to $150 a day for something heftier. In addition to peer-to-peer lenders, the website and mobile app includes rental shops and bicycle trail guides to help you make the most of your wheels. Think of it as Airbnb for bikes.
It’s no secret that air travel contributes to the emission of greenhouse gases that have a harmful environmental impact. (In fact, a growing movement known as flygskam, or “flight shame,” has some travelers avoiding plane travel altogether due to climate concerns.) Thankfully, this travel booking website helps offset the carbon footprint created by your trip—all at no extra cost to you.
Through a partnership with Expedia, TripZero has access to millions of hotel rooms around the world at guaranteed low prices. Those hotels pay a commission to the online travel agency for attracting customers, so when you book your trip through the website, a portion of that money goes toward buying carbon offsets by funding projects such as reforestation in Kenya or wind turbines in Indiana. What’s more: The offsets are certified by reputable third parties, including the Verified Carbon Standard and the Green-e Climate Standard.
If you’d rather calculate your own carbon footprint, offCents can help you do just that. The free Android and iOS app provides automated tracking of your C02 emissions in real time, then allows you to choose to offset your carbon footprint from any number of trips by car, train, bus, or airplane. Proceeds from what you choose to spend go toward purchasing carbon offsets or Verified Emission Reductions (VERs), which fund carbon reducing projects such as renewable power generation, methane capture, and protection of forests. Each time you pay to offset your emissions, you’ll earn points which you can eventually redeem for rewards.
This article originally appeared online in March 2017; it was updated on October 18, 2019, to include current information.