6 Eco-friendly Tips to Travel Sustainably in Hawaii
1. Take a direct flight to the island you want to visit
Jet fuel is the biggest source of carbon emissions related to air travel, and cruising requires less jet fuel than other stages of flying. By flying directly to the island you want to visit, you take off less often and reduce your own personal carbon footprint.
- Look for a direct flight option, or take as few legs as possible
- Unless you’re staying long term, limit your visit to one island during your trip – there is so much to see and explore on each island!
- Take a direct flight back home
You’ll have a deeper experience visiting the island of your choice for a longer period of time – and you’ll save the planet while you’re at it.
2. Book an eco-friendly accommodation
The accommodation you book can reduce your environmental impact on the community!
Booking smaller, locally-owned businesses can also help more of the money you spend stay in the community and prevent tourism leakage. How much of your nightly rate do you think stays in the community versus the Sheraton?
When you’re booking accommodation, ask yourself (or the accommodation) these questions:
- How will you be getting water? Please no single-use plastic bottles!
- Are the toiletries in small containers or larger ones?
- How close is it to places you want to visit? Bonus if it’s within walking distance to shops and restaurants!
3. Take care of the reef
Coral reefs are the ocean’s most biodiverse areas. Hawai’i happens to be home to 80% of coral reefs in the United States.
Many visitors go to Hawaiʻi for its biodiverse reef ecosystem. With coral reefs, comes beautiful and thriving fisheries – including the parrotfish, which are fish that poop out sand.
Yet up to one-third of reef-building corals face extinction – and yes, that includes Hawaii’s beautiful reefs.
If you visit Hawai’i and enjoy snorkeling or even the beach, it’s another part of your kuleana (responsibility) as a visitor to take care of the reef for the next generations of visitors.
Do your part by using reef-safe sunscreen and avoiding physical contact with the reef.
4. Support local and sustainable tour companies
How do you explore the places you visit?
It’s a good habit to think about what your money supports when you book a tour. Some companies just corral as many people together as possible for every tour.
Other companies take into consideration the local community, culture, and environment when they plan each tour.
Hawai’i has a Sustainable Tourism Association that certifies organizations that promote ethical, sustainable tourism that holistically integrates people, the planet, and profit.
You might prefer to go on a tour of the islands solo! But keep in mind that one perk of visiting Hawaii is learning about its unique culture and history – and guided tours are perfect for just that.
5. Clean your shoes before arrival, as well as before and after farm tours or going into the forest
We influence the environment in unexpected ways! Hawaii’s landscape is sensitive. Seeds from your last hike can grasp onto your shoes and fall off into a new environment.
Your shoes can collect and spread seeds – including the seeds of invasive species. Because of this, clean your shoes before you go into the forest, and again when you leave!
6. Respect local communities and Native Hawaiians
Not only does Hawaii have vulnerable biodiversity, but there are local communities of Native Hawaiians that often feel like tourists have more rights than they do. To engage in sustainable ecotourism, you must respect Indigenous communities. Take time to learn about the complex history of Hawaii and the needs of the local communities. Sometimes that means avoiding sacred sights or skipping the luxury resorts. Often the best way to be a responsible traveler is to say no, save travel for another day, and respect the needs of the local communities. I suggest doing a quick google search of the tourism difficulties expressed by local Hawaiians. This guide featuring Indigenous voices can offer some insight into the cultural aspects of traveling to Hawaii.