Younger Americans Prioritize Sustainable Travel — But Cost is a Factor

Posted by
Keith Langston
April 08, 2024

paddleboarding in Austin
Photo: Keith Langston

In a new survey, 56% of Americans say sustainability is an important factor when planning travel. 

In the latest edition of Portrait of American Travelers compiled by MMGY Global, a survey of Americans revealed that sustainability continues to be an important factor for many when planning their travels. The study also found that sustainability ranked especially high for Millennial (26-41) and Gen Z (18-25) adventurers. 

Another study from earlier in 2024 was conducted on a global scale and found similar results for Millennial travelers around the world. The survey conducted by PhocusWire found that Millennials are increasingly concerned about things like sustainability certifications, resource management, sustainable resources, and societal factors when making their travel plans. It was also optimistic about Gen Z. “As even younger travelers in the next generation begin to become adult travelers, it’s likely that more travel companies will become increasingly aware of the importance of sustainability for travelers,” says the report.

The main caveat against sustainability? Cost. In both studies, the primary factor travelers took into account before booking was price. According to a 2023 survey from TIME magazine, travelers are rarely willing to choose eco-friendly options unless they’re affordable. “Just because people thought the environment was important doesn’t mean they plan to do anything about it,” the article states. “Only 17% of respondents said they’d spend more money to make their trips more environmentally friendly.” 

The TIME study did however find that younger travelers are the most interested in sustainability, saying, “Younger generations are much more likely to do so than people over the age of 55.”

What are easy and cheap ways to make travel more sustainable? 

If you want to make your journey a little more eco-friendly without breaking the bank, there’s still tons of easy things you can do to help the planet.

Travel closer to home: The less distance you travel, the fewer emissions you create.

Don’t use daily housekeeping: If you’re staying in a hotel, keep your “Do Not Disturb” sign up throughout the day to ensure housekeeping doesn’t clean your room. Receiving new sets of sheets and towels every day is often unnecessary. By skipping housekeeping some days, you’re saving tons of energy and water. 

Skip the souvenirs (or buy better ones): Don’t waste your money on a keychain or figurine that’s destined to be forgotten about anyway. On top of wasted materials and the emissions it takes to ship that keychain from Bangladesh to a gift shop near the Grand Canyon, most souvenirs are made with likely questionable labor practices. Instead, opt to buy something local and/or something you know you’ll use (or just skip the souvenirs altogether). 

Ditch the plastic: It’s tempting to chug down a bunch of water bottles when traveling. You’re on the go and away from home, and the more activity you do, the more you need to drink. But there are plenty of other options. You can bring your own reusable bottle (Yeti, Camelbak and Stanley both make tons of excellent options), and almost every hotel, inn, B&B, and vacation rental will have some kind of cup or mug in your room. If you’re traveling to a destination with safe drinking water, simply fill up a cup from the tap. 

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