Reduce your Eco-anxiety by Traveling with Care

February 26, 2024
Ailin Fei

Ailin Fei

Climate change can affect your mental health through emotional distress and anxiety about the future. As climate change worsens, the news becomes filled with concerning articles and as public awareness of the great impact increases, more and more people are experiencing distressing mental health symptoms. Eco-anxiety has been defined by the American Psychological Association as "a chronic fear of environmental doom" (Clayton et al., 2017). These feelings can lead to sleep problems, appetite changes and difficulty concentrating. Heightened eco-anxiety can also fuel tension in relationships with friends and family, especially if they hold disparate views on climate change.

Travel-related eco-anxiety tends to be triggered by our knowledge that we are negatively affecting the Earth in the process of exploring it. From the amount of CO2 emitted while traveling to the sunscreen we wear affecting coral reefs, every choice has an impact. More tourists are now concerned with being criticized due to the negative impacts of travel on climate change. Eco-anxious traveling may cause overwhelming feelings of hopelessness, despair, guilt, shame and climate grief. Even so, most people love to travel and recognize the benefits it can bring. Fortunately, there are some practical steps every traveler can undertake to ensure their travel has positive outcomes for the world–and the destination communities we visit. To reduce eco-anxiety and the concerns of unsustainability when traveling, consider these tips:

Jonathon Day

Jonathon Day

Tip No. 1– Consider implementing “greener” practices during your travels. It can reduce distress when you live more in line with your personal values. While traveling, try to compost, reduce your plastic use and walk when you can. It can make a difference, even if it’s a small one. One of the simplest and easiest options to combat eco-anxiety is to focus on what you can control.

More eco-friendly travel practices can include: bringing reusable bags on your trips and shopping locally and at zero-waste or refill stores can be a fun way to explore your destination. You can fill up containers with bulk food and personal care items like shampoo, soap and face cleanser. That way you can pack light. Choose to travel light and only pack the essentials. Less baggage means fewer worries, especially when you’re visiting multiple places.

Tip No. 2– Consider partaking in mindful traveling. Try to spend more time in nature, slow down and practice gratitude. Practicing gratitude can have a positive effect on our experiences. Being able to travel is a privilege and is something to be grateful for. Practicing meditation is part of living a mindful lifestyle. You can still meditate even if you’re on the go by taking meditative walks. Look for local parks and green spaces where you can take some quiet walks. Or start with a popular tourist attraction but explore it at a slower pace so you can really soak in your surroundings.

Tip No. 3– Help change the system. Many of the best ways to improve the sustainability of travel require systemic change. That may sound like a heavy load, but there are ways every individual can help change things for the better. Make sure you show your support for companies working to be more sustainable. Let travel companies know that you expect sustainable options when you travel by filling out a glowing guest satisfaction survey. Support policies that encourage sustainable infrastructure investments, reduce the use of non-renewable energy and invest in more sustainable aviation and transportation. Perhaps most importantly, tell your friends about what you do to travel responsibly. Making responsible travel the norm will help bring about the change we need.

“Mindfulness practices, as well as meditation, can be very effective for just grounding oneself in the present moment, bringing you back to baseline when you might otherwise be spiraling.”
-Britt Wray, author of Gen Dread

For more information on how to travel more responsibly, visit

Ailin Fei: is a third-year Ph.D. student studying hospitality and tourism management at Purdue University. Her research area focuses on responsible travel behavior and behavioral change. She serves as the director of marketing for the Travel Care Code Initiative.

Jonathon Day: Jonathon Day’s research focuses on sustainable tourism and responsible travel. He specializes in destination stewardship, climate change and tourism, and encouraging pro-environmental consumer behaviors.