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YHA Te Anau travellers on routeburn track heading into valley

7 Ways To Reduce Your Environmental Impact and Travel Responsibly

Want to travel responsibly, reduce your emissions, and minimise your waste? Here's 7 ways you can work towards travelling carbon zero.

North Island
South Island
1. Ditch the single use plastics

We all know this one, but we can all improve! Investing in a travel-friendly refillable water bottle, saying no to straws, forgoing hotel toiletries in favour of bringing your own, choosing products with minimal packaging - you know the drill. One of our favourites is reusable bags that scrunch up small enough to live permanently in a small handbag or an outside pocket of your pack - these are a lifesaver for stashing your extra layers when it gets warm, impromptu shopping outings, or grabbing groceries. For bonus points, consider carrying a container so your food leftovers won't go to waste!


2. Stop smoking

This is maybe the single biggest thing you can do for the planet (if you're a smoker - otherwise, good job!). Cigarette butts are a huge source of pollution, and frankly, it's just kinda gross! Commit to quitting and we promise it'll make your time travelling New Zealand much easier - not only will it save you money, but most of New Zealand (our hostels included) is SmokeFree, so you'll spend much less time looking for a spot you're allowed to light up.


3. Go slow

Take a walk or grab public transport instead of Uber. Take a bus instead of a flight. Make use of inner city scooters or bike rentals. In some places you can even grab a scenic train ride! These may mean you spend longer getting to where you're going, but chances are you might find something awesome along the way.

Bonus points: if you do have to rent a car, try an EV. Some of our hostels even have chargers!

Christchurch Tram outside YHA Christchurch Rolleston House


4. Ask to offset

Always ask your activity providers whether they have a carbon offset option or environmental programme, or try to choose options that display their enviro info clearly upfront. Not everyone will have sustainability initiatives, but by asking we can make sure they know that it's the right thing to do and that as consumers, it's what we expect! Props to the airlines who have a checkbox during the purchase process - flights are a biggie here!

$5NZD plants a native tree


5. Volunteer

Consider checking out local volunteer or community projects in the areas you're travelling to. Not only is it a great way to give back, but you're likely to experience somewhere you might never have heard of, with a solid chance to chat to the locals and find out more about their way of life. Great examples include beach clean-ups, tree planting days, local events, and so on. Your local YHA would be a great place to check out what's happening near you.

YHA team members attending a beach clean up


6. Sleep sensibly

If you're smart, you'll have figured out this means considering shared or hostel accommodation. How come that's more environmentally-friendly, you ask? Easy. Communal kitchen and lounge spaces are a more efficient use of space than putting them in every room, which means you leave less of a footprint. Bear this in mind when considering rented holiday homes too - if there's too many of these in a destination, they can raise rental prices and leave large chunks of the property market out of action for people who want to live there, which isn't very fun for the community.


7. Sleep with us!

Not only do we work pretty hard on all of the above, but our YHA-managed hostels are actually carboNZeroCertTM certified! You'll find info in all these hostels about what each of them are doing to care for the environment and their community. In Franz Josef, Wellington, Aoraki Mt Cook and Lake Tekapo, you'll also find Splash Monitoring screens hooked up to our solar power systems - these tell you in real time where energy usage is happening (i.e. what you can switch off!). We've got nifty things like low-flow shower-heads and toilets, LED sensor lights, recycling stations, and even clothing donation boxes, free food shelves, and book exchanges so nothing goes to waste. You can also donate to our Green Footprint Project which goes straight towards planting native trees. Convinced yet?!

YHA Aoraki Mt Cook's solar panels with mountains in the background


Want to stay with the best of the best? Our most eco-friendly hostels are recommended below.

Emma Crequer

More Recommended YHA Hostels

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Located near a natural geothermal site, shops, restaurants and Lake Rotorua, this purpose-built backpacker hostel offers rooms for all types of travellers and spacious communal facilities.

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YHA Raglan offers an eclectic collection of accommodation options designed with environmental sustainability in mind. Relax here with yoga classes, a surf school and a summer cafe all on-site.

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YHA Wellington is one of the best-located backpacker hostels in town, complete with two kitchens, vibrant communal spaces, and an on-site espresso bar.

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Explore glaciers, lakes, and mountains from YHA Franz Josef, a backpacker hostel that sits right on the edge of the West Coast rainforest and offers a sauna that's perfect after a day at the glacier.

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Situated in a refreshingly remote part of the South Island, YHA Aoraki Mt Cook is a log cabin-style backpacker hostel that's surrounded by the monumental views of the Southern Alps.

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YHA Punakaiki Te Nikau Retreat is nestled among native rainforest on the West Coast for a sense of total escapism. Relax among the bush, a short stroll from the Truman Track and beach.

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