I previously wrote an entire post on the difference between eco-friendly and sustainable travel (and how they overlap). In that post, I explored what the term sustainable means in relation to travel and how we, as travelers, can achieve it. To read that post click here. In it, you will find a number of suggestions for how to travel sustainably. However, these suggestions are hidden among a lot of heavy information. So I’ve decided to create a second post where I lay it out more plainly for you. Enjoy!
Leave No Trace
Visit a destination and leave it the way you found it, or better! Whether you are exploring the beautiful outdoors, a small village, or a large city, pick up after yourself, leaving no evidence of your visit. The concepts are fairly simple but can make a big difference: don’t litter, recycle, put trash in the appropriate receptacles, stay on marked pathways/sidewalks/roads, don’t engage in any type of graffiti, etc.
This is a big part of sustainable travel, which ties into the first concept, leave no trace. Obviously, we want to respect the environment and the physical location we are visiting. However, we also want to respect the people and other living things (including plants and animals). Do not harm or threaten any kind of wildlife. This includes participating in tourist activities that may cause risk to animals (e.g. riding elephants or petting tigers). Read into the potential ethical concerns of the activity before you do it! We also want to respect the people who are living in the destination we are visiting. Treat others with kindness and don’t intrude on their way of life, especially without an invitation! Respect the culture you are in! If you are in a foreign country, do not expect customer service to look like it does back at home. It helps to read into the customs of where you are visiting before you go so you know what to expect once there.
Keep it Local
All tourism does not automatically benefit the local economy. Sometimes it is necessary to look a bit below the surface to see how exactly travel to a destination is contributing to the financial standing of individuals who live in that area. How will the tourism I am about to partake in, impact the local community? Will this trip benefit these individuals, or at the very least, do no harm? The best way to be sure you are benefiting the local economy is to shop, eat, and stay local, rather than with big-name (usually foreign) companies. Also look at the souvenirs you are purchasing to take back home. Were they mass-produced in China or hand-made locally? Even if one is more expensive, which do you think benefits the local economy and it’s people more?
Think About Your Transportation
The less carbon dioxide emitted into the atmosphere by the mode of transport you use during travel, the healthier it is for the environment, and therefore, is more sustainable long-term. Try to use ground transportation instead of flying when possible. Use public transportation instead of private. Also, when you do fly (because this is obviously not always avoidable), opt to book coach rather than business or first, with the most direct route possible. You can also try to find more environmentally-friendly transportation options when available, such as electric cars, high-speed electric trains, and hybrid model-buses. Then of course there are the ultimate eco-friendly modes of transportation: walking and biking!
The heavier a vehicle that emits fumes into the atmosphere is, the more it leaves an impact. Thus, the less your suitcase weighs, the less the vehicle you use to transport it will weigh as well!
Find Tour Companies that Prioritize Sustainable Travel
If you choose to book your travel through a tour company, find one that focuses on sustainable travel (i.e. uses the concepts mentioned above!). Basically, this means finding local-based companies that incorporate, ethical, eco-friendly notions into their services. This can also be applied to hotels, shops, restaurants, etc.
Travel to Eco-Friendly Destinations
These destinations use a portion of the money put into the economy from tourism towards conserving the environment. Here is the link to an article outlining Lonely Planet’s top 8 eco-friendly destinations for this year.
Go Green Whenever you Can
Go paperless with your tour/transportation tickets (even room keys for a lot of hotels have become electronic!). Pack and utilize reusable bags and water bottles throughout your trip. Reuse your towels during your stay and put the “do not disturb” sign on your door so unnecessary cleaning doesn’t happen in your hotel room while you’re gone. Also, pay attention to your energy and water consumption during your stay (do you really need to take that 30-minute long shower? And always shut off your lights and the a/c when you leave!).