Mountains, beaches, adventure holidays, weekend escapes, nature breaks. There are so many holiday options to choose from. Yet this might not always be the case. With the continued commodification of nature, and resulting degradation, the need for sustainable forms of travel is becoming ever clearer. Sustainable travelling is finding effective ways to be a tourist, without harming the natural surroundings and resources of the place you visit. The emphasis is on reducing our so called ‘footprint', in this context defined as our personal negative effect on the places we visit. So defined, it also involves considering the impact of tourism on the local people and culture.
These are evidently lofty goals. Indeed, travelling in this way can be a challenging task, and it can be hard to know where to start, but what is most important is that you start at all. This article will discuss a few effective measures which you can employ to help make your own trips more sustainable.
Reduce your carbon footprint: Your carbon footprint refers to the amount of carbon Dioxide released into the atmosphere as a result of your personal consumption habits. Minimizing air travel and opting instead for the most sustainable mode of transport is a very effective way of achieving this. One option for this is the International Bicycle Fund, a non-profit organization based in Seattle, which encourages people to travel by bicycle. They organize group bike tours all over the world, providing a great alternative to traditional travel.
Invest in reusable utensils: Plastic pollution is a deadly environmental issue. It’s understandable that not everyone can be fully plastic-free yet, but simple steps such as carrying your own refillable water bottles, portable water filters, metal cutlery, basic toiletries, reusable shopping bags and other reusables will have a positive impact.
Support eco-friendly organisations: With the recent rise in awareness around issues has come a rise in organizations promoting eco-tourism. The Global Sustainable Tourism Council, for instance, serves as the global accreditation body for sustainability in Travel & Tourism. Another such organization is the Global Ecotourism Network, which encourages social entrepreneurship, assists sustainable tourism development and acts as an advocate for protecting biodiversity. Being aware of, and supporting, the activities of these organisations can help put pressure on more of the travel industry to become more sustainable.
Indulge in local delicacies: ‘When in Rome, do as the Romans do.’ Eat authentic Baguettes in France and pizzas in Italy, not the other way around. Savour the local cuisine and enjoy the local flavours, as this is a great way to discover the place and support the culture.
Be open to interact with the locals: Arrive at least slightly informed on the culture and history of your destination. Then interact with the locals to learn even more. This will help you to recognise the cultural differences and respect them. This also allows you to broaden your horizons. No guidebook can compare to the insights you will get from a truly local guide.
Choose eco-friendly places to stay: Ditch luxury resorts and international hotel chains and opt instead for simple stay-in locations like eco-lodges, homestays or guesthouses. Check for green certifications and places that promote eco-friendly tourism.
Travel off-beat: Don’t feel you can’t spend money on experiences while travelling, just make sure this money is spent wisely. Opt for ‘off-beat’ travel. Take road trips, go on hikes, go camping, stay in nature reserves or jungle lodges to experience wildlife, rather than the overcrowded places. Take a break from the usual holidays and go on volunteer holidays, taking part in community projects and wildlife conservation for a rich experience which also does some good.
Shop Sustainably: This is for all the shopaholics out there. Ditch big brands and choose locally made gifts and handmade options such as handmade jewellery, homemade foods, and local artisan goods as souvenirs.
If we keep all the above in mind, we can travel not only with our own leisure in mind, but with our responsibility towards the planet, which adds immense value to our experience.
Happy sustainable travels!