Traveling causes remarkable damage to the environment by releasing harmful Carbon emissions to package holiday resorts built on natural areas. That's why it's important to ensure we travel sustainably.
Our world has finite resources. There are only so many beautiful, natural, untouched places on our planet and mass tourism threatens the existence of those. Nature, culture, and history should be preserved, and not commodified. Sadly, 25% increase in CO2 emissions is expected from tourism by 2030.
Unfortunately, many travelers remain in denial about how limited our world’s resources are and how tourism is negatively affecting the environment, local cultures, and communities. There is a need to change that notion, and that’s where sustainable travel comes in.
Sustainable travel means finding a way to maintain tourism long-term without harming natural and cultural environments. Sustainable travel should minimize the negative impacts of tourism and ideally be beneficial to the area in which it takes place.
According to the UNWorld Tourism Organization, tourism that takes full account of its current and future economic, social and environmental impacts is sustainable. It must also address the needs of the visitors, the industry, the environment, and host communities.
Tourists need to be mindful of how they travel and their impact when they arrive at their destination. Apart from the usual sustainable habits that you carry from home, there’s a ton you can do to reduce your impact and do good whilst on tour. Here are some tips from the ever-growing list of eco-friendly travel hacks that we can use to be more sustainable travelers.
Your preferred means of transport depends on where you’re going. You can choose from flying, driving, or taking a train or coach. Weigh up your options with sustainability in mind.
Compared with any other mode of transport, flying, unfortunately, produces the most carbon per passenger. However, if you must fly and it’s a long haul, go for a non-stop flight. Not only is it a time saver but a direct flight will always be more fuel-efficient.
Also opt for economy class flights. Flying in business class or first class means you have more space per passenger. This can result in a 5x larger carbon footprint. Take the economy seat because it's better for your budget and the environment.
Whenever you can, and time permitting, try to take the bus or train. This habit can also be a great way to do some sightseeing en route. It is often the more sustainable option over flying or driving by car.
If you’re traveling in a group, it makes sense to car share instead of using multiple vehicles. If you have the option, the car should preferably be hybrid or electric.
Simply look for an eco-friendly tour company and guides. And how do you achieve this? Do your research before booking tours. Look for accreditations from environment conservation regulatory bodies.
Knowing that your money is going to the conservation efforts of critically endangered animals and other measures makes it the best money you can ever spend.
You can also rely on internet services to know the best tour guides in the region. Read reviews on third-party websites such as Google, looking specifically for any negative reviews to understand the concerns of other travelers. If you can, get in touch with the tour company beforehand to ask them about their policies if it’s unclear from their website.
If you must stay in a hotel, there are a couple of hotel-specific hacks that go a long way to conserving the environment. For one, support local business owners by staying in locally-owned accommodation. This can include guesthouses, B&Bs, and Airbnbs.
Read the ‘about’ pages on hotel websites to get a better idea of who owns and runs the accommodation. It’s more sustainable if your money contributes to the local economy, rather than being redirected out of the local economy by foreign-owned hotels and resorts.
Large resorts have negative impacts on the local environment due to their water and energy consumption. Washing towels and changing bed sheets daily are common in large resorts and waste energy and water. Many resorts also concrete over large areas of natural habitat to build guest rooms and swimming pools.
If you are a coffee lover, one favorite thing about traveling is being able to try aromatic delicious coffee in different parts of the world.
Most of the time, you will sit and enjoy coffee in a café but other times, you're on the move, hiking, or just in a rush. This can result in just giving in and buying a takeaway coffee. Having a sustainable travel mug with you comes in handy on these occasions.
Plastic bottles are used in nearly all corners of the world. But they come as a disruptor of striving for a zero-waste lifestyle. In the USA alone some50 billion plastic water bottles were purchased last year and only about 23% were recycled. Travelers should be wary of the impact of plastics on the environment and embrace having reusable water bottles that they can use and refill with ease.
As you travel, buy locally made gifts to take home as souvenirs. Avoid imported souvenirs that are flown or shipped in and therefore have a larger carbon footprint.
It’s better to take home souvenirs unique to the country where you’re traveling, rather than something from a factory elsewhere. Also, avoid buying unnecessary clothing or participating in the fast fashion industry. If you can, buy higher quality and more durable fabrics which last longer.
Look beyond the supermarket and souvenir shops for organic produce at farmers' markets and interesting eco-friendly stores for special mementos.