Sustainable Travel: What is It and How to Do It?

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Sustainable Travel What is It and How to Do It

When thinking of ways to cut back our personal carbon footprints, the immediate solution that springs to mind is travelling less often. But many of us who want to explore the world don’t want to completely give up travelling. 

There are ways to cut back your carbon emissions and still travel the world, you just have to make mindful and educated changes to travel habits

In this post we’ll talk all about the practice of sustainable travel and share our tips on being a more eco-friendly traveler.

What is sustainable travel?

Sustainable travel is about finding a way in which tourism can be maintained in the long term without causing damage to natural environments and local culture. Sustainable travel should bring the negative impacts of tourism in an area to a minimum and benefit the locals by bringing growth to the local economy. 

According to the World Tourism Organisation sustainable tourism is “development meets the needs of present tourists and host regions while protecting and enhancing opportunities for the future.” It’s imagined as utilising all resources in such a way that can answer the economic, social and aesthetic needs of a given country while maintaining the integrity of local cultural heritage, ecological processes and biodiversity. 

Sustainable tourism at its core is all about cherishing the environment and being mindful of its finite natural resources. Tourists need to be conscious of their impact on the local environment and wildlife as well as the levels of pollution that are caused by travel. They also need to be more aware of how local businesses, people and the native culture is affected by tourism. 

The three core principles of sustainability

Sustainability as a concept has three core principles, that are also known as the Three Pillars of Sustainability.

Environmental – The environmental pillar is focused on the idea of reducing the negative impact on the environment and biodiversity that’s caused from travelling. This includes reducing our carbon footprint, specifically from air travel, minimising our plastic waste and packaging, water consumption, and wildlife disturbance. By doing something as small as carrying our own reusable utensils and packaging, we as sustainable travelers can have a positive impact. We can also research responsible tour companies when wanting to do wildlife tourism, or look for hotels and restaurants which implement sustainable practices into their operation.

Social – The social pillar refers to tourists’ impact on native people and communities. Included in this is supporting businesses which are owned by, employ or support locals, as well as NGOs or charities. Responsible tourists can also get involved in community tourism projects or charities themselves and educate themselves on the businesses they support, whether they employ minorities or native people, if they provide a safe work environment for their workers and pay them fairly.

Economic – In the traditional sense, the economic pillar focuses on businesses being cost-effective in order to be sustainable, but in relation to sustainable travel it can be applied to the way tourists can use their money to boost the local economy. Sustainable travelers should aim to spend their holiday money to support locally-ran restaurants, hotels or tour guides to positively contribute to the local economy. 

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How to be a sustainable traveler?

There isn’t a universal overnight solution that can solve all the issues associated with tourism and its impact on different aspects of the environment. However, if we as travelers and tourists take responsibility and advocate for sustainable tourism, we can work towards more sustainable travel practices. To start you off on your journey to sustainability, here are some of our tips on how to be more sustainable travelers:

  • Consider more sustainable forms of transport

Depending on your destination you might have a few different options on how to get there, including flying, driving or taking a train or bus. Always compare all your options. If you’re travelling with a group of friends or your family, it might be more sustainable to share a car or even a campervan if you’re doing a road trip to a few destinations. In comparison if you’re solo travelling you might find it’s greener to travel by plane or train. Trains and buses are often the more sustainable option compared to flying or driving, however, it all depends on your planned route.

  • Be a slow traveler

Being a slow traveler can help you minimize your carbon output and become a sustainable tourist. Slow travelling includes flying less often, travelling in off-peak times, staying for longer at your destination, or visiting multiple cities in the same trip. 

  • Stay in locally-owned or green certifies accommodations

Whenever you’re visiting a place, it’s always good practice to support local business owners by choosing to stay in a local guesthouse, Airbnb or B&Bs rather than hotel chain franchises. It’s more conscious to support the local economy with your money, rather than drive it out by supporting foreign-owned resorts and hotels. 

You can also look for accommodation options that have a commitment to sustainable practices. These could include energy-efficient lighting and appliances, alternative energy supplies such as solar or wind power, recycling schemes and more. Also research if the hotel you’re staying at employs locals, source their food from local vendors or used locally sourced materials for their building. 

  • Go camping instead of staying in a resort

If you want to take your commitment to sustainable accommodation one step further and love being close to nature, then you should consider camping as an option for your next vacation. If you’re concerned about sleeping in the wild you can always see if there are any camping sites near the place where you’re going. Or if you have plans to make camping a regular thing during your travels invest in a caravan or motorhome

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  • Support local businesses when eating out

Just like with accommodation, it’s more sustainable to spend your holiday money in establishments that are ran by locals. This is a great opportunity to try traditional cuisine prepared exactly the way it was supposed to by natives. Another good option is street food vendors, because they’re usually owned by locals who make their own homemade food. Just be careful and choose street food trucks that look sanitary so you don’t end up with food poisoning.

  • Shop in local markets

If you’re planning to cook your own food while on holiday avoid big supermarkets and imported goods and instead opt for locally grown produce form farmers markets and local shops. Locally sourced fruit and vegetables are not only a more conscious choice, they’re also fresher and therefore tastier. 

  • Buy souvenirs made by local artisans

Imported mass-produced souvenirs are shipped from overseas beforehand and therefore already have a big carbon impact, so you should avoid them. Instead opt for buying locally made items as gifts to take home. It’s more mindful to bring home souvenirs that are unique to the place you’re travelling to and crafted by a local artist rather than something that was made in a factory elsewhere. 

  • Don’t overpack

The weight of huge suitcases and lots of luggage adds to a plane’s fuel consumption, so to minimise your personal carbon footprint while travelling you should pack as lightly as you can. Only pack the essentials and whenever possible travel only with carry on backpack rather than a bulky suitcase.

  • Pack sustainable essentials

If you want to cut down on plastic waste while you’re travelling, you can try packing eco-friendly essentials such as a reusable water bottle, a fabric tote bag, and a lunch box. You can take it one step further by also opting for sustainable toiletries like shampoo bard or natural deodorant block. 

  • Share your experience and pass on the knowledge

Once you have gotten the hang of travelling sustainably yourself, you can pass on your experience and tips to your family, friends, people you meet during your travels or even on your social media! The more people talk about conscious travel and share their tips, the more we can contribute to greener travel practices. 

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