People all over the world love to travel. It is the adventure that connects people to faraway lands and cultures and allows you to experience something you never thought you could see and do. There is a certain kind of magic and feeling that you get when you are away from home, whether it’s on a road trip, a plane ride or even a long distance cruise. Despite the fun and excitement of traveling, sometimes it can be a pain. Long lines at the airport, long layovers or even eating something you probably shouldn’t have eaten. So, in general, people do everything they can to make their trips more comfortable.
But in this day and age, how can people travel responsibly while still enjoying the comfort of new travel experiences? Sustainable tourism is not necessarily something particularly new, but in the last decade, travelers around the world have begun to take some initiative to travel in new and less impactful ways. Companies, hotels and venues around the world have also taken the initiative to integrate greener ways to travel. If you’re traveling somewhere new, here are some tips for eco-friendly travel.
We admit that we haven’t always been the most responsible travelers when it comes to being sustainable. And it’s still something we have to think about sometimes, as it’s still not second nature to us. But we’ve improved and we try to have as little impact as possible. We also try to stay in places that are eco-friendly. It helps the world and makes us feel better.
Don’t engage with the local wildlife
One of the best things about travel is experiencing unique things and seeing new and exciting places, people and, yes, sometimes animals. When you’re a new tourist you’ll want to see the local flora and fauna and that’s totally normal, but activities that involve animals directly aren’t usually a very eco-friendly way to travel for a few reasons.
If you’re a traveler who’s interested in seeing local wildlife, whether it’s through hiking or guided tours, it may seem obvious not to interact with wild animals, but people do it anyway. Feeding or touching wild animals makes them dependent on humans and can sometimes even provoke an attack if you’re not familiar with handling the animal in question. And unfortunately, when animals attack tourists, the animal is likely to be euthanized.
Many companies and venues also advertise a more “hands-on” approach to wildlife, offering tourists the chance to pet or feed the animals and have their pictures taken with them. Depending on the organizations, some of the animals are illegally captured and mistreated while in captivity. There is nothing wrong with wanting to meet the local wildlife, but it is important to know beforehand what you are getting into.
Actually, this bothers both Kati and me. We’ve seen a lot of tourists interacting with wildlife. We’ve even seen it on social media and people love it. But it’s wrong and it needs to be stopped. It’s not good for wildlife and possibly harmful to others.
Reducing the use of plastic
While many places in the West have begun to take steps to help people reduce their use of plastics, other parts of the world haven’t necessarily caught up. Things like packaging and especially single-use plastics like straws may seem inconsequential, but all those straws you use end up adding up. For something you’ll use once, it will take over 200 years to decompose. When you’re in a restaurant, ask your waiter not to give you a straw. Learn to say it in the local language to make it clear.
Many areas of the United States seem to be lagging behind Europe and other parts of the world. It’s sad, but plastic is ruining our water and continues to fill our landfills.
Take a direct flight when possible
If you’re going to travel you’re likely to end up on a plane. While traveling by plane isn’t really the most sustainable way to do it, there are ways to minimize your carbon footprint while flying. One of the most important things you can do is to take a direct flight to your destination. Sometimes it will cost you more, but the good thing is that you won’t have to make layovers. Also, taking a direct flight to your destination means there will be less carbon emissions from taking more than one plane.
If you’re traveling in places like Europe, consider flying and taking the train if you plan to travel the rest of the continent. Also, there are more than 30 members of IATA, which is an alliance of airlines whose goal is to invest in carbon reduction projects.
Bring your own reusable bags
Like the previous point, carrying your reusable bags for your shopping is a good idea for green tourism. Many places in North America and Europe offer reusable bags that you can buy at almost any grocery store. If you know you’re going to be buying some souvenirs abroad, be sure to pack some of those reusable bags in your suitcase.
Plastic can take centuries to break down, but carrying a reusable bag will help you cut down on plastic consumption when you’re buying things abroad. You’ll sleep better at night knowing your plastic bag isn’t rotting in some landfill.
Book eco-friendly accommodations
When traveling abroad, you will most likely need to find some type of accommodation. There are many green travel companies that can help you find sustainable hotels and even Airbnb’s, but you can also do your own research. In the US, check to see if your accommodation is LEED certified or, if you’re traveling abroad, EarthCheck, Green Globe and Green Tourism Business Scheme are programs that certify sustainability.
And this is just the tip of the iceberg. Green tourism is a booming market, so many hotels and accommodations offer some sort of green initiative.
Leaving a place in good shape
Whether you’re staying in a hotel or spending a few days at a campsite, it’s important to leave a place in good or even better condition than you arrived. Although this point may seem like a no-brainer, leaving a place as you found it is probably one of the easiest ways to do sustainable tourism.
There are probably eco-friendly things you haven’t considered before. For example, when hiking, be sure to always follow marked hiking trails. Not sticking to the designated path can cause you to damage the brush and the balance of flora, not to mention there may be something dangerous lurking off the trail anyway. Another thing to keep in mind is to bring your own trash bags and make sure you don’t leave any debris or litter behind.
Shop locally and avoid the big Organisations.
This tip is multi-layered and is a great way to make your trip very special and, of course, eco-sensitive at the same time. Choosing local businesses instead of big franchises is what you should do in the first place. When it comes to eating at restaurants or getting food, heading to a local place will not only be an authentic and better experience, but the food they serve will most likely come from local producers, which will make the food have a very small carbon footprint.
But obviously, a local business is about much more than just the food. Eco-friendly travel companies will always look after the locals and the local environment before putting the needs of the traveller first. Responsible travel and locally owned and operated business zones will ensure that profits go to the locals and the people who live there. Many of these companies pride themselves on transparency and social responsibility.
Find out if your accommodation’s resources are local
Just like you have to look for local restaurants, it’s also important that the hotel you stay at is eco-friendly and uses resources that are local.
Many hotels will make a point of informing you that the on-site services, such as food, energy, and labor, are local. Local workers mean a smaller carbon footprint when commuting to and from work and also improve the lives of locals more directly. Food should be sourced from local producers for the same reason and solar power or local generators are also much greener.
Getting around by public transport
When you’re in a new country it can seem a bit daunting to get around. Taxis and Uber are always an easy option, but for those who are interested in eco-friendly forms of transportation, public transportation is the best way to get around. Almost every major city in the world has some form of public transportation infrastructure and it’s not only the most environmentally friendly form of transportation, but also the most affordable. It’s good for the planet and it’s good for your wallet.
Many places have a bike rental program that allows you to rent bikes for a day or even for a few minutes if you just need to get across town. It’s a very eco-friendly way to get around town, it’s usually affordable and best of all you can stop whenever you want and admire a new city. You don’t get the same experience in a car as when you walk or cycle.
We’re human and sometimes we have to get cleaned up. When you get off a long plane ride, the first thing you want to do is jump in the shower. But showers can put a huge strain on local water supplies. Always look for more sustainable ways to shower.
If you’re staying at a place that includes toiletries, make sure you use them all before getting more, and take home what you don’t end up using. Avoid bathing, as baths can use up to 70 gallons of water, while showers use between 10 and 25. If you’re traveling with your partner, get playful and consider showering together.
Create your own sustainable travel kit
Before you head out on your next adventure, pick up a few things to make your trip a little more eco-friendly. Preparing ahead of time, like putting together your travel kit, can make your experience that much better. Bring essentials like snacks in reusable containers, a set of reusable cutlery so you don’t have to rely on plastic or single-use ones, and of course, a refillable water bottle to save money and plastic usage. Other things to consider are a quick-drying travel towel, since they are compact, and an eco-friendly sunscreen. Some sunscreens have chemicals that affect the balance of aquatic plants and animals, which is why many places in Australia, Hawaii and Florida have started to push for reef-friendly sunscreens.
Our final word
While people will always want to travel, there is no reason why international travel, or even local travel, can’t be done in an eco-friendly way. There are a lot of things that people don’t take into account when trying to travel eco-friendly, such as shopping locally and bringing their own reusable bags, as well as forgoing the use of plastic straws. Everything from where you stay to what you eat can be done in the most sustainable way to travel. Traveling comfortably while being conscious of the environment and its impact on our trip is not an impossible feat and there are tons of things we can all do to make the travel experience better for tourists and locals alike.
Looking for the best hikes in Hawaii? Look no further because we’ve rounded up some ...
At 35 miles long, Bacalar is Mexico's second largest freshwater lake. Along its shores, you'll fi...
More than just a trip to a big city worth your attention, Madrid is also the epicenter of travel...
Things to do in Dwarka Dwarka is an ancient city in the northwestern state of Gujarat which is a...