The human race is constantly evolving, our minds progress, our desire to grow develops and with that we continuously want to explore and learn. It’s important to broaden our horizons and learn more about other cultures. It helps us become more understanding, appreciate the differences and become more educated. The main way we achieve this is by travelling. While travelling is one of the greatest things we can do along with it comes challenges and difficulties.
One way to immediately become more sustainable is to reduce our carbon footprint by flying less. We recognize this isn’t always an achievable and realistic option, so this post is going to introduce you to ways to become a more sustainable traveller, help our planet and delve into what we do to be more sustainable.
Let’s get into it!
What is sustainable travel?
Sustainable travel is about finding ways and changes we can implement into our adventures to be able to keep our planet in the best shape possible and be able to maintain long-term travel. It should have no negative impact on the areas we visit and benefit the areas and cultures where it takes place.
Travellers must do their best to tread lightly in the places they visit and travel responsibly for the long-term benefit of local people, the environment, and for travellers.
It’s important to be aware of how travelling can negatively impact the local wildlife, residents and pollution levels. Tourism doesn’t only impact you but the cultures in that visiting area.
There is a crossover in the definition between sustainable travel, responsible travel, eco-tourism, and green travel. These terms encompass the idea of being more conscious of how we travel. They seek to minimize negative impacts on the environment and aim to have a positive impact for local communities and economies.
Environmental sustainability focuses mostly on reducing your carbon footprint and avoiding all negative impacts on wildlife. As mentioned before air travel is the biggest contributor to pollution, but it isn’t the only issue. Water usage, packaging, and plastic waste also have disastrous effects on the environment and surrounding wildlife.
As sustainable travellers, we can have a simple positive effect by carrying our own reusables. We can look for hotels and restaurants which are locally-owned, have recycling programs, and are built from sustainable materials. We can research wildlife tourism to seek out responsible tour operators.
Starbucks and MacDonald’s, - What do they have in common? They are BIG corporations and for the most part pretty much in every country. When it comes to sustainable travel it is super important to support local businesses which trickle down into the families in that town. Money stays in that community rather than lining the pockets of rich foreigners. It’s important to give money to the local economy to keep them going and for you to be able to visit them again in years to come.
Social sustainability is the least defined and least understood of the different ways of approaching sustainability and sustainable development.
Social sustainability is about our impact on local people and communities. This includes supporting businesses that are run by, employ and support local people, as well as community tourism projects, social enterprises, and charities. Support women's cooperatives or other businesses focused on empowering marginalized communities.
Responsible travellers can look for opportunities to be involved in these types of projects and be aware of who businesses employ, whether they’re fairly paid and whether their work environment is safe.
Ways to become a more sustainable traveller
Becoming a sustainable traveller is surprisingly easier than you think. It can be very easy to minimize your impact and positively contribute to the environment.
Let’s look at things we do to become more sustainable when we are out on our adventures.
Switch up your transport
We recommend you slowing down, soaking in your surroundings and trying a different mode of transport. Self-propelled modes of transport are not only good for you but good for the environment also - so take a walk, cycle, or paddle yourself around. Immerse yourself in the environment with minimal impact.
Say no to single-use plastic!
By now we are ALL aware of how bad single-use plastic is for the environment. This can have disastrous consequences on your surrounding areas especially if they haven’t yet developed an efficient recycling system. We recommend travelling with a reusable bottle and using a water filter.
The reusable water bottle and water filter we use are:
- Lifestraw Universal - which includes a water filter, narrow and wide mouth caps, standard and sports mouthpieces and a leak-proof lid.
- The Ever Bottle - which keeps your beverages hot and cold for up to 12 hours.
Take only photos and leave only footprints
The leave no trace principle is something we strongly believe in and encourage. It is extremely to protect the long-term health of our wildlife and their natural habitat.
We go by these 7 key principles especially when we are out on a camping adventure.
- Plan and prepare
- Travel and camp on durable surfaces
- Dispose of waste properly
- Leave what you find
- Minimize campfire impacts
- Respect wildlife
- Be considerate of your hosts and other visitors
Keep things litter free
Being a ‘zero waste’ traveller is not easy, but it is important. It’s all about making conscientious choices and making just a little bit more effort to find better options.
Common travel practices such as throwing out old clothes as you go, and using travel-sized plastic toiletry bottles or plastic bags for rubbish, show little care for the environment and cause unnecessary waste at your destination.
Instead, pack lighter - c'mon who doesn’t want less to lift and move around? Take your trash with you and dispose of it correctly and use more eco-friendly brands.
We love Green Room body co. Their shampoo and conditioner sets come in tins so they save space in your luggage and avoid dreaded plastic! Check out their full range here.
Think of the animals and ask the right questions
Social media is something we can’t avoid. Whether we are on it for personal reasons, business reasons or to keep in touch with family and friends we are all on social media one way or another.
With that comes the fear of missing out. We see people in Thailand riding elephants or swimming with dolphins in Mexico and we become so desperate to do it ourselves but are we asking the correct questions when booking?
Much of the effort needs to lie with the destinations, tour operators, and the wider hospitality industry to take the initiative to be at the forefront of issues. At our sister company, Finisterra Travel, we do not offer any animal encounters that could be detrimental to wildlife.
We believe in the five freedoms for wildlife and animals. These are things you need to think about when booking or taking part in your animal experience.
They need to have…
- Freedom from hunger or thirst
- Freedom from discomfort
- Freedom from pain, injury or disease
- Freedom to express (most) normal behaviours
- Freedom from fear and distress
Research, research and research!
The more informed you are the better decisions you will make when you are on your travels.
Research the environmental issues the country you are visiting is facing and come up with solutions and put things into practice to minimize your contribution to that issue.
Drop the disposable attitude
More often than not we go away for a couple of weeks or a maximum of a month. With that comes along the attitude of oh I’ll just leave that shampoo bottle here, or throw that towel away “it was looking a little old anyway”.
- Ditch the paper tickets & go digital
- Steer clear of single use plastics - use reusable bags like these ones that we love
- Purchase locally-made handicrafts - not those made overseas
Choose your trip carefully
Each country is unique and operates differently which is what makes travelling so exciting and interesting. Some countries take sustainability more seriously and take action more than others.
As tourists, we should be mindful of how we travel and our impact when we arrive at a destination and to chose our destination wisely.
By adapting and changing your attitude and perspective can have enormous effects when you are travelling.
All of these small steps create a more authentic experience and help to reduce your negative impact on the local environment.
We hope this post has been helpful and if you have any tips for us that we may have missed we would love to hear them.
Until next time…