At a time when climate change, biodiversity loss, and environmental degradation are major concerns, sustainable travel has become an integral element. It involves finding balance between personal wellness and environmental responsibility when traveling.
Many hotels and resorts are now prioritizing sustainability by implementing energy efficiency, water conservation, recycling practices, reforesting their properties to offset carbon emissions, or both.
1. Choose Eco-Friendly Accommodations
While on vacation, it’s essential that you practice environmentally-friendly habits similar to what you practice at home. Switch off lights, conserve water and energy by using the “do not disturb” sign for linen washing purposes only when necessary, use reusable bottles for beverages and personal care products, and pick up any trash on outdoor adventures.
Search for accommodations that incorporate green practices like recycling and renewable energy production into their operations, as well as having water and energy saving technologies like low-flow toilets, restricting shower heads and energy efficient lighting systems installed.
Eco-lodges owned and managed locally may also offer travelers an authentic local experience, while supporting the community. Furthermore, such lodges often demonstrate greater consideration and respect for the surrounding environment – an essential requirement for sustainable travel.
2. Bring Reusable Items
Traveling sustainably means taking steps to minimize your impact on local environments and people living there, including wildlife. Essentially, this means prioritizing others’ needs over your own – also known as leaving no trace.
Go for accommodation options that prioritize sustainability. These might include hotels that implement eco-friendly practices like restricting showerhead flow and conserving water use, recycling their materials and using renewable energy sources.
Pack items that reduce waste on the road, like a reusable water bottle, shopping bag and packable cutlery set. Additionally, use travel mugs instead of buying drinks from cafes or restaurants if possible; even small changes like this can have an enormous effect over time.
3. Avoid Flights
Flying is a key enemy to sustainable travel as its carbon emissions wreak havoc on the environment. Swedes even have a word for this guilt: flygskam (“flyg-skam”).
Travel by air may sometimes be unavoidable; when this occurs, try booking flights with fewer stops or shorter flight paths and opting for public transit like trains and buses instead of driving or flying; these modes use less fuel while being more climate friendly than cars or airplanes.
Consider carbon offsetting as an option to offset air travel emissions. There are various programs that calculate your footprint and then offset it through reforestation or renewable energy projects – make sure to research these companies thoroughly prior to booking; typically they’ll offer this information on their websites.
4. Respect Local Cultures
Understanding and respecting local cultures are paramount to sustainable travel, including not taking photos without permission of sacred or religious sites and avoiding animal experiences that contribute to animal cruelty (for more on this topic listen to our podcast episode with Aaron “Bertie” Gekoski).
Supporting local eco-friendly businesses is another great way to participate in local culture while simultaneously minimizing your environmental footprint. Family-run local companies tend to have smaller carbon footprints than larger chains as they don’t need to transport goods and materials over long distances.
Eat locally-sourced food to minimize energy-intensive transportation needs and consider purchasing souvenirs made by local artisans as this helps the local economy while decreasing plastic waste. It is also wise to practice Leave No Trace principles by picking up any trash left behind and leaving natural environments as you found them.
5. Avoid Animal Experiences
An effective way of being eco-friendly when traveling is protecting the environment and wildlife. As such, whale watching or dolphin tours should be avoided in favor of visiting wildlife preserves and animal sanctuaries where you can view animals from a safe distance without endangering their welfare.
As travelers become more educated on the treatment of captive animals, their desire to interact with them on vacation has decreased significantly. They’ve begun opting out of elephant rides and marine life shows altogether and instead purchase carbon offsets through programs such as Atmosfair or CarboTax in order to neutralize their travel footprint; furthermore they are actively searching for sustainable travel options through trip planning websites as well as making tradeoffs to be more environmentally conscious.