Guide for Sustainable Travel
With increasing possibilities to travel, more and more people decide to wander off for a holiday further away from their homes. However, a growing number of travellers wish to be more cautious about the trace they are leaving behind when exploring the world. Therefore, the interest is rising in “sustainable travel” or “green travel,” defined by the World Tourism Organisation as: “development [which] meets the needs of present tourists and host regions while protecting and enhancing opportunity for the future.”
Sustainable Travel, more simply, means minimising the negative impact of travelling on the environment while having a positive one on the local communities and their economies.
While some elements regarding sustainability and travelling are out of our control, there are still plenty of things you can do to make your travelling experience more sustainable. Here are the top tips on how to be a sustainable traveller:
One way to make your trip sustainable is to support local Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) by volunteering while you are travelling. When looking for a volunteer organisation, you need to be careful that these organisations operate in an ethical way. Here is a little guide on how to choose your volunteer organisation. Volunteering abroad can involve working for conservation projects, animal care & wildlife, or with children & education. If you are going to work in a project involving children make sure they have a Child Protection Policy and that the project operates in a responsible way towards the kids.
One of the bright sides of volunteering is that it will make you stay longer in one specific place. This will allow you to reduce your carbon footprint by avoiding “fast travelling”. You will also get the chance to know the place you are staying at better and learn more about the local culture.
As Colin, one of the volunteers at the Cambodia Community Project, Helping Hands, said: “I would definitely recommend volunteering. It gives you an opportunity to see a new place and culture. Being a volunteer gives you a completely different experience than if you just travelled here, spent a week here and then just left. You really get to know the local place, local cafes, local restaurants, so that’s been great. Also, by going out to the rural villages, you get to see an insight into their lives at home, outside of the city, that tourists don’t get to see. You get to experience a whole different side you wouldn’t otherwise get.”.
One of the main issues about travelling is the amount of damages it does to the environment. So, here are a few tips on how you can improve the way you travel and be more sustainable when you take a holiday:
TRANSPORT - Reduce your carbon footprint as much as possible!!
When booking your flights to go to your dream destination, there are a few things to keep in mind. As much as possible try and get direct routes. The quicker the route, the fewer the stops, the less the emissions. Moreover, travelling in economy class will be better for your budget and the environment (First and Business class can increase the carbon footprint by 5x more).
Once you have arrived, the best way to be sustainable is of course to walk and bike when possible. However, we understand that this isn’t always possible. Therefore, to be a green traveller you can use public transport! In a new town or country, using public transport requires more research, courage and often patience than jumping in a taxi. But consider this a part of your adventure, and it is usually cheaper. In that way, getting there is part of your journey. Enjoy the view!
When booking your accommodation, favour Eco-friendly accommodation. These are built to focus on saving water, using energy effectively, using organic products etc. However, make sure they have a real certification to prove it, such as EarthCheck, Green Globe, Rainforest Alliance or Green Tourism Business Scheme. Moreover, avoid at all cost large resorts which have a very large energy and water consumption.
RESPONSIBLE WILDLIFE TOURISM
If you want to visit a wildlife sanctuary, always make sure they are responsible ones that have genuine care for the animals. Many can be unethical.
If you are looking to volunteer with wildlife, we offer several opportunities in different places to do so in a sustainable and responsible way. Recently, thanks to the wildlife sanctuary in the Amazon in Peru, 12 howler monkeys were released in the forest to complete freedom. This is the kind of thing we want to see happening more in wildlife sanctuaries!
Reduce your usage of plastic. Bring a container for your takeaway, avoid plastic straws, bring your own bag when you are doing your shopping, and carry your own water bottle. SteriPEN and Lifestraw are examples of producers of bottles that cleanse your water with help of UV light or microfibers, allowing you to safely fill your water bottle anywhere. Moreover, Refill The World have delivered water stations in public places in several countries in South East Asia. Thanks to them you can fill you water bottle for free. Research if there is one near you here!
Join clean-up days. Several organisations, gyms, yoga studios, NGOs, etc. around the world arrange clean-up days. Motivated tourists or locals can sign up to go clean up garbage in the neighbourhood. This can be a great way to meet people and to explore new areas. For example, if you are travelling to Cusco you can join these clean-up days.
Eco travel companies. There are travelling companies that work with arranging tours which are more sustainable. But be aware of "greenwashing" - some travel companies try and take advantage of the trend around sustainable travel and might put a label on their company without actually following through. To be sure you can look for certifications, such as the World Wild Life Fund, the Nature Conservancy, Rainforest Alliance or the Global Sustainable Tourism Council. However, some countries have their own form of certification. So make sure you do your research!
What is also important when you decide to be a sustainable traveller is to contribute to the local economy in your day to day life. This involves:
Supporting locally owned accommodation. Look for hotels, hostels, Airbnbs etc driven by local owners. This will contribute to the local economies as well as providing work for the local community. On the other hand, avoid all-inclusive as much as possible; this is not a sustainable option. They are usually foreign-owned and therefore do not support local economies.
Supporting local businesses. Eat local cuisine in local restaurant, with food made with locally sourced ingredients (the more “local”, the better). Support local producers (you can find them in markets) by buying food that has travelled a short distance. This also gives you a more exotic experience, tasty food and a cheaper price! If you would like to buy souvenirs, buy handmade products from local producers. In this way you support the local community, and your friends and family will receive an original present.
Our planet provides us with so many incredible places to see and has so many resources to offer. However, let’s preserve our mother earth and not destroy it with mass tourism. To avoid that, you can follow all these tips, and together, we can contribute to the long-term conservation of the planet while travelling responsibly. Don’t forget to talk about sustainable travelling experiences to your friends and family. The more we talk about it and the more people get to know this responsible way of exploring the world, the better.