Sustainable travel is more than just hype or trend — it’s a shared responsibility among tourists and tourism sectors alike.
Not to burst your bubble about traveling but tourism often disturbs the delicate balance in the ecosystem. Just think about the large patches of green that need to be cleared to allow space for hotels, resorts, and tourist attractions; the littering of tourist spots by irresponsible travelers; the large volumes of water consumed to run hotels and swimming pools; and the air pollution brought by transportation.
The good news is you can do something to lessen tourism’s negative impact on the environment while satisfying your wanderlust. You just need to be a responsible and sustainably-minded traveler.
Here are 7 things an eco-conscious traveler does.
1. Eco-conscious tourists understand the heart of sustainable travel
Sustainable travel is more than just reusing your towels when you check into a hotel or bringing your tumbler to Starbucks. You can do more.
Sustainable travel is all about reducing the negative impacts of tourism and allows it to be beneficial to the area in which it takes place. It means keeping your ecological footprint low and supporting economic development in local communities.
Again, the magic words are “minimizing your impact” and “supporting the local economy”, and there are several small ways to do these.
2. Sustainable travelers are mindful of their plastic waste
It’s easy to mindlessly waste a lot of single-use plastic packaging when you travel. You may get thirsty on the road and buy a couple of bottled drinks and fast-food drinks on plastic cups. You may also use tons of plastic bags when shopping from different stores.
Sustainable travelers pack accordingly to reduce plastic waste. They carry tote bags whenever you’re shopping. They use tumblers, metal/bamboo straws, and their utensils too.
3. Sustainably-minded travelers say “yes” to green hotels
But say “no” to greenwashing in the travel industry. Any company can call itself “green” or “sustainable” to lure eco-conscious travelers. You can find a lot of greenwashing in the hospitality industry.
So how will you know if that “green hotel” is indeed eco-friendly? Here are points to consider.
- Research about the specific sustainable actions they’re taking. Hotels that have developed environmental and social policies will have the information displayed on their website.
- Beyond the vague commitment to conserving water and electricity, look for other ways they practice sustainable tourism.
- These actions may include on-site gardens that supply the hotel restaurant, eco-friendly and cruelty-free cleaning products and toiletries, locally-made furnishings, and single-use plastic-free amenities.
- See if they’re doing anything to help the local community. This Parramatta accommodation in Australia, which is part of IHG (InterContinental Hotels Group) partnered with Oz Harvest, the country’s leading food rescue charity. They aimed to prevent good food from hotels going to waste and using it to feed the hungry.
4. They support the real local economy
Eco-conscious travelers skip big corporations. Instead, they buy from small local businesses.
A small decision of eating at locally-owned restaurants, eateries, and cafes can have a big difference. Local food is also an amazing way to embrace the culture. Just make sure you can distinguish the “tourist traps” from the real deal.
Next, patronize locally-made crafts and souvenirs — the real products made by village artisans who make them by hand. They may not be cheaper than mass-produced, imported goods but they’re definitely better and more valuable. Again, ensure its authenticity.
5. They make better choices with transportation
Planning to explore the city? Using public transport or going around on a bike are more eco-friendly travel options than hailing a cab or driving.
Going on a road trip? We recommend hiring a hybrid or electric car for better fuel efficiency.
Traveling long distances? See if you can avoid plane travel to reduce carbon footprint and embrace “slow travel” via train travel. hop into the train.
Have no choice but to take the plane? If you must fly, try to book a non-stop flight, which reduces carbon emissions compared to connecting options.
There are many alternative ways to explore the city or country while lessening your footprint.
6. They support businesses that support local sustainability
It’s quite difficult to see the difference a lone traveler can make just by using a tote bag or buying local crafts. It’s a good thing bigger companies and organizations, with a wider reach and influence, are getting involved.
Look for tour operators that give back to the community, support indigenous communities, and refrain from offering activities that harm the ecosystems. See if the store you’re patronizing is selling authentic handicrafts from local communities. You’ll have your share by patronizing their goods and services and making a donation to support their causes.
7. They skip activities/products that negatively impact the environment
Unsustainable practices by the tourism industry can destroy habitats, adversely shift sea currents, exploit the wildlife, and disturb the delicate balance in the ecosystem. You might be mindlessly partaking in these acts if you fail to research.
Before embarking on an adventure, do a bit of investigating. Opt for low-impact activities.
Some animal attractions aren’t real sanctuaries — there are a few destinations that exploit wildlife for cold cash. Even “nature-friendly” activities like nature walks and snorkeling, can be harmful too when tourists and operators aren’t careful enough.
Ready to embark on a fun adventure? Make your next trip an eco-friendly one!