Tourism is one of the biggest industries in the world and is one that helps local communities thrive. It’s in our nature to want to explore the unknown and see what this wonderful planet has to offer, with human wanderlust urging us to experience other cultures and explore off the beaten track. But if we are to continue to do so, we must begin to take steps towards more sustainable travel.
It has never been more prevalent to start making some serious changes to the way we travel. David Attenborough has once again pointed out just how important it is for us to be aware of the impact humans are having on the environment in the newest edition to his documentaries, Our Planet.
This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t travel, but we should be mindful that the parts of the world that are still untouched are at risk of being destroyed if we don’t collectively start making small steps to changing the way we travel.
So, here are just a few simple steps you can take to becoming a more sustainable traveller and protecting our planet.
- Use the most sustainable form of transport
If you’re looking to get to the other side of the world, flying is unavoidable, but you can make a small improvement to the environment when planning your next holiday by opting for the fastest route to your destination. Taking direct flights rather than a connecting flight might be a little pricier, but it will reduce your journey’s carbon emissions massively (most emissions are emitted during take-off and landing). This also means less time on a plane and more time on holiday! Going to Europe? Consider train travel over flights, Amsterdam, Luxembourg, Cologne, Lyon, Strasbourg, Antwerp, even Disneyland Paris – they are all under a 6 hour train ride away!
It doesn’t just stop at air travel though. No one wants to be sitting on a stifling hot bus or riding in the back of a dodgy cab anyway, so once you’ve arrived at your destination, opt to walk or cycle around. Not only is this better for the environment, but it also means you’ll get to take in more of the beautiful place you are visiting.
- Pack light
A plane’s carbon emissions are greater the more weight it’s carrying, so packing light not only saves on fuel, but it makes it easier for you to get around on foot/by bicycle too. If you’re going travelling for a while, only take a few essentials and then buy anything else you need from local stores, as this will also give back to the local community.
Pack things like a reusable water bottle, an e-reader and opt for organic products where possible as these will all reduce your carbon footprint in the long run.
- Choose ethical wildlife tours
As cool as it might sound to get up close and personal with elephants and tigers, the stress it puts them under really isn’t worth the perfect Instagram shot. We will always do our research before booking a wildlife tour for any customer, and just be mindful that any tours that allow you to touch, ride or interact with animals are considered unethical.
Tours that allow you to spot wildlife in their natural habitat without disturbing them are far more rewarding, and the same goes for diving and snorkelling tours. Be sure not to step on coral when in the ocean and if possible, use a ‘Reef Safe’ sun cream to avoid polluting the ocean.
- Eat, drink and discover local
Tourism is what helps keep countries thriving, but in order to make sure that money is actually going back into the local community, you need to live like a local. Don’t be afraid of eating local cuisine. As long as you’re careful in certain countries (always drink purified water or water bottle with filter, and avoid salad and ice cubes), you’ll be surprised at what delicious cuisine you can get in the local restaurants and cafes and wonder why you didn’t try them sooner.
The same goes for stores. As tempting as it may be to buy some home comforts from a supermarket chain you recognise, why wouldn’t you opt for the delicious locally grown food that’s in season where you are? Remember, the importation of food internationally is just another cause of carbon emission. Head to the local farmers market and stock up on fruit and veg there.
- Stay in accommodation dedicated to sustainable living
We recommend staying local too. Large resorts are the biggest culprits when it comes to carbon emission, but you can do your bit by asking us to find the most energy efficient accommodation available. Many hotels and hostels now have sustainability initiatives in place, which include the installation of solar power panels.
Smaller hotels and hostels run by locals will mean less energy consumption, and you’re also putting money back into the economy by staying there. Or, if you’re a lover of the great outdoors (which is quite likely if you’re reading this article), then why not camp! Be at one with the environment and pitch up somewhere under the stars- just be sure you’re using reusable and sustainable accessories.
Eco-friendly hotels and holidays are a big trend in 2019, so you won’t struggle to find somewhere that is committed to doing their bit for the environment. But remember, this is not just a trend, this is a lifestyle change we must all work towards and even the smallest changes can make a huge difference.
You don’t have to do all of these at once, but by taking at least one of these suggestions on board, you are paving the way to a more sustainable future and a planet we can continue to admire for years to come.
Ready to book your next holiday the sustainable way? Please get in touch to explore holiday destinations that are actually saving the planet!
Lynn Barham – Independent Travel Consultant with Not Just Travel
Tel: 077 0923 1341