Regardless of our personal opinions, one thing remains an irrefutable fact: our planet is facing an ecological crisis. The environmental changes we witness everyday are increasingly serious and some of them are irreversible. Still, we can try to help the environment with small, but meaningful actions. One of them is sustainable travel. It’s an expanding territory that has grown alongside our own consciousness about the world that surrounds us and awareness of our intrinsically wasteful society. Sustainable travel, in its essence, means being aware of and try to minimize the impact tourism has on the environment and local communities. Here are eight ideas to help you make an informed decision when you go on vacation, keeping in mind you’ll be using your leisure time to contribute to sustainability.
E.R.I.E: Ecological, Responsible, Impactful, Ethical
Four simple words to guide you as a conscious traveler. Ecological is as simple as enjoying the environment in its natural form with activities such as camping. Being responsible just means you have to be aware of how your individual actions can impact local communities. “Impactful comes down to spending your pocket money on helping locals, as opposed to adhere to regular mass consumerism. Ethical refers to your moral duties to respect the environment, animals and communities,” explains Fiona Hill, a lifestyle blogger.
Keep It Local
It’s common knowledge that tourism makes up a huge part of many different economies. However, in order to ensure you are financially contributing to the local communities themselves, it is important to choose local products and activities. Avoid gift shops and their mass market production by choosing local keepsakes instead. A local business will most likely invest its profit back into their community, which is the opposite of what worldwide-known franchise chains do.
Popular destinations such as Amsterdam, Venice, Barcelona and Paris might seem like a good vacation option. The history and aesthetics of those places are a no-brainer. However, they do tend to be overcrowded, punching a big hole in sustainability. There are so many other destinations that would benefit from your contribution to their underrated economy. Not to mention that it will be less stressful for you if you’re not constantly surrounded by massive crowds of tourists! “Why not choose the Portuguese islands of Azores or Madeira? Or perhaps explore the Greek paradise that is the Skyros Island? You’d be surprised with the range of alternatives available instead of your standard vacation destination,” says Silvia Olive, a travel blogger.
Avoid hotels! They are some of the greatest culprits in damaging the environment, with outrageous amounts of food waste, toiletry bottles thrown away without being fully used and AC units on full blast.
Choose hostels, locally owned hotels that don’t belong to international chains, or guest houses.
Say No to Cruise Ships!
Cruise ships are a big no-no in terms of sustainable travel. They are horrendous for the environment and don’t benefit local communities whatsoever when they dock. They pollute the oceans, damaging marine life and they don’t avoid plastic waste and fish consumption.
There are several benefits in packing lightly for your travels. If you choose carry-on luggage with only essentials, planes will carry less weight and consume less fuel. Also, with less luggage to transport, you can opt out of getting a cab from the airport to your chosen accommodation and use public transportation instead. Don’t pack wasteful items like plastic bags, containers or bottles!
No Clue Left Behind
Wherever you choose to travel, ensure you don’t remove objects from their original environment. Don’t litter! Reduce your waste by recycling and packing reusable items. You can always find local recycling points when on vacation.
Choose Mass Transportation
Take small steps to contribute to the reduction of carbon emissions. Choose shared services like Uber and local transport as opposed to taxis. You can also explore cities by walking or being part of bike share programs.
It’s becoming more and more important for us to be conscious about our decisions. We are all part of this planet and have our roles to play, small as they may be. Even when you’re having fun in your vacation, you can make small alterations that will help the environment, as well as creating new experiences for yourself.