For most modern travelers, sustainability is a fundamental value driving the best way to experience other countries and cultures. Travel, by nature, can have a positive or negative impact on destination countries and the planet. The key is to understand how to harness the transformative potential of travel for the good of all. Sustainable tours are indeed the future of travel.
Tourism brings valuable income to destination countries. That income, in turn, helps develop a higher standard of living in the host community. If we also adopt environmentally friendly travel habits, our journeys can help support and sustain the planet. These five essential travel tips are meant to be a starter guide to creating your own responsible travel tour, supporting the planet and host communities. Please reach out if you also want help creating an eco-friendly trip!
1. Travel with a zero-waste travel kit
Carbon offset is extremely important on an eco-friendly vacation. At the same time, single-use plastic is everywhere when one is in transit. Plan for this hazard by having a pre-packed zero-waste travel kit. At a minimum, this should include: water bottle, reusable coffee cup, and cutlery. For a more extensive zero-waste travel kit, check out this brilliant list from Low Impact Love.
2. Eat, drink, shop local
When traveling to a host community, conscious travel calls for supporting that community. In addition, eating local produce contributes substantially to offsetting the carbon impact of travel. If staying at an Air Bnb, consider purchasing only food that is in season, from local producers. When eating at a restaurant, choose small locally owned establishments over large chains. Buy locally made souvenirs and support smaller businesses.
3. Book eco-conscious accommodation
As there is currently no certification for eco-conscious accommodation, these places can be hard to find. With these limitations in mind, rather look at booking places which are naturally sustainable. Examples: small locally owned Air Bnbs, eco forest huts, off-grid cabins, or tented lodges. A more extensive guide on green accommodation can be found in this great article by World Nomads.
4. Travel by road or rail
The carbon impact of air travel cannot be underestimated. Airplanes emit around 100 times more CO2 per hour compared to train or bus travel (Mongabay, April 2022). It is therefore essential to consider alternatives to air travel whenever possible. Trains and buses offer a unique opportunity to observe the changing landscape while saving money and carbon emissions. For those sectors which one must use air travel, consider using these tips offset the carbon footprint of that flight.
5. Choose animal experiences consciously
Some animal experiences in destination countries are incredibly cruel and morally wrong. As an outsider, it can be difficult to discern what constitutes animal cruelty. The best approach is to do thorough research before doing any experience – on BOTH the type of experience and the host running the experience. For instance, adopting an elephant from the Sheldrick Foundation is brilliant while riding an elephant in Thailand is morally questionable.