We love to travel. But the ugly truth is that the tourism industry has promoted some unsustainable habits. From cities invaded by mass tourism to substantial environmental problems, our desire to travel has a serious impact. Air and water pollution, displacement of local populations, unfair distribution of wealth and gentrification. In our attempts to see the world, we sometimes do more harm than good.
So if we want to continue traveling and exploring the Earth, we need to start taking better care of it. But sustainable travel is more than just reducing your carbon footprint; it is also about supporting local communities. Traveling in a way that reduces our environmental and social impact. Travel in a way that benefits local culture and economy, rather than harming it. Traveling with respect for people and the planet.
By practicing sustainable tourism, we can have a positive impact on the world. And being a more sustainable traveler is not difficult. It is a matter of being aware and making the right choices.
Choose your destination wisely
One of the first steps to plan any trip is choosing a destination. You may not have considered it, but this is where you can start making more sustainable choices.
Enjoy a stay
Traveling is not always about distance; is to open up to new experiences. You don't have to go far to get out of your comfort zone. There are probably a lot of new and interesting things to do close to home. Instead of spending a lot of money and flying halfway around the world, you can also have fun traveling locally.
You can check into a hotel in your hometown and have a short stay, plan a weekend trip to a nearby city, take a trip or why not camp somewhere in your state or country. We are so obsessed with seeing the world, although there are probably many beautiful places that you haven't visited close by.
Avoid mass tourism destinations
If you do not want to contribute to the negative impact of excessive tourism, it is best to avoid the famous destinations on the destination list. Many places are popular for a reason, but they suffer from mass tourism.
So, instead of planning a trip to the best known places, why not choose something outside the most popular routes? Avoid cities like Amsterdam, Venice or Barcelona or points of tourist interest like Dubrovnik, Phuket and Bali.
There are many beautiful places in this land, so focus on the hidden stones and not the big hitters. You will be able to enjoy your vacation without large crowds, have a more authentic cultural experience and have a much more original trip. In addition, you will also help these smaller communities by providing them with revenue from your visit. Do you want to do what everyone else is doing?
Indulge in slow tourism
Can you also travel more slowly and have time to explore a country or region? They usually have much more to offer than just a capital.
Take this opportunity to immerse yourself in the local culture and explore the countryside. You can really relax and walk at a leisurely pace, instead of constantly moving from place to place, touring the major tourist attractions and spending most of your trip in transit. And aren't these holidays really?
If you have time, it is a great option for planning a long trip that travels by land, instead of flying from one place to another. So instead of making several short intercontinental trips a year, plan a big one.
Adopt a more sustainable form of transportation
After choosing a destination, you will need a way to get there. So far, we are all aware of the negative environmental impact of the flight. It is convenient and affordable, but it requires a huge price on our planet. Aviation is responsible for 2% of all CO2 emissions in the world. It may not seem like much, but a transatlantic return flight of London to New York emits approximately 986 kg of CO2 per passenger. It is more than you would be able to make up for by eating vegan or not driving your car for a year. In fact, it is more than the average Ghanaian citizen issues in a single year!
When compared by kilometer and passenger, flights emit between 102-133 grams, train about 41 grams of CO2 emissions and bus buses only 27 grams of CO2. Takeoff and landing cause higher CO2 emissions, so long-haul flights are relatively "cleaner" than short-haul flights. I.e. short-haul flights generally make more flights in the same period. So the math is clear: avoid flying and choose a greener form of transport if you can.
Read more about issuing different types of transport in this BBC article.
Offset carbon emissions?
Some airlines, train and bus companies have also taken green initiatives, allowing you to pay a little more to offset the carbon emissions of your trip. Although this looks like a positive development, it is not necessarily as good as it looks.
Unfortunately, these companies are generally not transparent about how they offset these emissions, and this can be little more than "green washing" (…). For companies that are more environmentally friendly than they are, they contribute to the growing concern of customers. In the end, even with the effort to offset carbon emissions, flying is still incredibly damaging to the environment.
The best way to tackle less sustainable choices is to adopt a more sustainable lifestyle and support green initiatives that go beyond compensating for a single flight. Sustainability is not a zero-sum game, and the more you do, the better.
Use local public transport, cycle or walk
The choice of sustainable modes of transport does not end when you arrive at your destination. So, instead of renting a car, consider public transport. Even outside cities, there may be buses or local buses to get around. Driving works as a sustainable option when you share the ride with as many people as possible, especially in an electric car. Road trip anyone?
Or maybe go for an active bike ride or hike! Obviously, the most sustainable way to get around is on your own. Walking is also a fun way to explore cities; it's free, healthy and great for the environment. In addition, you will be able to see and discover parts of the city that you would have otherwise missed.
Stay in eco-friendly and locally owned accommodation
Have you considered the environmental impact of an ordinary hotel? Think carefully: continuous cleaning, kitchen, air conditioning, heating, etc. The use of water, electricity and gas in hotels is very high.
Look for an ecological certification
Research local accommodations to see what efforts they are making to be more sustainable. But you can also allow others to do all the work and choose certified, eco-friendly accommodation. Certifications as Green key and LEED in North America, Green Tourism in the EU and Rainforest Alliance certification in South America they are useful tools. There are also global ecological certifications, such as Earth Check, Green Globethis P.
Choose a locally owned company
It is not just the environmental impact to keep in mind; tourist accommodation also has a significant effect on the lives of locals. As more tourists migrate to a location, the housing market becomes crowded and prices rise. Residents' quality of life declines, small stores lose business and need to close as residents move away.
One of the biggest culprits of this kind of emptying in cities is Airbnb. The original business model looked very sustainable. Locals could rent extra rooms for tourists, earning extra income and facilitating cultural exchange. Unfortunately, as tourism has grown, more and more living spaces are converted into permanent tourist accommodations. If you choose to stay on Airbnb, choose one where the host lives on site. That way, your money goes straight to the owner and not to a real estate tycoon, and you start interacting with locals for an invaluable cultural exchange.
The chain's hotels are not much better, as they usually employ only the locals in the lowest payment positions and little of the profit reaches the local economy. Therefore, always opt for local ownership and operation.
Reserve sustainable activities
Perhaps the most fun part of planning a trip is making an itinerary. You want to do as many fun activities and explore as possible. But unfortunately, not everything you do as a tourist is also fun for the locals.
Hire a local guide
The best way to get to know a place is through the eyes of a place. Choose a tour with a local guide who knows all the details of your city and country of origin. Or make cultural exchanges through Airbnb experiences, like learning how to make pasta with a real Italian grandmother. Take the time to learn about local culture and history, why isn't that what makes the trip so good?
Use a B-Corp company
If you are not willing to plan everything and want the convenience of an organized tour, book one through a certified B-corp. They are companies that balance profit and objective and seek a positive social and environmental impact. Intrepid Travel is an excellent example of a B corp accredited tour operator.
View more b-corporations in travel.
Take a certified ecological tour
If you are going to do activities in nature, choose tours and activities that do not harm the environment. Avoid animal tourism, where animals are exploited and mistreated for the entertainment of tourists, at all costs. That means not riding elephants or taking pictures with tigers.
Instead, opt for wildlife tours guided by real, eco-certified experts and conservationists. You will learn much more and directly benefit our beautiful planet. GetYourGuide offers these tours around the world. Or do something free, fun and ecological, like beach cleaning!
Spend your money locally
Travel also has a huge potential for positive impact. Tourism generates a lot of money and many economies depend on it. Unfortunately, much of that money disappears into the pockets of large corporations and corrupt government officials.
But there is an easy solution: spend locally. As a visitor, you have the option of supporting local businesses, rather than large corporations and networks. Instead of waiting for your money to decrease slowly, you invest directly in local businesses.
Eat at local restaurants, shop at small local stores, and hire local guides and drivers. It may not always be as convenient or cheap, but it has a huge impact. You can choose to support local businesses and provide quality products, preserve traditional practices and support the local community. This is especially the case for companies owned by women who often give women much-needed financial independence.
As good as it is to support the local economy, donating money can do more harm than good. Giving money to beggar children encourages them to drop out of school, and the money is usually collected by organized beggar rings. It is best to donate money to a local charity that helps these children and offers opportunities to provide them with a better life.
Don't waste precious resources
We live on a beautiful and abundant planet. But, unfortunately, these natural resources are not infinite. The way we live and travel burns fossil fuel, pollutes water and air and negatively affects the environment.
Obviously, companies and governments need to take responsibility. But there are many things we can do as travelers to reduce our carbon footprint as well. Small changes can have a significant impact. The magic mantra is: reduce, reuse, recycle.
Reduce plastic waste
More than half of the 300 tons of plastic produced annually are for single use. Think of plastic water bottles, plastic bags and disposable cutlery. All of that plastic ends up in landfills, or worse, in rivers or the sea. Plastic pollution is a big problem, especially when it ends up in our oceans. An estimated 1.15 to 2.41 million tons plastics end up at sea annually. It contaminates water and harms marine life. The same goes for plastic that ends up in fields, forests and beside the road.
Fortunately, there is an easy way to combat this: avoid disposable plastic. Say no to straws and plastic bags and opt for products without packaging made of natural and compostable materials. Make a few simple swaps to exchange your regular travel products for more sustainable alternatives (see the link below).
When you need to throw something away, try, whenever possible, to recycle or dispose of it properly. Do not litter! It is a simple matter of respect as a guest in other people's living environment. If you would not throw garbage on the floor of your own home, why do it in someone else's home?
Use less of everything
Try to reduce your overall waste. Be more aware of the amount of water and energy you are using. Especially when traveling in regions facing droughts and scarcity. Just consider that your 30-minute bath reduces the drinking water available to someone else. Be a good guest, not having more than you need.
Taking shorter showers, turning off the appliances and turning off the lights when you leave are small changes that accumulate over time. And as a hotel guest, you can avoid new sheets and towels every day and not blow up the A / C while you're away.
Adopt a diet based mainly on plants
Intensive farming puts enormous pressure on the environment. Cattle, and cows in particular, attribute at least 15% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Livestock manure contributes significantly to water and air pollution. Not to mention the huge amount of water and food needed to raise cattle.
It takes approximately 1020 liters of water to produce one liter of milk and 100 times more water to produce one kg of animal protein than one kilo of vegetable protein. And animals need to eat. One third of the world's arable land is used to house livestock and grow their food. It is one of the main causes of deforestation, desertification and species extinction.
While this is happening on land, overfishing, illegal fishing and by-catches threaten marine biodiversity. Even with ecological and animal-friendly certifications, sustainable fishing is not the norm.
So reducing the amount of animal products you eat right away reduces your carbon footprint – both at home and on the road. You don't have to be vegan, but incorporating more plant-based dishes into your diet is a good idea. Apps like Happy cow show which restaurants serve vegan and vegetarian options anywhere in the world.
So, here are some of the main ways you can start changing your travel style to be more sustainable and have a better impact on the world and the places you visit. Of course, traveling is an incredible thing to do, and while we shouldn't stop traveling, we should be more aware of the way we travel.
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