'Sustainability' or 'Eco-friendly' are the words on everybody’s lips these days. The concept of “being green” has filtered down to us all in one way or another – but how do we ensure it doesn’t become another shallow Instagram trend? No matter where we may go, we should all engage seriously with the issue of sustainable travel.
Sustainable travel is, in a nutshell, the concept of visiting a place as a tourist and trying to only make a positive impact on that location’s environment, society and economy.
Benefits of Sustainable Travel
You may be thinking why you should even care about sustainable travel. I mean, it’s obvious why you should care; but in terms of factual benefits, there are quite a few. Check out some of them below.
- The most obvious is I feel, the most important. Quite simply, travelling sustainably provides you with a guarantee that the lush green forest, ancient mountain or pristine beach you just enjoyed your holiday in will still be thriving for future generations to enjoy and you lose nothing by taking part in it so why wouldn't you.
- It helps conserve our precious natural resources. Our ecosystems are made the way they are for specific reasons, and they are not renewable therefore we should take all opportunities we can to avoid damaging it.
- Sustainable travel benefits local communities. Offering not just employment to local residents but to non-for-profit organisations as well, when you choose locally owned and operated businesses your money goes directly back into the community. This means that your business as a tourist brings in profits that will help the local community stay profitable long after you have left.
Tips to Travelling Sustainably
People tend to be more eco-conscious when at home. When it comes to holidaying or travelling for extended periods of time that mindset is often left at home. People tend to favour the easy way when travelling – whether that be choosing some convenience food in throwaway packaging, or not going the extra mile to ask for a drink without a straw. It’s easy to forget when we’re on holiday, no-body is perfect but we need to start being more mindful of those choices. Here are our top 10 basic tips to get you started.
1.Say No to Plastic
Plastics are polluting and killing the ocean and of course, litter on land isn’t great either. A colossal amount of plastic used all over the world doesn’t get recycled. What can you do?
- Refuse plastic straws
- Take reusable bags for your shopping
- Pack some Tupperware containers and
- Be organized with your eating
2. Be Prepared When You Can’t Drink the Tap Water
A large portion of the worlds tap water is undrinkable which means that a lot of bottled water is purchased, especially by travellers on holidays. Each throwaway bottle adds to the plastic problem. What can you do?
- Use a water filtration system
- Bring a refillable water bottle
- Buy bigger bottles of water
- Suggest hotels and hostels implement drinking water systems
3. Have an Eco-Friendly Hotel Stay
In many ways, staying in hotels is not sustainable, because it’s easy to act differently there than at home. Less of a thought is given to leaving the air-conditioning, heating or lights on. Small bottles of toiletries add to plastic waste and recycling is often not obvious but here are ways to be eco-conscious when staying in hotels. What can you do?
- Stay in one hotel for longer so bedsheets are washed less
- Ask for your towels to not be washed or better still, bring your own towel and use that
- Don’t use the free toiletries on offer in many hotels
- Stay in hotels that are environmentally-friendly in nature
- If your hotel does not recycle, try and locate somewhere that does and take your recycling there
4. Fly Less
While often the easiest and quickest way to get somewhere, flying is not eco-friendly at all. All other modes of transport have put effects into place to be more sustainable, but flying has not. What can you do?
- Offset your flights
- Don’t fly!
- Bus and train travel
5. Drive Sustainably
Driving, whilst slightly better than flying, still isn't exactly great for the environment but at least there are more and more efforts being made to decrease the amount of CO2 emitted whilst driving. And because the car is in your control, there are many things you can do to make road tripping more sustainable. What can you do?
- Make sure the car is serviced
- Purchase or rent a hybrid electric car
- Pack light
- Buddy up with people doing the same road trip
- Use cruise control
6. Choose Sustainable and Eco Accredited Tourism Options
Sustainable tourism operations promote sustainable travel that benefits local communities, culture, and heritage and minimise impacts on the environment. It is not driven by economic gains but focuses on educating tourists on travelling green. Opting for an ecotourism experience/holiday over a conventional tourism package you are making a conscious decision to reduce your impact. What can you do?
- Research your travel options and check their websites
- Do they mention sustainable or responsible tourism
- Does the company clearly support the local community
- Do they mention how they protect the environment
7. Recycle marketing material
The local visitors centre is usually the first point of call for most travellers on arrival in a new town and I think it's fair to say we have all been guilty of grabbing every tour/accommodation brochure off the rack so we can plan our stay. The problem is that it all ends up as landfill afterwards. What can you do?
- Research and plan your holiday prior to arriving so that you don't need to grab printed materials
- Photograph or scan a digital copy of the brochure. Many operators now provide a QR code on their brochure for this purpose. Our new brochure is being created as we speak and our commitment is to reduce the amount of printed material we provide to visitor centres and guests so we too will be implementing this fantastic initiative
- Return maps, brochures, and other tourist info once you’re finished with them so that they may be reused by future travellers
8. Mind your manners
Part of sustainable travel is creating good relationships between visitors and locals. This certainly won't happen if you visit another country and offend its residents. Nobody travels with the intention of being rude but with even the best intentions, you can easily offend someone if you don't know what is considered rude in the country you're visiting. What can you do?
- A quick Google search of “manners in Australia” for example, can give you insight into what is appropriate in the place you are visiting.
9. Leave No Trace
The outdoors is there for exploration and discovery. Be mindful of the impact you have on others and the environment and enjoy it more sustainably for future generations by following the “Leave No Trace” Principles. What can you do?
- Plan Ahead and Prepare
- Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces
- Dispose of Waste Properly
- Leave What You Find
- Minimise Campfire Impacts
- Respect Wildlife
- Be Considerate of Your Hosts and Other Visitors
10. Offset the Carbon Emission from your holiday
No trip, no matter how well-planned, is entirely carbon neutral. It’s inevitable: Your journey will directly contribute to greenhouse gas pollution. What can you do?
- The good news is that you can indirectly make up for it by purchasing carbon offsets.
- The even better news is that Down Under Discoveries has taken the hassle of finding a good Carbon Offset initiative by building offsets into their quoted tour prices, so you won’t even notice the added cost. Check out their Carbon Offset Program here.