While flying is a consideration there are many other things to think about. From where to stay, to what you buy, eat and do while you are there. Sustainable travel is not just about the environment.
What does sustainable travel mean?
According to the Center for Responsible Travel (CREST) sustainable travel is about positive local development. They cite 5 pillars to sustainable travel.
- Inclusive and sustainable economic growth.
- Social inclusiveness, employment, and poverty reduction.
- Resource efficiency, environmental protection, and climate change adaptation and mitigation.
- Respect for cultural values, diversity, and heritage.
- Mutual understanding, peace, and security.
Before traveling you should research your destination. Think about how you can incorporate some of the above in your plans. Look for travel companies and hotels that have some kind of verification. Some organisations to look out for are GST, Green Globe, Earth Check and Rainforest Alliance.
Tips for traveling sustainably
What to pack
Think about what you need to take. Less luggage means lighter planes and less fuel consumption. Take reusable items like water bottles, coffee cups, and cutlery so you can minimise waste. Choose a sunscreen which does not contain oxybenzone or octinoxate. These can both be harmful to corals and sea creatures. Take a small backpack to carry your essentials while out and about and a shopping bag for any purchases.
How to get there
Flying is a big contributor to climate change. Stay local if you can. But this does not mean you can’t go somewhere new. If you live in the USA you could sail from North Carolina to Puerto Rico or get a train to Canada. If you live in the UK you could get a boat or train to many places in Europe.
If you do decide to fly, take direct flights and fly economy. Most of a plane’s carbon emissions are produced at take off and landing. Research if your carrier uses biofuel or offsets their carbon emissions. Also consider what transport you will be using when you get there.
If you have more time, consider slow travel. Slow travel is about spending more quality time in places. It’s about connecting with local people’s cultures and supporting small businesses and community projects.
Where to stay
Choose to stay at locally run accommodation so that your money goes back to the community. Check for green hotels with either certifications or green initiatives such as green energy, local sourcing, recycling and local employment. While there try to conserve energy and limit your water consumption. Avoid hotels altogether and try camping.
You should try not to stay at all inclusives or large resorts. These are usually not locally owned. Resorts use a lot of energy and resources. They are often not mindful of the local surroundings or people. And are often out of town which will make it difficult for you to venture out and support local businesses.
Where to go
Deciding where to go is not just about considering how you get there it’s also about what you do when you get there. Consider volunteering. United Planet are a non profit organisation who match up volunteers with projects.
Also consider places where you can support the local community or business.
For example, visitors to Bhutan pay daily taxes that get reinvested into social services like healthcare and education for locals. Or visit an eco lodge. Daintree Wilderness Lodge is run in partnership with the local Kuku Yalanji tribe. Guests staying at the lodge have a unique opportunity to immerse themselves in the tribe’s culture.
Where to eat and shop
Eat in local establishments and from locally sourced ingredients. Not only will you be tasting some of the best food you will also find yourself more immersed in the community. Shop at local shops and markets for food and other items such as clothes and gifts. Avoid western chains where possible.
What to do
Do your research before you go and look for tour operators who have some kind of verification and support the local community. Don’t participate in tours where animals are not correctly treated. For example, elephant rides or walking with lions. Choose low impact tours like hiking or cycling. Make sure you are aware of any local customs. Research local activities and get involved. This could be a local cooking course, theatre production, or festival
Top considerations for sustainable travel
If you only change 3 things about how you travel. Change how you get there. Stay somewhere that considers the environment and employs local people. Support local businesses such as shops, cafes and markets.
We hope this has been helpful. To get more tips on easy sustainable living click here.