Sustainability is not only about what you do at home, it can have a lot to do with how you behave in other aspects of your life. One of them is certainly sustainable travel, as a way to contribute to the protection of the environment, conservation of nature, and being a responsible tourist.
Humans leave their footprints everywhere they go, including traveling abroad. This affects ecosystems, wildlife, and people living at those destinations. While tourism is economically significant, preserving nature and communities is equally crucial. So let’s see why it’s important and how to do it right, so you leave the tiniest possible impact on your travel destination.
Plan your travel in advance
Planning aspects of your trip may help you be more sustainable. Research where to eat, sights to see, how to travel around, where to stay, what to buy, and how you can help for the perfect sustainable experience.
You can’t travel without living with negative consequences, but at least planning in advance will minimize them as much as possible. Moreover, choose a destination with low tourist traffic or go during the off-season since some places suffer from being visited by a large number of people.
Book an eco-friendly accommodation
Demand for eco-friendly accommodations has grown in recent years and the trend will only be more popular in the future. That is possible only through your support by choosing places that respect sustainable and green standards. For example, look for resorts, hotels, and hostels that are dedicated to not wasting resources, like water and energy.
Focus on accommodations that collect rainwater, use locally-produced supplies, and operate on solar or wind power. These places should have sustainable tourism certification or at least be transparent about their practices.
Forget about rent-a-car to get around
Renting a car or using your own only contributes to the greenhouse effect and global warming. Instead, hop on a bike and explore the destination most sustainably. Hiking and trekking will help you immerse yourself in landscapes and settings, as well as bring you closer to wildlife and nature.
If you do have to travel from one location to another, use public transportation or e-vehicles since it is less harmful to the environment. While a car may be more comfortable and private, it’s also the least culturally immersive way to travel. Furthermore, avoid riding on animals, like elephants since they are often mistreated and overworked which only endangers them more and supports such inhumane behavior.
Join volunteering efforts
Traveling to volunteer abroad brings support and improvement to the local communities, nature, and economy of your destination. For example, you can care for animals, protect their habitats, and nurse them back to health. Cleaning beaches and parks, repopulating coral reefs, and cleaning the ocean from plastic waste can also be on your list of helpful activities.
So, pick a destination that may need your help and be a great travel opportunity. Costa Rica has a volunteering program for sea turtles, in Thailand, you can care for elephants, and in Kenya, you can work on protecting the endangered black rhino. In Peru, you can work on reviving the Amazon Rainforest, while Australia always welcomes tourists willing to help their healing of the Great Barrier Reef.
Buy locally grown and made products
When you buy from local sources you support the community and economy of that region, as well as minimize the transportation pollution for delivering goods. Include visits to the farms, wineries, and other manufacturing businesses in the area that use green practices and sustainable standards.
Other places where you can buy these products are markets, festivals, and special stores, especially when it comes to arts and crafts. Also, if you go on tours to visit indigenous people, don’t leave without buying a souvenir or a few.
Don’t leave waste behind
If you plan to go camping, hiking, bike riding, or any other way to spend time in nature — pick up after yourself. Instead of carrying batteries, use equipment with solar charge, like lanterns, phone chargers, and water purifiers. Single-use cutlery and dishes are made from plastic, so you should opt for reusable ones you can wash with biodegradable soap.
National parks have picnic areas with trashcans and you can get rid of the waste you made and collected along the way. Respecting wildlife is important, so avoid trying to touch animals or disturb their habitats. Control your campfires and make sure you extinguished even the smallest cinder to avoid starting a wildfire.
The bottom line
As you can see, everyone can be a sustainable traveler without sacrificing comfort and luxury. Sustainability is now more important than ever with constant wildfires, climate changes, extinction of plants and animals, and catastrophic disasters. For this reason, both tourists and their destinations recognized the need to be more ecologically aware and respectful.