With a projected 1.7 billion international tourists arriving on foreign shores by 2025, up from 1.1 billion in 2014, it’s unsurprising that tourism is currently exploding in growth, and one of the most economically resilient industries worldwide.
There reasons for this are numerous. Budget airlines have contributed to the proliferation of travel by dropping fares substantially. And the internet has also played a part; it’s now easier than ever to organize and book a trip in its entirety. Plus, because blog hosting has become so accessible, many people are also travelling full-time and making money from documenting their adventures, or while working remotely.
It’s not all beaches and sunshine, however. What a lot of travellers may not be aware of is that every trip we take takes its toll on the environment; in the UK alone, air travel accounts for 6.3% of the country’s CO2 emissions. That’s just one example in an exhaustive list of factors that are directly affecting the environment via travel. However, as a traveller, there are steps you can take to minimize your environmental footprint and travel sustainably.
How to Travel Sustainably
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Stay at Eco-friendly Accommodations
A growing number of hotels, guest houses and lodges are making sustainability one of the main attractions, looking to appeal to a more ethically-minded guest. They are often built from of or feature recycled, reclaimed or sustainably sourced materials, with the aim of keeping environmental disruption to a minimum.
For example, the Nightfall Wilderness Camp is built to blend in to the forest in northern Australia (pictured below). Each Safari tent is set in a private clearing, and fully self contained featuring electricity, generous king size beds, an in-tent rain-head shower which opens to the forest outside. The tent’s canvas is adjustable allowing you to choose your level of connection with the wilderness outside.
With conventional hotels producing excessive amounts of waste, eco-accommodations aim to use less electricity, water and natural resources, as well as promote environmental sustainability.
Think Carefully When Hiring a Car
Hiring a car should only be done when absolutely necessary, and even then alternative options such as electric cars should be explored. Whereever possible, ditch the expense of hiring a car and opt for public transport instead, unless you’re a large group where travelling in one vehicle might be the most sustainable option.
According to this website, by using public transport instead of a car, “a single person saves 4,800 pounds of CO2 per year.” The best, and possibly most pleasant mode of transportation however, would be to get around by bicycle. It’s cheap, good for you, and more importantly, has no negative impact on the environment.
Respect Local Culture
Along with green environmental practices, travelling sustainably is also about supporting local communities and protecting local heritage and culture.
Areas such as the Masai Mara National Reserve in Kenya are home to the nomadic Maasai people. Their cultural practices, which might seem strange to westerners at first, should always be respected by visitors and tourists.
Wearing the appropriate clothing when visiting religious sites or even entire countries is another example. Although it’s a controversial subject, when visiting Saudi Arabia, it’s law for a woman to wear an abaya – a robe like dress – when in public.
Tourism presents a strange dichotomy; it allows the means to preserve a culture, but also has the potential to dilute it. Therefore it’s important to understand the effects that travelling may have on culture.
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It’s funny how much more environmentally conscious I have become since I began to travel. Especially after seeing all the garbage and waste in Asia. Great tips and I hope everyone starts to be a little more aware about how they can travel smarter and greener.
You and me both :) The biggest thing for me has been involvement in the online community of travelers, and exposure to the movement of people behind responsible travel. Hopefully can pass that message forward to others as well :)
I have used Camelbak filter water bottles for years but am annoyed that they fall apart too easily. I am looking for another solution.
I’ve recently started using the CamelBak Chute water bottle and it’s been great on this end. But you can also check out bottles by Vapur, Lifestraw has the “Go Waterbottle”, or can also recommend Contigo.
Eco friendly accommodations are becoming trendy in our time today! And I agree about the car rental, it is still better to use a public transportation just like the locals, then you will also have a chance to interact with them.
Absolutely – it’s fantastic to see the strong movement behind eco friendly accommodation, and that this is a factor which is starting to actively play into a traveler’s decisions.
And I love public transport for the same reason – really does give you more insight into local life, and the chance to meet and engage with people :)
Awesome tips! It’s great to be reminded of these.. some of them are so simple yet so important! We always take a refillable water bottle where we go.
Thanks Sridhar! I find that it’s important to be reminded every so often so we don’t forget :) Happy travels!
Awesome write up! Sustainable travel is the way of the future (and dirtbaggers like us :) ) Eco friendly accommodations are a super cool way to stay and are often times a lot cooler than traditional places.
Thanks Jim! Totally agree with you that the way forward in the travel industry is becoming sustainability. It’s fantastic to watch as this change takes place, as both travelers and companies start making the move towards a more eco friendly presence :)
Thanks for the reminder and yes, it’s important to respect the local culture as being a “guest” to the foreign places.
It is also annoying to see a big group of tourist invading one place, making loud noises, littering or even damaging the site nowadays.
Absolutely agree with you – and yes, I’m holding out hope that the trend towards smaller group travel will start taking a stronger hold :)
I believe that one of the most important points of sustainable travel is supporting the local community. Stay in the homestay or a guesthouse run by a local family, shop in the small shops, eat at local restaurants and cafe shops, and of course, use local guides and agencies for your tours. With this, your money will go to local people, supporting them financially and preserving their cultural identity.
Absolutely agree with you Yana – there are so many destinations around the world where government run travel or big franchise chains cut the local communities out of the profit, but really, they’re the people who should be benefiting from our presence.
Thanks for reading!