It’s hard to miss the sustainable living trend these days and valiant efforts are being made globally to go vegetarian, ditch the plastics and get recycling. But what does this mean for travel?
Sadly, the environmental impact of all those last-minute cheap flights, package holidays and year-long backpacking trips is monumental. As globe-trotting gets cheaper and everyone’s carbon footprints are spreading further afield, the negative impact not only on the environment, but on local communities are getting harder to ignore.
So, what is sustainable travel? Sustainable travel doesn’t mean never going on holiday again, it just asks you been conscious and considerate of your methods of travel and respectful of the culture, environment and people. Whilst most obviously this applies to “mass tourism” – for example cruises, chain hotel packages and ginormous litter-filled beach parties, backpacking style trips can have just as negative consequences.
“Sustainable tourism works with local communities”
Unlike mass tourism which is designed to generate income for larger companies, sustainable tourism works with local communities. This is an important way of maintaining cultural traditions and providing work for local inhabitants. Its main focuses are on social and economic benefit to communities, environmentally friendly tour operations and support for the protection of natural and cultural heritage. Unfortunately, travel largely goes hand in hand with unsustainable choices – flying alone creates a huge carbon footprint. However, that is not to say there aren’t ways to be a more sustainable traveller and rid some of that traveller’s guilt.
“Avoid flying and hop on a train or a bus”
Firstly, get on board with “slow travel”! Avoid flying and hop on a train or a bus. Slow travel, like it says on the tin, will take longer but you’ll get to enjoy the scenic route whilst smug in the knowledge you’ve made a more economically viable choice. If you’re driving, be sure to share rides, you get to split the petrol costs and reduce the number of cars making the same journey!
It is an obvious one, but AVOID plastic. Don’t get lazy just because you’re aren’t at home, pick up your rubbish. Beaches are some of the hardest hit by litter. Where you can, get involved in a beach clean-up and if there isn’t one available, consider starting one yourself. The more people involved the quicker and more successful it will be! Also try to plan your snacks and lunches in advance so you’re not buying pre-packaged foods out. Some countries have less focus on recycling than we do so that plastic you buy will most likely end up in landfill rather than recycled. In line with this be sure to have a good-quality refillable bottle, if your somewhere where you can’t drink the tap water buy the biggest bottles and decant them into your refillable to reduce the number of bottles you will have to buy – it will save you money in the long run too!
“The experience you get will likely be more authentic”
Where you can, shop and eat locally. Guaranteed the food will taste better, be cheaper and you will be supporting local initiatives. Big restaurant and supermarket chains can put local’s out of work so whatever you do stay away from that McDonalds!
And finally, join in with cultural experiences. If you’re taking a travel or tour company, do some research, find companies that support local communities that will benefit both you and the inhabitants. Not only will you be doing your bit as a sustainable traveller, the experience you get will likely be more authentic and fun for you. Don’t be afraid to make friends with the locals, they will know where all the best places to see, eat and shop at.
Sustainable travel has been dubbed the new trend for 2019; here’s hoping we can make a difference!