The word ‘sustainable’ is bandied about a great deal at the moment – from cars to food to travel – we are frequently being told that we need to live more ‘sustainable’ lives. With the world opening up again and traveling for pleasure becoming a reality once more, sustainable travel is something that any environmentally conscious individual should be mindful of when organizing a foreign trip.
The World Tourism Organisation defines Sustainable Tourism as;
‘One that establishes a suitable balance between the environmental, economic, and socio-cultural aspects of tourism development. It attempts to minimize its impact on the environment and local culture so that it will be available for future generations.’
In a nutshell, sustainable travel means traveling in such a way that we minimize the negative effects of tourism (pollution due to excessive air travel, unnecessary waste from hotels, etc) while at the same time protecting tourist destinations by supporting the local culture and economy.
So, how can we travel in a more sustainable way?
- Use eco-friendly tour companies/travel agencies.
There are numerous travel companies that offer an eco-friendly, environmentally conscious service to their customers. These companies support local communities and businesses, promote conservation of natural habitats and wildlife, employ local guides, and support eco-friendly hotels.
Check out; Responsible Travel, And Beyond and Kynder
- Choose a ‘green’ destination
Choosing a destination that is ecologically sound and values sustainability is probably one of the main things you can do to travel in a more eco-friendly way. Countries that actively reduce the impact of tourism on the environment include;
- Avoid staying in hotels
Staying in a hotel is sometimes unavoidable, but if there is an opportunity to use Airbnb or camp that these are much more eco-friendly options. Hotels create a huge amount of unnecessary waste and use a large amount of cleaning products and plastic which is unnecessary and damages the environment.
- If you do stay in a hotel
If staying at a hotel is unavoidable then look for certified accommodation providers that have been approved by the Global Sustainable Travel Council. These hotels adopt eco—friendly practices and support local communities.
- Use the hotel responsibly
If you are staying in a hotel then use it responsibly. Make sure that you re-use towels, put the ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign on the door to avoid unnecessary cleaning, and take your own toothpaste and toiletries.
- Use refillable bottles/flasks/take reusable straws/utensils
If you are camping and don’t want to leave any waste behind then ensure you take reusable straws, utensils, and containers with you to avoid using disposable plates and cutlery.
Everyone can use refillable bottles whether you are camping or not (assuming that the local water is drinkable of course!). Buying a single bottle of water at an airport or in a tourist shop is costly and it is money that could be spent more responsibly.
Avoiding single-use plastics is an easy way to be more eco-friendly. Using your own take-away cup when purchasing hot beverages is an everyday eco-friendly practice that can also be adopted when traveling.
- Plane, Train, Boat?
How are you planning on getting to your destination? Sometimes air travel is unavoidable, so if you do have to fly then try to use an airline that adopts carbon offset programs and uses renewable biofuels. Biofuels are one of the main ways that the airline industry can reduce its carbon footprint. Indeed, NASA predicted that even if airlines use a 50% mix of biofuel and aviation fuel, they would be able to cut the pollution produced by air traffic by up to 70%. Biofuel is expensive which has made some airlines reluctant to make the switch. However, there is an increasing number of airlines that have committed to using biofuel. These include;
*Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Australia
*Azul Airlines (Brazil)
- Other modes of transport?
If you don’t need to fly then taking the bus or train leaves a much smaller carbon footprint than air travel does. Considering the modes of transport that you will use once you are at your chosen destination is something else to factor in when you are attempting to be an eco-friendly traveler. Hiring an electric bike (if possible) is a great way to explore the local area and is as eco-friendly as transport gets! If you can walk then do, or at the very least try to limit the number of taxies that you take. Use public transport whenever possible.
- Support the local economy
By eating in locally-owned restaurants, not global chains, and staying in locally-owned hotels/lodges you not only get a far more immersive travel experience but you support the local economy. Buying ethical local produce and products is another key way that you can support the communities that you visit.
- Electrical Accessories
A small but simple way to reduce your personal footprint when traveling is to adopt practices such as using your own earphones when flying. The disposable earphones provided by airlines are not just poor quality but are a terrific waste of money and plastic. Use your own earphones, but be sure to get an adaptor that will fit! Another eco-friendly travel hack is to purchase a multi-purpose plug that fits sockets worldwide.
This is by no means an exhaustive list. There are many more ways, both big and small, in which people can support sustainable tourism and travel in a more eco-friendly way. If everyone does their bit then local communities and natural habitats can be protected for many generations to come, while at the same time reducing our individual carbon footprints and protecting the environment.
So, when you are booking that long-awaited trip abroad consider the ways in which you can make your trip more eco-friendly, and you can then rest assured that you are doing your small part for the environment.
Trevor Fenner is the founder of Electric Bike Paradise, the #1 online retailer of electric bikes, electric scooters, electric skateboards, mobility scooters, electric wheelchairs, and electric golf caddies. Trevor has been selling bicycles, electric bikes, and electric scooters online since 2010 and eventually established Electric Bike Paradise in late 2013 when he happened to meet a car enthusiast that introduced him to electric bikes. Trevor spent time searching for electric bikes online but couldn’t find a website that offered a wide selection of electric bikes, scooters, and informational articles. That is why he decided to start a website where everyone can shop conveniently, browse buying guides, and read educational posts. The website is called ElectricBikeParadise.com.