Responsible travel and eco-tourism are quickly becoming more important to travellers, who are beginning to more consciously consider how they travel. With approximately 1.8 billion people taking at least one international trip each year, the impact of travel is noticeably felt by both the environment and local communities. The good news is we can all lessen our footprint considerably by keeping a few simple things in mind when planning a trip.
Travelling responsibly begins before you even leave for your trip. When packing, ensure you’re taking a few essentials to help you stay single-use plastic free on your trip. A reusable water bottle, coffee cup and tote bag will go a long way. Also try to pack light, the more a plane weights, the more carbon emissions it produces - so only pack what you need. You can check out our ultimate packing list blog here for some more ideas.
When planning which tour operator to go with or which hotel to stay in, choose your company wisely. Hotels actually have the highest carbon footprint out of the entire tourism industry, so look for hotels that are actively working to reduce their impact and implement eco-friendly practices. Better yet, are there locally run guesthouses or home-stays that you can support? When you choose to support local restaurants, hotels, stores and tour providers, your money is going directly back into the community rather than to large international chains. Once you’re at your accommodation, be sure to reuse your bedding and towels, recycle where you can, use water wisely and turn off chargers and appliances when you are finished with them.
Transport is another key area we can make more responsible choices when travelling. It's no secret that long-haul flights aren't great for the environment. Flying is extremely heavy on carbon dioxide emissions, while also contributing to global warming in the short term due to the chemicals being emitted in the fuel combustion process. This doesn’t mean we should all stop travelling and experiencing other countries and cultures, but we can be more conscious of how we travel once we arrive at our destination. Avoid using a car where possible, can you instead walk or hire a bike? If you do need to use a vehicle, trains and buses can be a good option as they reduce the number of cars on the road, and they can also be cheaper! When booking your accommodation, keep in mind the location and whether or not you can walk to local restaurants or sights. You can also contribute positively to the community by buying groceries instead of eating out for each meal. Take your reusable bag to the local store or farmers market and stock up on breakfast food or snacks.
Everyone loves to bring home a souvenir or gift for friends and family, but it is important to shop consciously. The nature of souvenirs is that they are easy to pack and cheap, which unfortunately means they are often made poorly. Instead, look for shops or markets that are locally owned and operated and keep an eye out for handmade trinkets. Ask your accommodation for suggestions for shops carrying fair trade, eco-friendly or locally handmade products as well.
When choosing your activities on your trip, if you're doing a tour or day trip, make sure to check the values and responsibilities of the company and choose reputable, conservation-minded tour operators. This can be as simple as reading a few reviews or asking if they support local businesses throughout the tour. Consider nature based activities you can do that don’t use energy or other resources that indoor activities do. Are there national parks you can explore, hikes or walks, local waterfalls to swim in? Can you sail, snorkel, bike or visit a local crafts market? Depending on your location, there are often local guides that can accompany you for the day for a truly authentic experience.
Travelling responsibly doesn’t have to be hard and it’s incredibly rewarding, it allows us to foster meaningful cultural exchanges and support the local economy and community.