5 ways to be a more sustainable traveller
A guide to reducing your impact on the planet, supporting local economies, protecting wildlife AND having a lot of fun whilst you’re at it.
2017 has been designated the ‘International Year of Sustainable Tourism Development’ by the United Nations; an opportunity to raise global awareness about how responsible tourism can act as a driver of positive change. Making a change is simple. It relies on us, the consumer, employing the three pillars of sustainable tourism:
- Engaging in environmentally friendly practices (reduce, reuse, recycle)
- Protecting cultural and natural heritage (protecting endangered species and architecture)
- Providing real social and economic benefits for local communities
But what does this look in practice? Here are 5 ways you can ease your impact when travelling:
Take the train
Road trips are back (did they ever go away?!) but in a new way. Extend your slow lifestyle to ‘slow travel; and kick back on a train. Not only does travelling by train dramatically decrease your carbon footprint, it also affords you the time and luxury of really getting to know a place and it’s culture. Some of the best locations for train travel are India, Southeast Asia, China and Japan.
Say no to plastic
The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a swirling mass of human trash stretching across thousands of miles of the ocean, is not somewhere on any of our ‘must visit’ travel lists. This not so must see sight is made up of thousands of single-use plastic bottles and bags that will take hundreds of years, if ever, to degrade—all the while wreaking havoc on marine ecosystems.
Be a part of the solution not the problem by opting for locally purified water in recyclable glass bottles and carrying tote bags in your luggage that you can use while in local street markets and shops. Not only will this cut back on plastic waste, it will also reduce your carbon footprint–petroleum-based ingredients are a staple in manufacturing plastic bottles and bags.
Give Work, Not Aid
Many of us well-intentioned travellers bring sweets, used clothing, books, and pencils to hand out to children and villagers in developing nations. The reality is, despite trillions of dollars in Western aid, 2.8 billion people worldwide still struggle in abject poverty. Yet the world’s richest countries continue to send money—mostly to governments—targeting the symptoms, rather than the root causes of poverty.
Want to end poverty for good? Support the real local economy when you’re travelling. Purchase wares and goods from local artisans, ensuring your contribution to the economy will have a direct and more positive impact.
For anyone interested in learning more about the theory behind give work not aid, check out ‘Give Work’ by Leila Janah.
Research your tour operators and accommodation
When choosing accommodation, or deciding which tour operators to use it’s important to ask the right questions;
- What are the company/accommodations environmentally friendly practices?
- How to their trips/accommodation help to protect and support local wildlife or cultural heritage?
- Do they employ local guides and/or staff?
Flor + Cesta recommends Earth Changers for life changing places, people and experiences. Earth Changers’ is a UK based tour operator dedicated to community and conservation for sustainable development through tourism.
NEVER purchase wildlife products
There is a growing marketplace for trafficking rare and endangered wildlife products as souvenirs. Just say no. Find out more about this growing issue on National Geographic’s site.