Ranking high amid the travelling trends for 2019, ecotourism is shaping up to be one of the most important factors to consider when booking a holiday.
Travelling more responsibly and consciously is not always easy though, and following the pillars of eco-friendly travel, which include employing environmentally friendly practices, protecting both cultural and natural heritage, and supporting local communities, can be tricky.
We have put together a few tips to help you become a more conscious traveller, so next time you will be travelling, you can make a difference.
#1: Consider how to get there
Making up around 2% of global emission, aviation is one of the world’s highest polluting industries, and even if many airlines have introduced ‘carbon offsets programs’ over the past few years, flying is still extremely bad for the environment.
There are a few things that can help though. First, try to cut down on stopovers: planes use up the most fuel during take-off and landing, so the least amount of stopovers you can make, the better it is for emissions. You could also select the carbon offset option every time you book a flight, and wherever you can, try to go plastic-free. Bring a reusable water bottle with you, say no to straws and coffee stirrers, and think twice before accepting plastic glasses. Read more about sustainable flying in our article.
Sustainability doesn’t stop once you get off the plane: when you reach your destination, become part of the emerging ‘slow travellers’ trend, choosing public transport and trains as much as you can. Decreasing your carbon footprint and allowing you to get a deeper sense of place, train travelling is one of the best things you can do to be an eco-friendly traveller. You may also want to consider renting electric cars, cycling and hiking – without leaving any traces behind of course!
#2: Support local economies and help the communities
Supporting local communities is a foundation of ecotourism: your support can go a long way in some remote areas of the world. But how exactly can you help?
Think small and support local businesses and family-owned restaurants instead of fast-food chains and bigger restaurants. Choose your souvenirs wisely and pick locally made crafts, they might be more expensive, but you will be helping out a local family. Pick travel companies and hotels that share economic values with the communities you are visiting as much as possible: look for locally and family owned hotels and tour operators, and always ensure their work force is sourced from the local communities. Your help and support towards local communities can make a huge difference.
If you are looking for a more hands-on approach to helping people, try volunteering: whether you are helping to clean up a beach or pack supplies for remote villages, there are numerous organisations – such as Pack for a Purpose – and a myriad of ways to give back to the communities you are visiting.
#3: Think about animal welfare
National Geographic recently shared an investigation on wildlife tourism, a trend that has been increasingly boosted by social media in recent years. The investigation brings to the surface what hides behind encounters with captive wild animals – a sad reality involving chains, muzzles and cruelty.
As one of the pillars of sustainable travel, protecting the natural heritage of the destination you are visiting and prioritising animal welfare should be crucial elements to take into consideration. Choose ethical experiences as much as you can, do your research to understand what tours and attractions may cause suffering to animals, make sure you don’t disturb or feed wildlife, and more importantly, stay away from elephant rides, tiger selfies and monkey schools. The sufferance of animals is not worth a selfie.
#4: Reduce waste, say no to plastic and save energy
If you are trying to become a more conscious traveller, leaving no trace should be high on your list of priorities. From carrying a reusable water bottle to saying no to a plastic straw, from switching off all the lights and air conditioning when you leave your room to saying no to daily towel changes, the list of things you can do to reduce waste and save energy is long and varied.
When you are staying in a hotel, think about what your stay means to the environment: try to reduce washing by hanging up your towels after each use, so you can reuse them; take any leftover soap, shampoo or plastic bottles with you – any unused portions will be thrown away anyway and at least you can reuse the bottles for your next trip; try and save water by taking short showers; ask for filtered water refills as much as you can to reduce single plastic use and if you can, avoid using the hotel’s laundry services.
#5: Search for eco-friendly accommodation
A bit of research will help you pick the most sustainable and eco-friendly accommodation during your trip – and just because you’ve picked a sustainable hotel doesn’t mean you need to compromise on luxury! We have created a list of the most sustainable hotels, resorts and tours around the world.
Numerous hotels nowadays are taking a more sustainable approach – offering filtered water, running on solar energy and ensuring no traces are left behind. If you want to make sure the hotels you are visiting are doing their fair share to positively impact the environment, check if they are certified by a trusted third party such as Rainforest Alliance, Ecotourism Australia and the Global Sustainable Tourism Council.
#6: Consume less meat while travelling
Did you know that a single cow releases between 70 and 120kg of methane a year, meaning cattle farming has a devastating effect on the environment? Being mindful about your eating choices can make a huge difference to the world we live in, even if it’s just for a couple of weeks.
Choosing vegetarian meals while travelling will help reduce your footprint, not to mention it might help keep some food borne illnesses away. Make sure you also choose sustainable food when shopping, heading to a local market rather than a big supermarket chain, picking local produces over imported ones and of course, packing everything into your reusable shopping bag.