By Jana Koebel, Seas and Straws
Travel is a fun adventure that takes you to new and unexplored places and brings so much joy, excitement, and fulfillment. It's a chance to meet new people, try new things, and immerse yourself in different cultures. When we travel, we open ourselves up to many possibilities and experiences we might not have had otherwise. But it's important to ask ourselves this question: how can we enjoy our love for travel without harming the natural wonders we want to protect for the future?
Well, one way to achieve this is by practicing sustainable travel.
What is sustainable travel?
Sustainable travel means adopting eco-friendly and responsible practices that can minimize the harmful effects of our travels, both on the local communities and the environment. It involves being mindful of our choices on where we stay, how we get around, and what activities we do during our trips.
Why is Sustainable Travel Important?
Protecting the Environment
The first and most obvious reason is taking care of our environment. Our planet's natural wonders are always at risk due to a range of human activities, including pollution and deforestation, which can have devastating effects on our forests, rivers, oceans, and soils. These natural resources provide us with the food we eat, the air we breathe, and the water we use to irrigate our crops. Sustainable travel seeks to mitigate these impacts by reducing pollution, saving natural habitats, and supporting efforts to protect the environment.
Helping Local Communities
Sustainable travel isn't just about protecting the environment; it's also about supporting the people who call these beautiful places home. When we spend our money on locally-owned businesses, we provide economic opportunities that can uplift entire communities.
Preserving Culture and Heritage
One of the great things about travel is learning about new cultures and traditions. Sustainable travel encourages this, but it also reminds us how important it is to respect and keep the local ways of life. This way, we help preserve the traditions of the places they visit.
Sustainable travel isn't just about making better choices when you travel; it's also about being more aware of how we affect the planet. When we return home from our trip, we can continue making good choices in our everyday lives.
Best Practices for Your Next Trip
If you're someone who values the impact of your travels, here are some best practices to consider when planning your next trip:
- Plan Your Trip with Purpose
- Take the time to look for destinations that prioritize tourism practices that align with your sustainability goals. Some countries are more committed to eco-tourism, while others may have a poor track record in environmental conservation.
- Consider traveling during off-peak seasons to reduce overcrowding and environmental strain on popular destinations.
- Choose Sustainable Transportation
- Air travel is convenient and fast but has a significant carbon footprint. If you can travel slow, explore greener transportation options such as trains, buses, or carpooling when possible.
- Use public transportation or rent electric or hybrid vehicles at your destination to reduce your environmental impact.
- Stay at Eco-Friendly Accommodations
- Choose to stay at hotels or vacation rentals with green certifications or initiatives like energy-efficient lighting, water-saving fixtures, and waste recycling programs.
- Consider staying at eco-lodges or sustainable resorts that are built to minimize their impact on local ecosystems. They are usually designed to blend in with their natural surroundings and often offer unique experiences.
- Follow the Leave No Trace rule: respect nature, pack out what you pack in, and don't harm the environment.
- Go Plastic-Free!
- Carry a reusable water bottle to avoid purchasing single-use plastic bottles. Many destinations now offer water refilling stations, which makes it easy to stay hydrated while on the go.
- Bring reusable shopping bags to reduce the need for disposable plastic bags when you shop for souvenirs or groceries.
- When ordering drinks at a restaurant or café, politely decline plastic straws. Alternatively, bring your reusable straw made of metal, bamboo, or silicone and sip in style.
- Support Local Communities
- Buy souvenirs and products from local artisans and markets. This directly benefits the local economy and supports the traditional craftsmanship of the people..
- Try the local cuisine and dine at restaurants that source their ingredients locally. This allows you to savor the authentic flavors of the regions and supports small-scale farmers who work hard to provide fresh and organic produce.
- Engage in Eco-Friendly Activities
- Participate in ethical wildlife experiences that put the well-being of animals and their natural habitats first. Avoid activities that exploit animals for entertainment, such as riding elephants or going to animal shows.
- Choose outdoor activities like hiking, biking, or kayaking, which let you explore stunning sceneries and take in the natural beauty around you. If you love the ocean and want to experience the thrill of catching a wave, surfing is a good idea, too.
- Practice Responsible Travel Behavior
- Learn about, appreciate, and show respect for the customs and traditions of the places you visit. Engage with locals in a respectful and meaningful way.
- Make a conscious effort to conserve both energy and water wherever you stay. Simple actions like turning off lights and air conditioning when leaving a room and using water wisely can go a long way.
Traveling sustainably is a good and enjoyable way to see the world, make great memories, and help the environment and local community, all at the same time. We should all be thoughtful travelers, leaving only friendly marks as we go on a responsible and eco-friendly adventure.