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How to Start Traveling More Sustainably

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Nicole Adams

Whether you’re headed to remote communities or urban areas, traveling mindfully gives you the opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of being an informed and responsible citizen of the world. By adopting sustainable travel practices, you can help to preserve the natural and cultural resources of a destination, promote sustainable development and contribute to the well-being of local communities. 

A Greener Path: Embracing Sustainability on Your Global Adventures

The aim of sustainable travel is to achieve a balance between economic growth, human well-being and environmental health, accounting for both immediate and long-term effects. It focuses on reducing tourism’s negative impacts and maximizing its positive benefits for communities, cultures and ecosystems. Start by researching destinations that have a strong commitment to sustainability. One way to pick is by consulting the Global Destination Sustainability Index rankings, which scores cities based on factors like carbon emissions and public transport. 

Choose accommodations that have environmentally friendly practices, such as energy-efficient systems, waste reduction measures, and a commitment to local communities. Look for certifications like LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) to ensure their sustainability claims. The best way to make sure host communities reap the benefits of tourism is by supporting local businesses. Consider staying in locally-owned homestays rather than international chain hotels, and dine at local restaurants where you can experience traditional dishes made with locally-sourced ingredients. 

Approximately 8% of the world’s carbon emissions are caused by travel and tourism. Though all modes of transportation require energy, some are more efficient and cleaner than others. Wherever possible, choose options like public transportation, cycling, or walking, minimize air travel and compensate for your carbon emissions through verified offset programs. Packing lightly is another sustainable travel tactic. The more you pack, the more fuel planes, trains, etc need, plus it’s easier to carry lighter luggage. Pack refillables and reusables, or go completely plastic-free, by using shampoo bars, tooth tabs, etc.

Aerial view of 8 people hiking outdoor mountains

Beyond Sightseeing: Immersing Yourself in Sustainable Travel Experiences

Historic cities, landmarks, beaches, and other tourist hotspots are being overrun by hordes of visitors, a phenomenon known as “overtourism.” As a traveler, you can help prevent this and help spread tourism benefits to other local communities by skipping tourist traps and getting off the beaten path. While it may be tempting to go to the same bucket list destinations everyone’s Instagramming, it can be even more rewarding to explore less traversed places. If you’re dying to go to a popular destination, consider visiting during the off-season. 

It’s tempting to cram as much as possible into a trip, and not only is that frantic to-do list a surefire recipe for stress, but in doing so you’ll likely miss out on actually getting to know the destination. Spending time in a place makes for more authentic, memorable, and meaningful experiences, and creates greater benefits for the local economy and businesses you choose to support. Slow travel is also better for the environment since it reduces the amount of carbon emissions generated by flying or driving between destinations. 

When you stay awhile, you have time to interact with and learn from the local communities and by giving them your dollars, you help ensure the residents in the place you visit directly benefit. Choose eco-friendly and local activities, support parks and local conservation efforts, and always explore natural environments respectfully and responsibly. You can even learn about environmental challenges the region you’re visiting faces, such as deforestation, water scarcity, or pollution and do your best not to further contribute to those struggles. 

Remember that sustainable travel is a continuous learning process. Embrace curiosity, respect local cultures, and strive to minimize your environmental footprint while exploring the world. Where There Be Dragons is committed to socially responsible travel as a tool for breaking down barriers and enhancing understanding between people and communities around the world. Call 800.982.9203 us with questions or curiosities or contact us today. 

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