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How to Make Travel More Sustainable

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Nicole Adams

Sustainable travel can take many forms, depending on your destination, length of travel and the types of activities you plan to do. There are numerous, simple things you can do from ditching single use plastics, to choosing your transportation, lodging and activities carefully. Making travel more mindful and sustainable can help to protect the environment, preserve local cultures and economies, and ensure that future generations can continue to enjoy the destinations and benefits of travel. 

What is Sustainable Travel?

Sustainability is a term used broadly to indicate programs, initiatives and actions aimed at the preservation of a particular resource, and can be broken into distinct pillars including social, economic and environmental. Social is our impact on local people and communities. Economic refers to sustainable travel and using our money to positively contribute to the local economy. Environmental focuses on reducing negative impacts on the environment and wildlife while traveling and includes minimizing our carbon footprint from air travel, water usage, plastic waste, etc. 

There are a number of terms you’ll encounter as you aim to become mindful of the impact traveling has on the Earth’s resources. These terms all encompass the idea of being more conscious of how we travel, by minimizing negative impacts on the environment and aiming to have a positive impact on the local communities we visit and their economies.

  • Ecotourism is defined by the International Ecotourism Society as “responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment, sustains the well-being of the local people, and involves interpretation and education.” There’s less of an emphasis on where you stay and more on what you do while you’re there. 
  • According to the World Tourism Organization, sustainable tourism is defined as “tourism that takes full account of its current and future economic, social and environmental impacts, addressing the needs of visitors, the industry, the environment and host communities”; sustainable travel refers to sustainable practices with the aim of minimizing negative impacts and maximizing positive effects of tourism.

Ecotourism is more focused on ecological conservation and educating travelers on local environments and natural surroundings, whereas sustainable tourism focuses on travel that has minimal impact on the environment and local communities. Sustainable tourism requires companies and organizations to take responsibility for their actions and their impact on the environment, while responsible travel holds individuals accountable for their choices and impact on society and the environment.

How to Be a Sustainable Traveler 

When you’re planning a trip, in addition to asking yourself where should I go, what should I do, and what do I pack, you might also ask how can I travel in an Earth friendly manner? Simply existing on the planet begets a carbon footprint, however the decisions you make in your everyday life can help control how big or small that footprint is. You can find simple, actionable, and measurable changes that can help reduce your footprint, even while traveling. By making careful choices, you can minimize your impact on the environment and help preserve the natural beauty of the places you visit.

Have you ever kept track of how much waste you produce every day? Many of the products we use daily are designed for convenience, are used once or twice and then sent straight to the landfill. Sometimes it’s relatively easy to choose a less wasteful option, for travel and also day to life, consider implementing simple changes like using the following:

  • Refillable water bottle and a steel straw 
  • Reusable shopping bags
  • Bamboo toothbrush
  • Reusable personal care containers 
  • Toothpaste tablets 
  • Reusable to-go containers and utensils 
  • Washable handkerchiefs 
  • Rechargeable/solar batteries
  • Reusable silicone bags instead of zip locks

The goals of responsible travel are to help conserve natural resources, preserve cultures, and protect destinations for future generations of travelers. Here are some Earth friendly ideas to consider.

  • Reduce your carbon footprint by purchasing carbon offsets to reduce your impact. Use this calculator to measure your CO2 emissions. 
  • Join the slow travel movement by using public transportation, biking, or walking.
  • Choose eco-friendly accommodations that implement practices like using renewable energy sources, recycling or reducing water usage.
  • Reduce waste by bringing a reusable water bottle, tote bag and cutlery, and avoid using single-use plastics such as straws, bags and water bottles.
  • Conserve water which is a precious resource in many parts of the world. Take short showers and turn off the tap when brushing your teeth.
  • Respect wildlife and nature when you visit natural attractions like parks, beaches or wildlife reserves.
  • Respect local cultures and traditions by taking the time to learn about them. Dress modestly, avoid taking photos of people without permission, and be aware of local traditions and customs.
  • Support local businesses by eating at locally-owned restaurants, shopping at local markets, and staying in locally-owned accommodations.

By adopting sustainable travel practices, travelers can help to preserve the natural and cultural resources of a destination, promote sustainable development and contribute to the well-being of local communities. 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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