Sustainable travel. A hot and trending phrase hard to ignore these days. Sex used to sell, but in 2020 words like eco-friendly, sustainable and green label make us draw our wallets. But how sustainable are travel related practices really? Is there any way to justify our flying behaviour? Is tourism really reinventing itself in the era of corona? Greenwashing in tourism has become mainstream as the travel sector is being criticised for being one of the greatest polluting industries in the world.
Don’t get me wrong though. There are travel agents and tour operators out there who genuinely want to green up the way we travel. I will tell you more about that later. But it might be outside of your budget to travel this way, or maybe you love to plan your own trip like me. So why not take matters in your own hands and take action to make your next trip more sustainable? I aim to help you travel more sustainably with this Sustainable Travel Guide. Every Saturday a new Sustainable Travel tip is added to this guide. Don’t want to miss out? Follow Travelies on Instagram, Facebook or Pinterest and find a tip in your feed every week.
WHAT IS SUSTAINABILITY?
Before we get to it I want to tell you one more thing: the definition of sustainability. There are countless definition’s out there and we haven’t universally agreed on one, but it all comes down to the same principle. Sustainability leans on three three pillars: People, Planet and Profit. For sustainable practice it is essential is to find a balance between these three pillars. In order to do so, human kind develops processes and actions that consider our planet’s health to sustain humanity’s quality of life. Tough one aye? You might want to read that again before you go on.
Okay, enough with the academic chitchat (not showing off, sorry guys). Don’t be shocked sustainability revolves around sustaining human quality of life as a healthy planet and biodiversity are essential for humanity to exist. The main takeaway in sustainability is that the sole focus should never be on one of the pillars. All pillars should have your undivided attention and deserve equal consideration before you even pack your backpack or suitcase.
Just to get an idea: if you solely focus on the pillar Planet and decide to stop flying your environmental impact will significantly decrease. That all sounds great, but think again. Just imagine the negative impact on People and Profit in destinations across the ocean if we quit air travel. The outbreak of coronavirus has displayed what happens to humans and animals in our favourite travel destinations if we don’t fly over at all. In the end sustainable travel is about finding a balance between the three pillars and adapting your travel behaviour accordingly. Wondering how? Follow the travel tips below and start travelling more sustainably today.
SUSTAINABLE TRAVEL TIPS
Actions to travel more sustainably don’t necessarily take a lot of effort. Most often it’s small actions that make great positive impacts or limit your negative footprint. Some actions may require a financial investment, but it’s up to you whether you want and are able to make the investment.
# 1 BOOK DIRECT FLIGHTS
As of today humanity has not invented any other way to cross the ocean in a short time span other than by airplane. Carbon emissions caused by flying are hard to avoid for intercontinental travel, but we can limit our impact by booking a direct flight. I won’t bore you with numbers regarding C02 emissions of a plane taking off or landing, but lets just stick to the fact it causes a lot of polluting C02 emissions. Cheap flights with multiple layovers amplify your carbon footprint significantly and often don’t make any geographical sense either. It might be more expensive, but to travel more sustainably it is essential to book a direct flight, if available.
Tip: look for flights that leave in the night or in the morning as they might be more affordable.
# 2 SKIP THE STRAW
The use of plastic straws significantly contributes to our plastic problem. Sustainable paper straws are becoming increasingly popular as they are even mandatory in some places. Skipping the straw however is the best way to go as it leaves no waste at all. Try to learn the phrase ‘without a straw please’ in the local language of the country you plan to visit and make sure you always carry your own straw with you. There are already dozens of sustainable straws on the market made of stainless steel, glass and bamboo. Reusable straws often come with a brush and container. There are even foldable straws that attach to a key chain so you can never forget the straw. Take your time to decide which reusable straw fits your needs.
# 3 BE CAREFUL WITH TOURIST ATTRACTIONS FEATURING ANIMALS
Humanity has intruded the natural habitat of animals and therefore a lot of animal species became extinct. The tourism sector aims to maintain wildlife diversity. In order to do so, they set up economic models in which wildlife is sustained: tourist attractions featuring wildlife. Examples of tourist attractions featuring wildlife are spotting wildlife in national parks or its natural habitat, but also interactive activities such as using an animal as a photo prop.
Unfortunately, there is a lot of animal suffering in the tourism sector. There is a fine line between sustainable and unsustainable animal attractions where there is a lot of animal suffering behind the scenes. Avoid tourist attractions featuring wildlife that offer activities of interactive nature, it is very likely interactive activities contribute to animal suffering. Do not observe unnatural behaviour such as dancing bears and keep away from attractions with marine mammals in captivation. Ask tour operators if they have an Animal Welfare policy and read reviews before your visit.
# 4 RESPECT LOCAL VALUES
Experiencing new cultures is becoming an increasingly popular item on travellers bucket lists. In the era of corona we have to keep social distance for an indefinite period. Consequently, the need for social contact is growing, thus increasing the desire to experience new cultures. The desire to experience culture can be beneficial, as it creates an understanding between tourists and local populations.
But as a tourist it is important to be aware you are a visitor in someone else’s home country. Therefore, it is extremely important to respect local standards and values. In order to do so it is essential to consider the appropriate clothing in your travel destination. Do not take a photo of a local without asking for permission. Try to learn basic words like ‘hello’ in the local language and look into local customs and traditions. Informing yourself about a culture before you experience it takes little effort, but is greatly appreciated.
# 5 LOOK FOR ECO-FRIENDLY ACCOMMODATION
You don’t need to spend a lot of money to spend your nights in eco-friendly accommodation. It just takes a fair amount of research. If you don’t look into the sustainability policy of your accommodation, chances are you stay in a hostel or hotel that has poor waste management, excessive water and energy consumption and other practices with a high carbon footprint. Look for eco-friendly accommodation by verifying if the accommodation has EU-certified green label or look for a sustainability policy. It might seem hard to find information about sustainability practices, but accommodations that invest in sustainable efforts usually boast about it on their website.
# 6 EXTEND YOUR HOLIDAYS
This one might seem too good to be true, right? Travel longer to travel more sustainably, that’s the dream! There is catch though. Theoretically, extending your holidays is more sustainable, under the condition that you skip out on the short faraway trips. Getting to and from destinations leaves a negative footprint. If you extend your holidays to one faraway destination instead of taking short trips to multiple destinations, you decrease your carbon footprint. Spending more time in one destination also allows to to familiarise more with the local culture and explore unknown places.
# 7 BRING YOUR OWN CUP
Want to get a cup of coffee on the road? Drink cocktails on the beach? Scoop water from a stream on your hike? Bring your own reusable cup! Every time you get something to drink chances are you’ll get your drink in a plastic cup. This generates unnecessary waste that you can easily avoid by bringing your own reusable cup. Using your own cup is also justified in the era of corona. To prevent health risks by contact, you can place the cup on a bar/counter for an employee to pour your drink without touching your cup. You can purchase your reusable cup anywhere. Consider a variety of options to see which one is right for you. I often carry a small bag so I have a Stojo Collapsable Cup which can be reduced in size.