Eco Friendly Travel: 7 Steps to Become a Sustainable Traveller
Our attitude towards the environment, as a whole, is improving. Our generation coming through understands its impact and is in the middle of changing habits for the better. One of those habits is how we travel, and being a sustainable traveller and being aware of eco-friendly travel is beginning to take hold.
An important lesson we learnt during the COVID-19 lockdown was to slow down and reflect on our actions towards the environment. Studies have shown that noise pollution was reduced by up to 68% worldwide, and the wildlife finally had a brief moment to reclaim their land. Air quality improved, and over-tourism dwindled.
But now that most countries have eased their travel restrictions and many avid travellers are finally visiting their favourite destinations, we have the obligation as travellers to put our lessons into practice.
Travelling is vital in creating global citizens and supporting local communities, so it’s essential for any country. But we need to learn how to become sustainable or eco-friendly travellers. Being a conscious or sustainable traveller means being accountable for our negative impacts on the places we travel to.
We can start by taking baby steps to offset our carbon emissions, which will help us all appreciate our favourite destinations for a longer period. Read on to find more about these sustainable approaches when travelling.
1. Pack lighter when travelling
There are lots of benefits to travelling lighter.
Firstly, we reduce our own carbon emissions, as less energy is used when travelling light. You may ask what difference one person makes, but add up the millions who fly every day, and you can suddenly see the impact it can have.
Plus, with fewer items, we become less inclined to worry about what to wear or carry and become more focused on our travel experiences, leaving us to enjoy the moment we’re in. If you’re going to summer camp, you’ll find out quickly that fashion goes out the window, as does anyone’s care for it; it’s all about the experience.
For something as fleeting as travel, being in the moment is the most important thing.
2. Choose reusable, sustainable items
Keeping things reusable is the perfect way to do your bit for the environment.
Start by packing reusable mugs, water bottles, and eco-friendly tote bags. Recycled bags are ideal when shopping at the local markets. Instead of using plastic bags, you can put your shopping in a big tote bag, one you can use over and over.
Instead of buying a new bottled water every time, get yours refilled. It’s sad to see vast amounts of plastics on the streets or washing up on our beaches.
We all have a duty to cut this down, and we’ve got the ability to do so, too.
3. Choose slow travel, and make it meaningful
Travelling isn’t simply about the number of destinations we go to, but rather the experience. Instead of ticking an endless list of destinations, focus on making deep connections with the local people. Take time to learn about the history and culture of the place you are travelling to. Slow travel has recently gained attention because such travelling is a fulfilling and meaningful journey. From meeting the locals to discovering new cultures, and off-the-radar places, slow travel is a practical way to incorporate sustainable approaches.
If you’re going to summer camp, the few months you’re there gives you the time to make an impact whilst allowing the local community to have an impact on you. By slow travelling, you’ll get ample time to discover, whilst also becoming more involved with the local community through engagement or buying things.
It’s a chance to allow your impact to go further than ever.
4. Consider travelling green
You’ll likely need to fly to get around the world, but even then, you can decide how it’s done.
Many airlines will offer the opportunity to offset the emissions from your flight. It’s like packing light, it may seem small for just one person, but if each person does it, it will make a huge difference to global emissions one flight at a time.
Thankfully, public pressure is making governments also sit up and take action. The US has finally rejoined the Paris Initiative and has recently passed a huge bill to move towards a greener economy, whereas other big nations are finally passing their own laws to get to net zero emissions.
The more we press the importance of becoming a ‘green’ country and showing that in our habits, the quicker we can force change as a whole.
5. Look for eco-friendly accommodation
According to a sustainable travel report, many travellers believe sustainable travel is important, and 70% of the respondents are willing to book sustainable accommodation.
By booking eco-friendly accommodation, we become conscious consumers, which can change our way of travelling, contributing positively to the environment. For instance, you can book ‘green’ accommodations, where electricity is sourced from solar energy, furniture is repurposed, and food is locally sourced. Most of the time, you can find evidence of this through their website, and booking providers have gone even further.
Some booking companies are starting to play an important role in providing travellers with the option of booking eco-friendly travel cottages, guest houses, or even hotels. These companies use special green indicators to ensure that these properties have eco-labels or are eco-certified, and on some, they even calculate the carbon footprint.
6. Make use of sustainable, public transport
Another way to become a sustainable traveller is to take public transport instead of driving a car or taking a domestic flight.
Cars and airplanes are notorious for releasing carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels, which greatly contribute to global warming. Studies have shown that taking a train to cover a medium-length trip can reduce carbon emissions by about 80 percent. America is great for this, and if you’re travelling after camp, then the likes of Amtrak or Greyhound is the perfect way to get around the country.
For shorter distances, opt to walk or even cycle (cycle around Central Park for an afternoon, anyone?)
7. Consider animal welfare
Always research when visiting animal centres or sanctuaries, but this also means being wary of your impact on local wildlife.
It is always important to follow instructions on the sign boards available at attractions such as parks, sloughs, or botanical gardens. You can also encounter wild animals in their natural habitats when hiking off-the-beaten-path or diving, or snorkelling in marine parks. We’ve all seen the damage that rubbish and thrown-away products can have on wildlife, whether that be wildlife getting stuck or even trying to eat plastic thinking it’s food.
In addition, it is important to note that chemical products such as sunscreen can cause coral bleaching when swimming or snorkelling in marine parks.
It is our responsibility to protect these animals by being aware of our footprint, as, unfortunately, there is now clear evidence of the human impact on ecosystems and wildlife.
Becoming a sustainable traveller and embracing eco-friendly travel is undoubtedly a change in habit, but it is not difficult if we take these small steps.
Changing our habits can make a big difference to the places we travel to. Whilst travelling is essential for several reasons, let’s not go back to the unfiltered over-indulgence of pre-pandemic. By minimising our carbon footprints as an individual, country and as a world collective, we can successfully contribute to the well-being of our planet for generations to come.