International tourism is on the rise — according to the World Tourism Organization, there were a record 1.7B international trips taken, meaning tourism is starting to take up a larger slice of the global economy.
Traveling the world opens your mind to a variety of new experiences and cultures and is something to be celebrated. As the number of vacations we’re taking is on the rise, we’re putting greater pressure on the precious resources and destinations we value so much. Preserving the world for future generations to enjoy requires us to think more ethically about travel. The good news is traveling sustainably isn’t hard, and choosing the ethical path enhances your travel experience. To get you started, below are some top sustainable travel tips for you to try when planning your future travels below.
Plan with the planet in mind
It’s important to think about the impact each of your activities and accommodation choices will have on the environment, culture, people, and animals in the area you are visiting. Choose to take a bike tour to give yourself chances to explore destinations off the beaten path while lessening your carbon footprint. Take a cooking class with a local and learn more about the culture. If you’re planning on seeing animals, choose to visit rescue + conservation centers rather than shows. Research hotels to find out which options offer eco-friendly practices, have recycling programs, pay fair wages and more. Researching your choices ahead of time allows you to find the best eco-friendly and sustainable options without having to sacrifice any of the fun.
Choose public transportation
Traveling by train or bus is a good option when available to cut down on your carbon emissions and creates an efficient, affordable way for you to get around. Utilizing public transportation has a lower environmental impact on the world and the environment than driving and flying does, and you’ll (hopefully) get to take in some amazing views of the city or countryside at the same time.
Take non-stop flights
Flying is unavoidable for most trips, and that’s totally fine. While air travel does create a large carbon footprint, there are ways to minimize your impact. Book a direct flight when possible so you’re traveling efficiently and reducing your journey in the air. You can also purchase carbon offset credits to balance out the pollution you generated by investing in projects that reduce emissions of carbon dioxide or other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.
Here’s a simple and not often realized tip: the less you pack, the less impact you have in many ways. For one, when your bags weigh less, the airplane also weighs less, which in turn equals less fuel and fewer carbon emissions under your name. Packing light also means you can use public transportation easier, saves you money on baggage fees and makes it easier for you to get around.
Bring eco-friendly toiletries and multi-purpose clothing and shoes
You’ve probably heard about using reef-friendly sunscreen while heading to the ocean, but don’t forget to pack other biodegradable soaps and toiletries to ensure the fragile ecosystems in the places you visit are left minimally impacted for locals and future travelers.Packing lightly can be a real difficulty when you want to bring everything with you. But when you’re packing, try to bring clothes that can be re-used and re-washed by hand so that you don’t have to waste your money buying new clothes.
Don’t forget your reusable water bottle
Instead of buying plastic bottles over and over again, bring a reusable water bottle with you so that you can refill it. This helps cut down on plastic waste and ensures you’ll always be hydrated.
Support local and responsible restaurants
Restaurants that source local and organic foods are typically leaders in their areas for more eco-conscious and responsible business practices. But, they need our support to stay in business. So, instead of just comparing prices when you are traveling remember that your dollars give you the power to make a positive change. You can usually find great options by visiting the local markets or asking locals.
Bring your own reusable bag
With plastic causing so many issues in the oceans and in our cities, any way to reduce the amount of plastic we all consume is good. Make sure you travel with your own reusable tote bag that you can fold up and carry around with you whenever you need it. Now many shops will charge you for a plastic bag so you are saving money at the same time.
Pick up after yourself! Make sure you don’t leave anything behind whether you are in the city or on a trail and “leave no trace.” Also, when you’re in tourist-filled destinations, it’s common to be handed many different brochures, flyers, and maps that promote different companies. Although these can be really useful when you’re in the city, once you leave, most people don’t use them again. Instead of throwing them away at home, give them to your concierge or tourist office so that other people can use them.
Respect the local culture
When you’re traveling to different countries and cities, the local culture and customs may be very different than your own. Make sure you have done some research on how to respect the culture you’re visiting.
Sustainable travel is all about making simple choices in order to lessen your negative impact on your destination. Individually, each one of these choices makes a small difference — but collectively, becoming more conscious of the little things can have a huge cumulative impact on the planet.