If today you take a poll asking people if they would prefer travelling responsibly or irresponsibly, most people would like to choose the former. But when you ask them what does it actually mean to travel responsibly, they would be at a loss for words. So what exactly does it mean to travel sustainably? How do you do it?
People have several wrong perceptions about how to travel responsibly. They believe that you need to sleep in a tent and cook on a solar-powered camp stove in order to be considered eco-friendly. The truth however is that travelling sustainably (a.k.a. ecotourism) is all about making simple travel choices in order to lessen your negative impact on a given destination. Individually, each one of these choices you make makes only a small difference to you. But collectively, becoming more conscious about these little things can result in a huge cumulative impact.
What I’ve assembled below are easy tips that EVERY traveler can use to make their travels more friendly to the environment and to the people and animals who inhabit it. Most of them are ridiculously simple, such as using a refillable water bottle, putting a “Do Not Disturb” sign on your hotel room door, and buying locally made products rather than imports. The idea behind this post is to urge every one of my 10,000+ unique monthly visitors to gradually begin incorporating these travel tips into their travels. If this happens then imagine what our collective impact could be! So here’s an in-depth look at an extensive array of easy tips designed to help you travel more responsibly and sustainably.
1.Try to book non-stop flights whenever you can: It’s the takeoffs and landings that create most of an airplane’s carbon emissions.
2. If you’re traveling with family or friends and the destination is within driving distance, perhaps you should consider taking a road trip. But if you’re traveling by yourself, it’s actually much more eco-friendly to fly!
3. If you do fly, consider doing so with one of the 30+ IATA (International Air Transport Association) member airlines who offer carbon offset programs to neutralise the aircraft’s carbon emissions by investing in carbon reduction projects.
4. If you decide to drive to your destination and your car isn’t eco-friendly, consider renting a hybrid or electric vehicle, which use less fuel and produce less carbon emissions than gas-guzzlers.
5. If you have the time, traveling via bus, train, or ship generally has less negative environmental impact than traveling by plane.
6. When traveling in the U.S., check to see if the hotel has LEED Certification from the U.S. Green Building Council. The program judges hotels on sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, material selection, indoor environmental quality, and innovation in design.
7. When traveling overseas, look for seals of approval from other certification programs, such as EarthCheck (Australia), Green Globe, Rainforest Alliance(Latin America, Caribbean), and Green Tourism Business Scheme (UK). Some countries, including Costa Rica, have their own certification programs to rate sustainability initiatives.
8. Take a BPA-free water bottle you can refill over and over again. Many international airports have free water dispensers, which saves you money and wasting plastic bottles.
9. Take showers, not baths. Showers use just 10-25 gallons of water, while baths use up to 70 gallons.
10. Hang up your towels after each use, which is the universal sign that you’d like to use them again. You don’t wash your towels every day at home, so why do it when you travel?
11. Return maps, brochures, and other tourist info once you’re finished with them so that they may be reused by future travelers.
12. Marked hiking trails are there for a reason. Stick to the path to avoid harming native flora and avoid any creepy-crawlies that may be lurking in the underbrush.
13. Never feed or touch wildlife, for any reason. Feeding animals makes them habituated to and reliant on humans, and often leads to attacks. If you get bit, the animal will most likely be killed.
14. Keep a respectful distance from wildlife. Yes, I understand that you want to Instagram your encounter with a grizzly bear. But if you’re close enough to attract an animal’s attention, you’re too damn close!
15. Buy locally made (preferably handmade) products, rather than those that have been imported. Items that are flown or shipped in have a much larger carbon footprint, and who wants a cheap, cookie-cutter souvenir anyways?
16. Don’t buy anything made from endangered plants/animals, unsustainable hardwoods, or ancient artifacts. Not only is it wrong, but you probably won’t be able to get them back through customs
17. When snorkeling or Scuba diving, don’t touch/step on the coral or stir up sediment, as it can damage the reef’s fragile ecosystem.
18. Ask your snorkel or scuba diving tour operators if they chum the water to attract marine life. Doing so can change the behavior of marine species, or possibly make them sick.
19. Honor local customs. Do a little research before you travel to learn about the destination’s local cultural traditions, so that you can speak and behave appropriately.
20. Ask for permission before taking a photo of someone. In some cultures, taking a person’s picture is like stealing their soul, and in general it’s just common courtesy.
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