Gone are the days of mass tourism. These days, eating local and staying at eco-friendly resorts are not just fads, but they’re part of a movement towards sustainable travel. The term can have many meanings, but overall, sustainable travel should leave minimal impact on natural – and cultural – environments and even be beneficial to local communities. Here are five ways to be a more sustainable traveller.
Minimise waste and pollution – say no to plastic
Think of how many plastic straws you must have gone through sipping tropical drinks and how many water bottles you might have bought while on the road. Plastic usually ends up in nature, and not only is it unsightly, but it harms wildlife and pollutes the environment. On your next trip, carry a flask and bring a tote bag to markets and stores. Not only will this minimise plastic waste, but it reduces your carbon footprint as plastic bags and bottles are made with petroleum-based ingredients.
Conserve natural environments
Don’t litter! Whether you’re scaling mountains or strolling along a beach, as a rule of thumb, leave nothing but footprints. If you’re thinking of joining a tour, choose an eco-friendly tour operator. For instance, some dive tours tie ropes around corals to assist beginner divers, a practice that stresses corals and harms marine life. Choose a tour operator that does not engage in harmful activities but educates customers on the importance of respecting nature instead. And if you want to support sustainable travel but need creature comforts, check into an eco-friendly resort built with recycled materials or that uses rainwater filtration systems. There are many such hotels, from Costa Rica to New York.
Support local people
Always sign up with a local tour operator or an agency that employs local guides. They have the best knowledge of a place and you might get to see some cool haunts most travellers won’t know of. But it goes beyond that – every tour comes with a story and local guides are some of the best storytellers, sharing anecdotes of growing up in the area. Storytelling is a form of soft power, a means of cultural preservation, so to speak. Also, be respectful of local customs, for instance, wear modest clothing at sites of worship if told so and always ask first before you take pictures of locals.
Give back – support local economies
Giving back can be as simple as shopping at local markets or dining at restaurants that use locally-grown produce and employs people from the community. Imported food must be flown in, which means greater carbon emissions, and besides, it’s always fun to try local food! When buying a souvenir from a local artisan, you’re also helping to preserve traditions, for example, Khmer wood carving and lacquerware painting. Demand for these types of crafts also creates jobs for people, especially the underprivileged or high-risk communities. For a more hands-on experience, there’s also the option of volunteering, and not just with charities, but even participating in a beach clean-up can make a difference.
5.Never purchase wildlife products
Wildlife trafficking is the third most lucrative illicit trade in the world after drugs and weapons and by purchasing wildlife products, you are assisting this. Say no to animal products, which includes elephant tusks and turtle shells, and also corals and seashells. It’s a good idea to abstain from harmful behaviour towards animals, too, so instead of riding elephants, why not visit an elephant sanctuary and bathe them instead?