Sustainability holds huge importance in today’s current climate both at home and now when travelling. Companies and people are starting to consider their impact on the world and how they can reduce it. The travel industry is forever evolving and changing, and now the industry along with governments are starting to realise it must change to a more greener way of working, to ensure a long term sustainable future and to protect destinations so they don’t become ruined.
There are so many eco companies popping up and companies are becoming more environmentally alert. Just beware that some companies are jumping on the bandwagon and trying to greenwash everything, when in fact they are far from being sustainable! There is plenty of information out there on green travel, and just because you have decided to take an extra moment to consider your impact while travelling doesn’t mean you have to stay in a tent, cooking on a solar powered camp stove and singing and dancing barefoot around a camp fire!
The truth is that sustainable eco tourism is all about making simple choices in order to lessen your negative impact on a destination. I myself am not perfect when it comes to eco living and travelling, I work for an airline, I drive to work, I sometimes still buy items wrapped in plastic etc. However in the past few years I have really started to focus on the way I live my life and what I can change both in my day to day life, and while I’m travelling to amazing places around the world.
Like most people the thought of climate change, air pollution, deforestation, water shortages and mass waste production breaks my heart. I’m a huge people, animal and nature lover and the thought of the way I live my life having an affect on another area of the world, impacting a community or disturbing the lives of wildlife was enough for me to make a few simple changes.
Again no one will ever be perfect it is impossible in this day and age to live completely sustainably, unless you move off grid and live self sufficiently. However for us average working folk there is a lot we can do, and just making some small changes and tweaks it can have such a huge impact. As the saying goes “we don’t need a handful of people doing zero waste perfectly. We need millions of people doing it imperfectly.”
I wanted to write a blog about sustainability for a while now, and want to focus this post on environmental travel, however there will be some parts of this blog that cross over into your home life too.
This blog contains lots of information on accommodation, flights, transport, wildlife, travel eco products and more. You can use these tips when travelling domestically or abroad. You don’t have to religiously stick to all of these tips and don’t put to much pressure on yourself, the fact that your even doing a little bit of research into sustainable travel is a step in the right direction. Just remember there will always be judgement with whatever you do, and all you can do is what you can and what works best for you and your lifestyle.
When planning your trip one of the first things you will look at is where to stay, there is whole range of things you can do to ensure you lessen your impact. Here are few main points that you can focus on when booking your accommodation and when your staying at there too.
When booking your accommodation look to see if there are any eco hotels, lodges, resorts, camping or glamping in the area. Eco accommodation isn’t always easy to track down as major booking sites don’t have an eco filter option on their search bars…yet! A good way to find eco accommodation is to google – eco accommodation followed by your destination, and see what comes up. Also Ecosia is a great search engine which plants a tree for every search, other good booking sites to use are:
However more and more pressure is being put on accommodation providers to improve their sustainability. So if you can’t find an accommodation that’s eco friendly or that fits your needs, then you have the option to book your accommodation through B’n’Tree. This site allows you to book through all major booking agents and plants a tree for every booking with just one click.
There isn’t just one governing body to certify if an accommodation provider is behaving in an eco friendly way, there is a whole range of green tourism schemes, with some being more reputable than others. If you wanted to see how environmentally friendly your sleeping arrangements are have a look to see if they are accredited by Earth Check, Green Key or Green Globe which are some of the more reliable eco tourism accreditors and labels. However take note that to gain an eco certificate the membership costs are very expensive and time consuming, and many smaller accommodation providers might be just as eco friendly but don’t have accreditation. So check their website to see if they have a sustainability section outlining the way they run.
Even if you’re not staying at an eco hotel there are still several ways you can make a difference to your environmental impact such as:
- Avoid using the hotel miniature toiletries and take your own.
- Conserve water – opt for a shower and don’t leave water running unnecessarily.
- If you do have rubbish that can be recycled ask the reception if they have a recycling scheme.
- Reuse towels and request your bedding to not be changed. Would you have fresh towels and bedding every day at home?! By doing so it saves water and reduces harsh cleaning chemicals.
- Turn off all appliances and lights when you’re not in the room.
When in your destination, shop and eat local by going to local markets and restaurants, and try and avoid chain restaurants not only does it help towards the local economy but less likely produce will have been imported in. Small businesses will tend to use local food and produce that has been sourced locally. Eating locally also gives you the chance to interact with the locals providing a more authentic experience, while getting to try lots of new and different food.
Consume less meat as producing it uses far more energy and water, and creates more waste than fruit and vegetables. If you’re a meat eater I’m not saying give up meat entirely, but maybe opt for the odd plant based meal or reduce your intake of red meat, and choose a healthier meat or fish alternative for yourself and the planet. If you want to find vegetarian or vegan restaurants in your destination download the Happy Cow app for guides on vegetarian restaurants in the area.
When eating avoid throw away cutlery and single use packaging if possible, refuse straws and eat in places rather than take away, if you have the time. Take your own reusable travel cutlery and if you’re opting for take away, take your own lunch box/wax wrap and see if the restaurant can put your food in there for you. I know this isn’t always a possibility, but having your own travel cutlery is always easy to carry and pack to avoid using disposable plastic cutlery. If tight on space when packing instead of packing a lunchbox why not pack a reusable wax food wrap or some disposable paper bags. Although the paper bags are still waste it’s a much better alternative than plastic packaging.
There is no denying that the aviation industry is key player in the cause of global warming and releasing carbon emissions into the atmosphere. However many airlines are slowly changing their ways, and investing in better and more fuel efficient aircraft and reducing waste onboard. When travelling overseas there isn’t always much choice but to fly, and especially when most people have limited annual leave. There are however some simple tweaks and considerations you can make to your journey to make it slightly more environmentally friendly.
When booking flights always try and opt for direct flights when and where possible, and if your budget allows for it. The take off and landing of a flight burns more fuel than when the flight is cruising at altitude. When flying direct your limiting your take offs and landings which reduces the amount of carbon going into the air.
Many airlines are now paying into carbon offsetting, it’s by no means a perfect solution, but it’s a step in the right direction and still better than doing nothing at all. Carbon offsetting helps fund projects and schemes all around the world to help balance out the effects of carbon emissions from the aviation industry. Carbon offsetting is a good way to help reduce your impact, and as a passenger when booking your flight most airlines will now give you the choice to pay into carbon offsetting. You don’t have to pay a lot in, just as much as you can afford or think is reasonable, even if it’s just a few extra quid – every little helps.
When packing try and pack as light as you can, as the heavier an aircraft is – the more fuel it burns. Lighter aircrafts produce less carbon emissions, so really have a think about what it is your packing and plan your day to day outfits to avoid over packing, and anything that isn’t necessary leave it at home.
Always try and support locals and their businesses as it’s better to contribute to locals and their economy rather than huge international chains. When visiting a place always respect their local customs and traditions, and read up about a place before travelling there so you’re aware of their customs. There are so many pros and cons to the tourism industry and the affects it can have on a place. In one way it’s great as local communities can make a living from the industry, but also it can have a negative impact of diluting the culture of a place. My best bit of advice is to be culturally aware and respectful and dress in an appropriate way, and be aware of where you are visiting and the people around.
When visiting developing countries sometimes low income families will send their children out to beg on the streets, as hard as it is the best thing to do is not give children any money as it encourages the families to not send them to school. Instead if you want to help take some books and pencils instead and keep them in your bag and if you come across any children then you can give them stationary or stuff to learn and create with which will help them more in the long run.
If you really want to feel like you’re making a difference in a place then why not have a look into volunteering or working along side an NGO (non-governmental organisation) there are a whole range of volunteering schemes all around the world, so do your research and see which would suit you best.
Nature & Wildlife
In all destinations a huge factor when visiting anywhere should be consideration for its nature and wildlife. Always respect nature and wildlife and take care when visiting somewhere of natural beauty. Ensure you take any rubbish with you and find somewhere to dispose of it, and if possible find somewhere that recycles it (if it’s a recyclable product). Some hotels recycle so take any rubbish back with you and put into their recycling. Try and avoid making waste if you can by taking your own cutlery, refusing carrier bags and straws etc.
If you spot some litter pick it up and dispose of it into a bin, whenever I visit a beach I always try and make a conscious effort to pick up at least 5 pieces of rubbish and dispose of them. In some places and especially in developing countries where there is little to no waste management, and there is so much rubbish it’s an impossible task for one individual. If that’s the case make more of a conscious effort to not add to an already huge existing problem in that place.
When visiting a beach and swimming in the sea always choose a suncream that is ocean and reef friendly and not full of harmful chemicals that will harm coral and marine life. Take all rubbish and waste with you because if it is left on the beach it can easily blow into the ocean or be dragged into it with the tide. Rubbish and plastic pollution is already causing so many issues for marine life, wildlife and seabirds and it can be fatal for them. When snorkelling or scuba diving always refrain from touching or standing on any coral reef as it can cause huge damage to their fragile ecosystem.
One of the most important sustainable tips I could give is to avoid animal tourism such as elephant riding, selfies with tigers, dolphin shows and cuddling a monkey – the list goes on…I am guilty that in the past I have contributed to negative wildlife tourism, I was naive and didn’t do my research and assumed because somewhere had added sanctuary to the end of its name that it must be a great and caring place for the animals, how wrong I was?!
Most places that are offering a hands on experience with wild animals are more than likely out for personal financial gain, rather than providing what’s best for the animals. If your visiting a destination because you want to experience wildlife then do your homework before hand.
I had always wanted to swim with dolphins, but I didn’t want to swim with them in captivity. When I visited Kaikoura in New Zealand I found a tour that offered a small number of visitors to swim with wild dolphins, and some of the profits went back into the local marine conservation. They took us on a small boat and we just got into the water and it was completely on the dolphins terms if they swam near us. It was a once in a lifetime experience and we’re so lucky that the dolphins were inquisitive and came swimming up to us, that in my opinion is a far better experience than swimming with them in a tank, where they are more than likely mistreated and forced to do tricks and swim with you.
Researching into wildlife tourism is always a must before visiting anywhere and always avoid purchasing any animal product souvenirs such as coral, fur, feathers, reptile skin, turtle shells and ivory etc. Some animal items are illegal and if they’re not, they should be. Morally it is wrong to harvest animals for their body parts to make decorative items out of. Sometimes endangered species are exploited in this awful trade which has a huge effect on their numbers in the wild, and can bring some species to the brink of extinction.
I love shopping and I’ll admit I’m a bit of a shopaholic, however when travelling I always keep my eye out for locally produced souvenirs over mass produced ones. Not only are handmade souvenirs normally of better quality, but also have more meaning and more care gone into them. By purchasing them you are contributing back into the economy or helping a family make ends meet. Remember when travelling to always pack a light reusable shopping bag, or if you’re walking around and have a bag or backpack then refuse a carrier bag and pop the item you purchased into your bag.
When booking onto tours and activities check the sustainability of a tour or activity, and ensure it’s not having a negative impact on the destination. There are some tours that contribute a donation for every booking back to a charity or environmental scheme. A good example of this is when I visited the Cook Islands there were two tour companies offering a boat trip out on the lagoon, however I swayed towards booking the one that donated a percentage of their sales to local marine conservation. There are plenty of eco tour operators, google eco tours followed by your destination to see if there’s any available for your trip. If in doubt or not sure on where to find eco tours then go to Trip Advisors Eco Tourism Forum and ask a question.￼
If you aren’t time constraint, then have a look at other modes of transport alternatives to reach your destination, such as Eurostar or ferry to get to mainland Europe from the UK. If your travelling around in a country or continent then there’s plenty of options for trains, boats or buses instead of an internal flight or short flights. If crossing over borders triple check visa details and read up on anything you may need to know about, like you would when flying into somewhere. In your destination, explore as much as possible by foot or by cycling, and use public transport when and where you can such as trains, subways and buses etc.
Travel Accessories & Products
Go prepared when travelling the world and take some key items with you to help you reduce the waste you leave behind in a destination. Here are some great accessories and products to take with you on your next trip;
- Bamboo Cotton Buds
- Bamboo Toothbrush
- Chilly’s Water Bottles
- Environmentally Friendly Suncream
- Face Halo Make Up Remover
- Food Container
- Life Straw
- Lush Solid Shampoo & Conditioner + Lush Travel Tins
- Menstrual Cup
- Reusable Sanitary Pads
- Safety Razor
- Shopping Bag
- Stojo Collapsible Coffee Cup
- Travel Cutlery Set
- Travel Straw
- Wax Wraps
Thanks for reading, I hope you found this blog helpful, if so give it a share or pin it for later. Tula ♡ xx