We love to travel. Meeting new people and learning about different cultures is an awesome way to explore the world. But what impact does tourism have on the environment?
Don't panic! We're not going to tell you to go out and cancel your flights, sell your car and live like Bear Grylls in the wilderness. Responsible travel is important for everyone and we want to help you travel better. Read on for some tips to help you travel sustainably.
Research your location
The first thing about a sustainable holiday is knowing your destination. Be aware of local customs and sensibilities as well as pertinent environmental issues. Avoid regions and resorts where over-development has led to deforestation, pollution of the water table and threat to local wildlife. When researching and choosing your next travel destination, look for areas that are building a responsible travel infrastructure.
Offset your carbon footprint
Another way to pioneer ecotourism is to try offsetting your carbon footprint using a site such as ClimateCare.org. This responsible role model calculates your carbon emissions for you, then recommend a donation amount that will be used to invest in other environmental projects around the world, in turn balancing out your carbon footprint.
Car share on your way to the airport
Car sharing is always going to be better for the planet than travelling alone. If there's a few of you heading on a trip, take the one car, not all of them. Not only will your carbon footprint be smaller, you'll also save money on airport parking spaces. You could also consider using airport transfers between resorts rather than taxis.
Choose green accommodation
An increasing number of hotels and villas are energy efficient, locally-resourced and built from sustainable materials. Look for hotels that produce some or all of their own energy through solar or wind power, and keep water and energy consumption to a minimum. Rainwater harvesting, energy-efficient lighting and energy-saving insulation are all good ways for hotels to reduce environmental impact. Look for the Green Globe, EarthCheck or Rainforest Alliance seals of approval.
Don't get room service every day
No matter how much of a neat freak you are, we bet you don't change your bedsheets every day at home. Unnecessary room service is a waste of water and electricity, so have a word with the staff to let them know you don't require fresh sheets every night of your stay.
Supporting the local economy is a great way to travel sustainably. Get your food from local markets or opt for independently owned restaurants when abroad. The locals will thank you for it and you'll know that the produce hasn't travelled miles to get there.
You can check if something is made locally by the "made in" stamp, or ask the shopkeeper where the item originated from. Buying locally not only supports the person making it, it also means that it hasn't travelled miles to get there, therefore reducing your carbon footprint.
Use a water purifier
Avoiding plastic bottles and plastic bags is a great way to travel greener. If you're travelling to a place where it's inadvisable to drink the tap water, carry your own water purifier rather than buying endless bottles, such as the Aqua Pure Traveller Filter.
Take a shopping bag
Carry your own shopping bag with you to reduce the number of plastic bags you use. If you don't already have one, colourful jute, batik or shisha-work bags make lovely souvenirs!
Take a litter bag
It goes without saying that eco-travellers avoid dropping litter. If you're hiking in a wild area (or even travelling in a country with less than fully-developed waste collection) you might want to take your own litter bag with you to make sure any unwanted items get safely back to a bin.
Use eco-friendly products
Responsible travellers aim to leave without a trace. If you want to leave the destination as beautiful as you found it we suggest using products that won't have a detrimental effect. Opt for cosmetics made with natural ingredients as opposed to harsh chemicals. If you're a female traveller, using a menstrual cup such as Organicup is a great way to be more green.
Be careful with animal excursions
We all love animals and want to protect them, right? A lot of excursions involving animals can be really detrimental to their health and happiness. Research activities before going on them. Avoid elephant riding, circuses that use animals for entertainment and big cat selfies. For more information visit the World Animal Protection website.
Finally, while you're busy keeping your carbon footprint down, don't forget to be respectful of local communities and customs as well. Dress appropriately for the climate and culture, especially on religious sites. Always ask permission before taking someone's photograph! Learn a little of the local language. Not only does this show respect for the culture you're visiting, it's fun to be able to introduce yourself around the world!
Written by Caroline Adams.Top