Being a sustainable traveller is more important than ever. But how do you travel sustainably? By making a few changes, sustainable travel is a lot easier than you may think. As the crowds and conformity of travelling is leaving more of us disconnected and a frustrated, it’s good news knowing that there is another way. And these changes are for the benefit of you, the traveller, the environment and importantly the residents of the destination you are visiting.
How we travel sustainably has developed over the last year. We are already environmentally conscious, although we have not perfected this, there’s no denying that airmiles have the biggest carbon footprint of all. And often we question whether we can travel sustainably if we are flying around the world?
However, there is more than the enviroment to sustainable travel. You can read more here about sustainable travel and, find out what it is and why we are making a conscious change to improve our travelling habits.
Read our simple ways to travel sustainably.
How to Travel Sustainably?
- Try to fly direct when possible – take offs and landings are the parts of the flight which contribute to the largest carbon emission.
- Offset your flight emissions – sometimes it’s impossible to avoid flying when travelling, but there are ways you can help reduce the impact of that flight by off setting your flight. My Climate allows you to calculate your carbon footprint before flying. Once your carbon emission has been estimated you have the option to offset your flight by contributing to sustainable projects such as re-forestation, community development projects and further carbon offset developments.
- Use alternative transport with lower carbon footprint – becoming a slow traveller, will instantly give yourself more freedom and eco friendly options. Furthermore travelling by train, bus and boat, will help reduce CO2 emissions. Travel-by-train is doable in India, South East Asia, East Africa and China.
- Cycle or walk rather than scooty – when travelling through Asia, it’s quite common to rent a scooter to explore an island or get from A to B. This is great fun, but sometimes unnecessary. It can often be as quick and more rewarding to cycle or walk – plus it’s much better for the waist line.
- Say no to single use – a small action, but join the movement and stop the use of single use plastic. You can do this by asking for no straw or plastic cutlery when you order a food and drink. Take your own reusable bag when shopping for groceries and gifts. Buy from local market vendors, to avoid overly packaged products.
- Avoid palm oil products – having visited Borneo and Malaysia, we have experienced first hand the devastation that palm oil has had on the environment and local community. So much so, that we will always (99% of the time) avoid buying palm oil products. We met a remarkable man during our time in Borneo who has dedicated his life to saving the remaining rainforest in Sabah, with the help of Mr Attenborough. Quick win to do this; read the labels of everything you buy – and pretty much avoid 7/11 and convenience stores. Products such as; crisps, sweets, and chocolate have a large carbon footprint and palm oil content. Plus high salt and sugar content so again, great for the waistline.
- Pick up as you go along – an easy way to leave a place better than you found it, is to take a bag and collect rubbish during a walk, trek, hike. It’s a very small action but can make a big difference to the environment. Hopefully it will bring attention to others who may be inspired to join the movement too.. The guys at Adventure Bag Crew originally inspired us to start doing this on our travels.
- Slow travel – travel less – this one may not be seem obvious, as travellers, we are destined to live on the road, metaphorically speaking. But after a while, there’s no denying jumping from one destination to the next, can become exhausting. And that exhaustion seeps into how you spend your time at a destination. For us, it meant we were spending valuable time catching up on sleep with little energy to explore the area. It was during our time in Sri Lanka we found the joy of slowing our travel down. We rented a beautiful Air BnB for one month for £210 (!). This allowed us to, firstly, collect our thoughts, but also allowed us to live in a huge beautiful house surrounded by jungle and wildlife, in a local neighbourhood. We learned more about the culture and were directly impacting the community with which we stayed in. We have made it very clear that this was a highlight of our travels to date for a vast number of reasons, but we wouldn’t have been able to do it if we didn’t slow our travel down.
- Reduce food and plastic waste – linked to a few of our other points, work to reduce your general consumption by becoming more resourceful. Utilise reusable packing to pack any left over food for later.
- Limit your energy use and conserve water – this can often be detrimental to the local energy and water supply, so be conscious when showering. To go further, shower together so you save one shower a day.
- Always turn off AC and fans – this is such a pet hate! It’s such a simple action that makes a huge difference. Treat the accommodation you are staying at with the same integrity as your own home.
- Avoid resorts – many resorts we have come across show little consideration for the environment due to huge consumption. Washing bedding and towels daily, on a mass scale contributes to a high carbon footprint. Resorts can also isolate the traveller from the local community. They can also be a bit of an eye sore and have damaged many coastlines.
- Choose home-stays, local hotels, guest houses, home shares (Air BnB) – you are then directly supporting the local business owner and in our opinion having a richer experience to your stay. This is such a fun way to learn about local life, customs and norms. And often if you stay at home-stays, you will have the opportunity to try local home cooked food!
- Suggest environmental friendly tips to your host – if the accommodation doesn’t offer recycling or a food waste bin, encourage them to do so. You can suggest in their feedback that they offer this.
- Choose environmentally friendly accommodation – although this isn’t always possible, choose eco-retreats and camping. Not only are you reducing your carbon footprint, you will also have a much closer stay with nature and nothing quite compares waking up to the chorus of the birds.
- Choose accommodation, destinations and businesses that value sustainability – Look for regulatory bodies that accredit such organisations, such as GSTC, Green Globe, Rainforest Alliance, EarthCheck, Green Tourism Business Scheme (UK).
- Live with the locals – guest house, homestay, Air BnB – you are directly supporting the local community and allowing the small business owner / family to benefit from the tourist pound. And as already mentioned, you will meet some incredible people and learn so much about their culture and often food!
- Speak to the locals, don’t always just rely on 4G – when we first started our travels, we found comfort in having a local sim. This can be a great use for convenience, but over time we felt we fell into the disconnected trap. We would often rely on blogs, reviews and maps to get us to a place. But sometimes, speaking to the local can be just as helpful to point you in the right direction and provide localised tips.
- Give in the right way – often we have good intentions to buy items and give sweets, stationary and books to locals in developing countries. But this can actually be detrimental and can create conflict among villages. Therefore, it is better to give to local organisations who help with development projects for more long term impact.
- Remain curious – ask questions, if there’s a local celebration, find out more. Say yes more; if a local invites you in for a cup of team, join. Usually they just want to get to know more about your story and share their experiences. This is the best way to connect and learn from the locals.
- Leave a place better than you found it – this is related to both the environment and also the community. Be kind, always.
- Choose local guides – one way to directly contribute to the local community is choosing local guides. You can also ask them to take you off the beaten track too and find hidden gems.
- Support ethical and sustainable wildlife tourism – ensure wildlife activities you choose are working towards conservation of animals. Furthermore, do your research before and make sure the tour operator /activity is an ethical company and not exploiting animals for entertainment purposes. Any suggestions of being able to touch/ride an animal is a tell tale sign to avoid these.
- Snorkel responsibly – our coral reefs are more fragile than ever, with 27% of coral reefs destroyed beyond repair. It is also estimated that 32% will be destroyed in the next 32 years. Coral reefs are vital in supporting the planets eco system and need to be protected. Careless tourism can damage the reefs further – do not touch or stand of the coral reefs or attempt to touch fish. Avoid wearing sunscreen which contains titanium peroxide and stick to natural sunscreen protection.
- Buy locally made products – ideally handmade local products, instead of imported (plastic) goods. These often have a larger carbon footprint. Furthermore, the handmade goods often have a greater story to tell and deeper connection to your travel and supports cultural heritage.
- Never buy wildlife products – during our time in Zanzibar we witnessed the local boys trying to sell some of the most beautiful sea shells. However, these belong in the ocean, not in the bathroom. Avoid buying any wildlife products, often developing countries have different ethics when it comes to animal welfare and buying these goods supports the mistreating of our wildlife.
- Support local vendors – buy food products that go directly to farmer. Eat food that has been made by the local market vendor.
- Try and avoid shopping altogether if you can – this just leads to higher consumption that isn’t particularity beneficial to the environment. Avoid fast fashion retailers, usually these products are unethically sourced. Reduce the amount of ‘stuff’ you have, as this means you will also pack lighter, resulting in lower carbon emissions. This is one that Fi is working towards at the moment!
Sustainable Travel Essentials
We are working on an eco-friendly list to help your sustainable traveller packing.
While it may seem like whatever one person does, it won’t make a difference. But given the fragility of our planet, what one person does right now, will not go unnoticed.
We certainly haven’t perfected this and there are bigger changes that are needed. And again, we ask ourself, can we be sustainable travellers, if we are taking carbon emmitting flights.
However, we feel it is importnat to talk about and join movement working towards responsilbe tourism, which in turn changes our and others consumption. Once this happens, the bigger powers and corporations have to take notice of the change in consumer demands and in turn we hope they change their supply, practices, regulations and laws for the better. So with that in mind, we feel everyone can contribute to this movement in some way.
Raising awareness about sustainable travel and responsible tourism, in our optinion, helps, by showing there is a demand for change and a demand protect our planet.
We hope this list helps you make more conscious decisions and shows how to travel sustainably.