15 Practical Tips for Sustainable Travel
By: Guest Contributor, Boom Rizal
Never before has the label “citizen of the world” been taken this seriously. People feel that travelling is something they deserve; that they owe it to themselves to see the world. For millions of people in the United Kingdom for example, global travel (53%) ranks higher than having a baby (30%) and buying a house (38%) in their bucket list. The dream travel destinations are anywhere from the Great Barrier Reef, Aurora Borealis, African Safari, Pyramids of Egypt, and the Great Wall of China. The desire to be a backpacker, an expert traveler, and a citizen of the world transcends race, religion, and color. Whether for vacation, business, or school, waking up in a different place is something everyone wants to experience.
A report by the United Nations Environment Programme shows that international tourist arrivals have almost quadrupled over the past thirty years and domestic tourism has also never been this vibrant. Jobs for locals and a boost to the economy are some of the positive impacts of a strong tourism industry. However, the risks of environmental degradation also become greater. With more than a billion people traveling each year, how can we see the world without destroying it? The answer is sustainable travel or simply put, traveling responsibly. Here are tips to be a more responsible traveler, and hopefully save the world for future generations.
Care for a little research?
How hard is it to research about a place these days? Learn about mass tourism and the ecosystem. When you are visiting the Taj Mahal in India or the Pyramids of Giza in Egypt, know that pollution and heavy traffic of tourists have taken its toll. Always be considerate.
Look for eco accommodation
When you look for the best accommodation deals especially in worldly famous destinations like Boracay, don’t just look for free wi-fi, book a hotel that recycles, employ locals, use alternative forms of energy, and have good ventilation. By supporting green hotel accommodations, you become an agent of sustainability.
Follow the rules
Everywhere you go, there are going to be rules. These are necessary to preserve the tourist spots and destinations. In Boracay in the Philippines for example, building sand castles and sand sculptures are now prohibited by a local ordinance. This is one way to protect the famous white sands of one of the world’s best beaches.
Buy local, eat local
What is the point of going to Korea without eating Kimchi or Japan without trying sushi? When travelling, skip fast-food favorites like burgers and fries and go for local restaurants and buy local products. Hire local guides, too, if ever you’ll need one. This is one way to help sustain tourism in the countries that you visit.
Ride the bus, walk, or bike
Instead of renting a car to use during the duration of your tour, it is better to take the train or ride the bus and not contribute to traffic and pollution. If the destination is just several kilometers away, try to walk or bike and take that chance to stroll down the city’s history and rich culture.
Carry a reusable water bottle around
Endless walking and sight-seeing will tire you down. You will find yourself buying three or four plastic water bottles each day and doing so contributes to toxic wastes. Bring a reusable water container (hopefully big enough for a liter or two) that you can refill in restaurants or areas where tap water is safe.
This is very basic. Don’t throw food wrappers, plastic bags, water bottles, etc. anywhere (even if the locals do). The trails in the Peruvian Andes and in Nepal have been nicknamed “Coca-Cola trail” and “Toilet paper trail” because of the ton of garbage left behind by trekking tourists. Don’t let this happen to other tourist spots and remember to always dispose off your litter and trash properly.
Are you one of those travelers who do not mind keeping the heater or air-conditioning on even after they leave their hotel because they paid for it? Well, you are not entitled to consume all of the world’s energy. Treat it as you would your own home. Turn the aircon off and plug out all appliances when not in the room.
Skip the tub and take quick showers. The world’s water resources are beginning to get scarce so make the responsible gesture of keeping your water usage to a minimum. You may be on vacation, but you can only take a break from work and not from being a responsible citizen of the world.
Hang towels and skip laundry
Hanging used towels is a universal sign that you want to use them again. Hang them so hotel staff won’t wash them again (and use more water). Also, hotels usually wash guests’ clothes separately so skip the laundry service if you can.
Do not disturb
Putting the “do not disturb” sign on your door helps to cut down on using chemical cleansers, washing of bed linens, electricity for vacuuming, etc. After all, you only use your hotel to have a place to sleep when traveling so it can’t look like a cave in a few hours, right?
Respect the wildlife
Don’t disturb the wildlife and help in preserving it. In the beach, don’t ride a jetski where there are corals or other marine life. In a safari tour, don’t get too close for comfort and keep a safe distance to animals. Don’t pick up or take home natural resources like shells or plants. Avoid using loud and motorized equipment in small communities.
Beware of souvenirs
Ask about a product before purchase. Find out the raw materials used and from where they came from. Some may be illegal to manufacture or transport.
Bring reusable shopping bags
When shopping for souvenirs or getting some produce from the local market, use reusable shopping bags and cut down the harmful use of plastic bags.
Consider off-peak travel
Travelling during the off-season is not only cheaper; it also helps control the crowd. For example, Boracay is beautiful all year round and while summer is beach season, it is impossible for you not to enjoy and appreciate it even before or after summer. Population and crowd control are among the many challenges faced by most tourist destinations and supporting off-season travels is one way to help. As bonus, you get to enjoy the place with a little bit more peace and quiet.
Sustainable travel is about making simple choices. These choices may seem like it won’t make a difference but when done regularly and collectively, it can save the world for the future generations to see and experience. Remember that what you have is a passport to see the world and not a ticket to destroy it.
Boom Rizal is an investor, a researcher and a passionate writer. Get in touch with me and follow me @boomrizal.