Unfortunately, some tourism has a bad reputation and can become the downfall of an area, introducing more waste, carbon and people than it would normally withstand, creating environmental pressures for the local community and environment. Don’t be fooled if you see the word “eco” in a holiday deal; work backwards and think small-scale, family owned and locally built with local materials. Low-impact travel and tourism means that you see our wonderful earth in the most sustainable way possible. People see a holiday as a time to relax however this can sometimes mean you let your values slip that you would normally uphold at home. The good news is this can all be avoided with a bit of preparation and research.
Look at alternatives:
- Camping – investigate renting a campervan or go hiking! Camping is a great way to have fun and live a nomadic style that you normally wouldn’t at home. An experience to get away from routine while getting exercise and healthy air is appreciated by most.
- House swaps – sites such as Love Home Swap or Home Link give you a chance to swap homes and go on a holiday with others who have registered on the site. This gives you a chance to go somewhere new while living like a local rather than a tourist. The fine details are left between the home-owners and listing fees vary.
- AirBnB – less wasteful than hotels, AirBnB gives ability to cook where you stay allowing you to save money and be sustainable with food. Eating out often means you spend more money than you intend, however grocery stores might mean plastic wrapped food so be careful. Farmers markets can happen every day so ask the locals and look around. Remember to keep showers short, TV/lights/heating/air-con off when you leave and re-use the same towels and sheets rather than having them washed every day. Have a look at their tiny eco-houses for something earth-friendly and new!
- Couch Surfing – take a look at the couch surfing website to see verified profiles with feedback from previous surfers across a multitude of cities. A free and exciting way to meet new people and travel the world.
- Volunteering abroad or WWOOFing – working on sustainable projects such as “World-Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms” is a great way to get out, meet people and learn about living organically and reconnecting with Mother Nature. Some volunteering schemes such as working in orphanages or some animal “sanctuaries” can be controversial and not as innocent as you think so make sure you do your research before you go.
- Take Reusables – always take a reusable water bottle (check if you need a filter for some countries for tap water), straw, cutlery, food-pot and napkin. Politely refuse disposables anywhere you go and simply wash your own. It’s advisable you take a multiuse soap bar with you to wash your hair, skin, clothes and dishes. Something simple like an olive soap bar is gentle and cheap and does what it needs to – cleans.
- Pack as light as you can – the more weight, the more greenhouse gases produced to take you where you need to go. Consider what you really need daily, a no cosmetic, no-poo hair routine and a simple wardrobe will make your life a lot easier and give you freedom at home too. Think multipurpose, think durable and think comfortable for your travels.
Before you go:
- Turn off and unplug your electronics – leaving them plugged means they can “leach” power without being turned on. Perhaps have a friend pop over to your home occasionally to check everything is OK and settle the due oncoming paranoia (is my house on fire, have I been robbed?!). Turn down your thermostat too so the heating doesn’t come on.
- Avoid flights and private cars – the damage starts the moment you buy your flight ticket. The huge amounts of fuel needed contributes towards a major portion of the global carbon footprint. If you must, choose a flight that is direct to your destination without stop-overs, as take-offs and landings use the most fuel. Additionally, choose a newer plane and use economy class. Pick the smallest car if you need to hire one.
- Bicycle – most major cities have cycle hire/sharing schemes which are relatively cheap to use per day. Bikes might be in docks that release the wheel when payment has been received, or you may be able to hire one from a local shop or check where they are via an app. Check if that country has laws where a bike hat is mandatory and if there are smaller independent business that offer cycle hire if you can’t find a scheme.
- Bus – you may or may not be able to take a bicycle with you on the bus depending on what country you live in however travelling by bus is one of the eco-friendliest ways to get almost anywhere.
- Train – there are plenty of trains both over and under-ground, especially in cities. The Paris Metro, NYC Subway, London Underground, and Tokyo Metro just to name a few are well established, cover most of the city and are a quick easy way to get about. Check first if they can take bicycles.
- All-inclusive resorts and cruises – often the money from these larger companies rarely feeds into the local community. In places where tourists are wealthier than the locals, chunks of land are being irresponsibly used by companies whose focus is purely on profit. With everything in the same place, tourists rarely venture outside the resort to spend money in the nearby taverns and shops. This isn’t ideal in the first place as you’re not getting a true cultural exchange of where you are staying.
- Zoos, animal shows, animal trekking – not much needs to be said here but if you can’t see how the animals are truly treated outside of entertainment, it probably isn’t going to be any good for them and you will be fuelling a cruel industry.
Make sure you:
- Pick up trash – see trash on your lovely pristine beach/forest/site? Pick it up! If we can all leave the natural areas a little better than we found them than the world is heading to a better place.
- Give feedback and offset your carbon – booking a holiday can be a minefield for the mind, websites such as TripAdvisor can make it easier by getting real feedback from others, so make sure you do your bit and leave your own when you return home. Finally, think about buying some carbon credits or planting a few trees to try to offset any excess carbon you have produced.
Thanks for reading, I hope you all have lovely summer holidays!