With the increasing number of people deciding to use their trips to nearby or far-away destinations based on what makes as little impact as possible on both the environment and local communities, it comes as no surprise that phrases such as “ethical travel” have become buzzwords in the industry and beyond.
As tourists are becoming more aware of the effect their choices can have, travel agencies are doing their best to explore and exploit the ethical travel niche. So, what are the things we need to be aware of when it comes to being an eco-friendly traveller?
Travel light and go local
One of the most important things is to pack light and travel without any unnecessary items. That means you need to refrain from falling into a trap of consumerism, where products are advertised and sold as making travel easier. Think carefully about what you really need.
Also, before you visit some more exotic destinations, try getting to know your own country better. It can be a visit to a nearby place which you can even cycle or walk to. You’re bound to develop a deep understanding and appreciations for what you have so close to your home.
When in Rome…
No matter where your destination is, you need to try to live like the locals. That includes visits to small local restaurants, renting places from local providers of accommodation, rather than staying at a hotel that belongs to a large chain.
Using public transport and buying local products will help you really understand how people live, which is one of the most beneficial aspects of travelling. Visiting local attractions that celebrate the local culture and environment will only increase the overall experience.
Minimise and maximise
In order to have a responsible trip, you need to think about what you can do to minimise the negative and boost the positive impact of your travels. Start with carbon offsetting your flight or staying at an eco-friendly or LEED certified hotel. Ditch the public transport and wherever it is possible try going on foot or use bike hire options. If bike hire is something you often opt for when travelling as I do, it’s best to be prepared and have your Rockshox service kit with you.
To boost the local economy, have a look at locally owned businesses that offer something you’re interested in and purchase from them. If you can’t find any such place before the trip, ask the locals once you get there about local, family-owned businesses.
Enjoy the local culture
Get interested in what the locals eat, where they go out for a drink, find markets and stalls offering locally produced products and do everything else to support the community. Even if you don’t speak the language, your interest is very likely to inspire people to help you with your choice.
Also, if you wish to engage in activities with tour operators, try to find those who work with smaller groups, since they are usually very environmentally responsible. They will also focus on helping you connect with the local culture by providing some interesting information and insights.
Do your homework
Environmentally responsible decisions are rarely made on the spot. They usually require some time for people to accept this new way of thinking and travelling and to make informed decisions. That’s why it’s vital that you do a lot of research before actually embarking on your journey.
For example, if you’re visiting a developing country, check whether local guides are paid fair wages and if the company in question acts in an environmentally responsible manner. Also, read what other travellers visiting the same place have said about their experience and look for their tips.
Allocate some time to a cause
If you can, it would be a great idea to contribute your time and skills to a cause that would help the local community. Don’t expect that your contribution will solve any major problem, but it would surely contribute towards alleviating some of them.
Try to find a program with a long history of this type of engagement and a proven track of records to be sure that your effort won’t go in vain. Finally, don’t have unrealistic expectations regarding what happens once you leave, but hope that there is a plan to ensure the impact you’ve made is a lasting one.
As you can see, there are so many things you need to pay attention to if you wish to be an eco-friendly traveller. It goes without saying that the list doesn’t end there. Every day, we are discovering some new connections between our behaviour, in this case travelling, and the impact it has on the environment and with that newly acquired knowledge we are altering our beliefs and, ultimately, our habits.
The switch between a “regular” and an eco-friendly traveller rarely happens overnight. It usually involves a lot of research, wish to contribute to environment protection and willingness to play a part in the process. However, the feeling of satisfaction that inevitably grows from such behaviour is so rewarding, that you’ll probably wonder why you didn’t think about it before.
Guest post by Olivia Williams Jones
About the Author
Olivia is psychologist and entrepreneur from Brisbane. She is a mother of two beautiful children and proud owner of two silly boxer dogs. She is a passionate writer, a traveller and conscious consumer, seeking healthy and sustainable products to incorporate into the lives of her family. Her motto is “Be the change you want to see in the world”.
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