When planning a vacation to an unfamiliar destination, there are some steps you can take to help make the area better for all.
Sustainable travel is becoming more and more important to travelers. A survey from The Vacationer revealed that 83% of respondents felt sustainability was either somewhat or very important when making their choices.
1. Support Local Businesses
Sustainable travel is the practice of traveling in a way that minimizes its negative environmental effects and has a beneficial influence on the communities where we live. It encompasses various methods to reduce our ecological footprint, from how we shop and consume food to what type of transport we take – all intending to minimize it as much as possible.
Shopping locally is one of the best ways travelers can show their support for local communities and countries while simultaneously helping reduce carbon emissions.
When you shop locally, the money stays in your neighborhood and helps to stimulate economic development. This is especially beneficial if you are traveling to an emerging area. Not only is this beneficial to the community but also to businesses as it creates more employment opportunities and increases an area’s tax base.
If you are traveling and need assistance, look into volunteering in your local community. Whether it’s a local business collecting donations or needing supplies for an upcoming project, volunteering is an excellent way to give back and connect with people in the area.
You may opt for a local tour operator to guide you through your destinations. These guides are usually knowledgeable locals who possess intimate knowledge of the area and can give an authentic perspective.
2. Eat Local
Eating locally when traveling offers many advantages, from saving money to learning about a destination’s culture and traditions. Not only that, but it helps reduce your carbon footprint and promotes a healthier lifestyle.
If you’re traveling to a foreign country, it is wise to research ahead of time and discover what food options and which dishes are popular there. You can do this by checking out travel websites or apps that list local restaurants or simply asking around at your destination.
Another great way to eat local is by visiting a farmers market. These tend to be situated close to major tourist destinations and offer an insight into the food culture in a region.
Local fruits and vegetables are cheaper than their non-local counterparts and fresher since they don’t need to travel far from their origins. This helps keep them ripe for longer, reduces spoilage, and boosts their nutritional value.
One of the simplest ways to eat more locally is by choosing vegetarian options instead of meat and dairy. Vegetarian products produce fewer greenhouse gases than animal-based products and are better for the environment. Recent studies have demonstrated that switching one day of your diet to vegetables each week can help reduce greenhouse gas emissions by up to 15%.
Vegetarianism is an excellent option for travelers, particularly in developing countries where many foodborne illnesses arise due to poorly preserved fish and meat.
If you decide to eat meat, opt for sustainably sourced alternatives like chicken or fish. These are more eco-friendly than beef and dairy products which require a lot of resources to grow and process.
3. Take Public Transport
Traveling to a new city or visiting an old one? Public transport can be an ideal way to experience the sights. Not only is it more cost-effective than renting a car, but it also saves time on parking and traffic. Plus, most major cities boast an efficient public transport system to get you where you need to go.
Utilizing public transportation reduces air pollution, an enormous benefit to human health. Exhaust gases emit hazardous particles that lead to respiratory and heart disease; riding public transit produces far fewer pollutants per passenger mile than driving alone.
Even more significantly, public transportation is much more fuel-efficient than driving your own personal vehicle. In the United States alone, public transportation saves an incredible 4.2 billion gallons of gas annually!
You can take the train, metro, or ferry to get where you’re going. In some cities, one ticket is valid across all types of transport – some even offer a combined ticket!
Buses are an excellent form of public transport. Not only are they more fuel-efficient than personal vehicles, but they also leave a lower carbon footprint per trip than other modes of transport.
If you live in a big city, take the train or metro instead of driving yourself to work. Not only will this give you a fresh perspective of the city, but it will allow for meaningful interactions with others on the same route as well.
Public transport not only reduces emissions, but it can also reduce road congestion since buses and trains tend to move quicker than cars do.
Therefore, you can avoid driving in rush hour traffic and make your commute more enjoyable. Furthermore, this saves money on fuel and road maintenance expenses.
4. Go Slow
Slow travel is an approach to traveling that encourages sustainable tourism practices and creates lasting memories. It is cheaper and healthier than conventional tourism and allows travelers to engage more deeply with local people and their culture.
On any vacation, it’s your choice to adopt this mindset. Instead of packing insights and activities, you don’t enjoy, focus on what you enjoy.
Traveling slowly can be beneficial in several ways. Not only does it save money on transportation expenses – which often represent the largest outlay for many travelers – but accommodation may be cheaper too since you won’t be staying in hotels directly adjacent to popular tourist sites.
You can save on accommodation by connecting with local residents to stay at their homes and get to know them better. This can be done through Meetup groups, Internations forums, or Facebook groups related to travel.
Another way to cut costs on your trip is by traveling slowly and taking advantage of public transport when available. This will enable you to move around more conveniently, enabling you to explore lesser-known areas in a city.
Finally, there are ways to be more sustainable on your travels by minimizing their environmental impact. You can do this by taking public transport instead of air travel, shopping locally, and dining out locally, among other options.
Becoming a true slow traveler means accepting discomfort and stepping outside your comfort zone. While it may seem counterintuitive to slow down and take an extended train ride, it can be the best way to experience a destination. Additionally, it’s an opportunity for new friendships to form and explore the destination with greater depth.
5. Be Mindful of Your Carbon Footprint
Traveling can have a significant environmental impact, so weighing the options for reducing your carbon footprint when planning your next vacation is essential. Sustainable travelers try and use alternative modes of transportation like walking, cycling or taking public transport instead of relying on taxis or renting cars whenever possible.
If you must travel, try booking a direct flight or opt for eco-friendly airlines. Additionally, you can reduce your air travel emissions by choosing coach (economy) class seats rather than business, bringing along a lightweight backpack or suitcase to reduce baggage weight, and preordering food from an airline’s onboard menu before arriving at your destination.
One way to reduce your travel carbon footprint is by choosing hotels owned and run locally by small businesses. They tend to be more eco-friendly than chain hotels and can boost local economies.
To reduce your carbon footprint while traveling, try to use less water and avoid disposable items like plastic bottles or straws. This is especially important in places with limited water supplies, like Cape Town or Kathmandu.
When visiting natural areas, be sure to abide by the Leave No Trace principles and treat wildlife with respect. This is an essential component of sustainable tourism – something easy to incorporate into your next trip!
There are a range of companies and apps that can offset your carbon footprint when traveling, such as offCents in the US and MyClimate in Switzerland. Both provide subscription-based apps that calculate an offsetting fee monthly and enable users to offset various travel activities like flights, cars, and cruises.
Sustainable travel is an essential part of being a conscious and responsible traveler. By making small changes in how we travel, we can make a significant impact on the environment and the communities we visit. Supporting local businesses, eating locally, taking public transportation, traveling slowly, and being mindful of our carbon footprint are all simple yet effective ways to travel sustainably. In addition to reducing our environmental impact, sustainable travel allows us to connect with local communities, learn about their cultures, and make lasting memories.
As travelers, we have the power to make a positive impact on the world. By choosing to travel sustainably, we can help preserve the planet for future generations and support the local communities we visit. With the growing importance of sustainability in travel, it’s up to us to take the initiative and make travel more responsible and sustainable. So, the next time you plan a trip, consider incorporating some of these sustainable travel tips and make a difference while enjoying all the wonders of the world.