Travel brings all kinds of benefits to all kinds of people. Travelers get to enjoy new experiences. Locals get a valuable income.
In fact, the income from travel can be vital to protecting some of the Earth’s most amazing places. That said, it’s important to keep the environment in mind at all times. So, here are some tips on how to have a sustainable holiday.
Keep air travel to a minimum
Air travel is sometimes the only way to reach places, or, at least the only practical way when you’re in a hurry. Whenever possible, however, look at the other options.
Remember to account for the fact that air travel tends to involve a lot of waiting around airports. Also, airports tend to be located quite far outside of cities.
Once you consider those facts, you may well find that rail or road travel is quite a close competitor to air in terms of both speed and price. What’s more, using other forms of travel generally allows you more flexibility with your luggage.
Use what you already have
Avoid buying anything specifically for a trip unless you’re absolutely sure you really need it or really want it. For most trips, you’ll be able to use the clothes, shoes, and toiletries you already have.
This reduces the pile of unwanted clothes (which can be very hard to recycle). It also helps to limit the use of plastic packaging.
Single-use travel toiletries use a lot of packaging and hence are very wasteful (as well as expensive). It’s easy (and affordable) to buy reusable, travel-sized containers and decant your products into them.
Put a little bit of greaseproof paper over the hole before you put on the top. This gives extra protection against spills and can generally be reused several times.
Bring along washcloths instead of using cotton pads. Also, take along a travel plug (for sinks) and a travel clothesline. Knowing you can wash and dry your clothes easily wherever you are can give you the confidence to pack light.
Take your own water bottle
If nothing else, you have a good chance of being able to fill up your bottle once you’ve gone through security at an airport. This saves you from buying water. It also saves on a single-use plastic bottle.
Many places around the world now have free drinking fountains where you can fill up your own bottle precisely to cut down on plastic waste.
Eat local (with your own cutlery)
There are three good reasons for eating local wherever you go. The first is that the concept of food miles applies around the world. Your favorite food from home might have had to travel a very long way to get where you are now. Avoid encouraging this practice by buying it.
The second is that it puts more money directly into the hands of local people. The third is that it broadens your travel experience.
If you’re concerned about food hygiene then see if you can watch the food being prepared. Also, look at the cook and the other patrons. Ask yourself if they seem healthy.
Using your own cutlery also cuts down on food-related waste. If you have space in your luggage, you could even take your own plate and cup too.
Book sustainable accommodation
Either stay in locally-owned accommodation or research a hotel’s sustainability credentials before you book it.
Some major hotels have really taken sustainability on board. This means that, if your budget is up to it, you can have the environmentally-friendly and ethical luxury. Unfortunately, some businesses “talk the talk” but don’t “walk the walk”.
Be careful about buying souvenirs
This is another issue it can be challenging to navigate. For the most part, you want to look for locally-produced items using locally-sourced materials.
At the same time, however, you need to make sure that these materials are legal both in the country you buy them and your host country. Be particularly careful with animal products and anything which looks historic.
Volunteer your time
If you’re planning an extended break, why not volunteer your time? You give back to the country you're visiting, you enrich your experience and you can improve your resume.
For example, volunteer work in South Africa can be a real talking point if you’re applying for a place at university or a new job.
If you’re going off the beaten track, then think carefully before you post any photos of an idyllic, unspoiled destination. You may have good intentions, but think about what could happen if your picture went viral and encouraged a lot of unexpected visitors. An out-of-the-way location is probably not set up for them.