Sustainable Travel: Where to start in four easy steps.
If you’re here it wouldn’t to be a wild guess that you’re interested in travelling sustainably but perhaps after some initial research the idea, not just the task, became a little daunting.
After you read this post, and as you continue to travel, you’ll hopefully find that each subsequent adventure will be more sustainable and easier than the last. Just the getting a standard definition of the term alone is a complex process, let alone finding out how to travel with not only the intention but also the actions of a bona fide sustainable traveller.
Here we are going to break it down in a simple manner to try and give you an easy platform from which to start each trip. We will breakdown the planning and the trip into four top-line decisions.
Each of these can have as many or as few micro-decisions within them; how many may depend on just how sustainable you would like your trip to be.
These top-line decisions are your destination, transport, gear and actions.
But first, what is sustainable travel?
The best source for a deeper understanding of the term and movement is found at the UN WTO as for decades they have led the way in the global development of its guidelines and practices.
They outline sustainable tourism as:
“"Tourism that takes full account of its current and future economic, social and environmental impacts, addressing the needs of visitors, the industry, the environment and host communities"
You should see ‘sustainable travel’ as a goal - to leave a destination the same or better than before you arrived. Purely travelling ‘sustainably’ isn’t possible, not just yet anyway. So, until that’s possible it’s all about the baby steps.
How to travel sustainably?
How long is a piece of string? The options and solutions are infinite. That’s why when starting out its best to break it down into 4 sections of travel. This allows anyone to be able take the bite-size-piece-digestible approach to what is essentially (and to continue the analogy) a buffet sized meal!
How to start thinking about travelling sustainably for your next trip.
As mentioned briefly above, getting your head around all the options, nooks and crannies of sustainable travel can leave even the most seasoned of travellers dizzy. Using a simple process like a four-step plan that breaks it down, just a little, make it easier to think ‘sustainable’ before every trip. These questions are:
1. Destination: Does my preferred destination accommodate sustainable travel, or should I go somewhere else that does?
2. Transport: What transport options are available that can make your travel more sustainable?
3. Gear: What gear can I take (or not take) to make my trip more sustainable?
4. Actions: What actions can I take while travelling that will be most sustainable?
It’s safe to safe that not all destinations were created equally - Paris, France might have a few more attractions than say Paris, Texas. However, some places have geared themselves up in recent times to be more eco-friendly with more sustainable option than others.
With more choices than ever, we should be rewarding these destinations for making the effort to keep their home pristine for future generations. Plus, it’s a sure bet that any destination that is geared up to be sustainable is going be grander spectacle than one that’s been trampled to death or years of mass tourism.
Green Destinations has a list of the top 100 places you can choose from (post-pandemic of course) as alternatives to more of the sustainable destinations of the world. So, before you decide where to go, have a think about where you can go that’ll leave less of a footprint on the earth. You can also try to avoid destinations that aren’t as sustainable or that could probably do with a little rest… Such as these.
While trying to make sustainable travel decisions, one decision might impact the other. It’s hard to admit but flying, in the air, on aeroplanes just isn’t sustainable, yet. There’s no other way around it.
If your aim is to be truly sustainable, your next destination may be ideally fairly close to you i.e. somewhere that you can reach by train, or bus – both of which being a couple of the most efficient ways to travel.
However, if you desire to travel further, such as from one side of Europe to the other, skipping the flights altogether is not only better for the environment but it will enable you to slow down and take in the scenery by rail or road rather than spending all of your time waiting in airports.
There are two ways to think about gear. How much and how heavy is your gear? And, how sustainable is the gear who have bought? Either way, when it comes to gear, we recommend this simple option – take as little as you can.
You can always pick up what you need later down the track. It may not be exactly what you have or are accustomed to at home but more than likely you’ll find that, whatever it is, you won’t actually need it.
Heavy Gear is not only going to weigh you down, meaning you’ll be slower, and you won’t be able to travel as far, but it also means extra effort and costs money to transport. Ultimately that’s a larger footprint left behind and more carbon emitted into the atmosphere.
When thinking about buying the gear to take its necessary to think about where the gadget came from, how it was produced, whether the brand is ethical and whether the gear helps or hinders the environment when in use.
To save space, taking items that serve multiple purposes is a smart move. For instance, with the Scrubba wash bag (yes, we recommend our own product!) you can wash clothes anywhere, anytime safely wherever you stay.
The Scrubba wash bag will also save you from using water and power at your destination, minimising your impact. It saves space, weight, water, power and money on your travels which helps to you tread lightly at your favourite destinations. It can also be used as a wet and dry bag, or even a packing cell. Ideally, all the travel products you take would be as multi-functional and eco-friendly!
Once you’ve arrived at your destination there’s plenty of ways you can go about being a more sustainable traveller. The first one is, think local. Preferably all the money you spend should be at local shops, hotels and cafes etc.
When the money injected into destinations leaves the country i.e. when it’s spent at foreign hotels for instance, it’s knows as ‘leakage’. Thus, shopping local ensures that the money you spend goes into keeping the place pristine and the tourism industry there maintained as sustainable. Other things to be mindful about are the basics, such as using less water or power wherever you are.
Other options also include the following:
- Decline any single-use plastic.
- Don’t order more than you need.
- Try to travel locally on buses or trains, and if you can, walk.
- Additionally, take local tours, or seek out local charities and co-ops that give back to local communities.
Friends International is a great example. As a social enterprise based in S.E Asia, they support the reintegration of children and youth, so they become actively involved in the development of their society.
They have restaurants that employ and teach locals in the food industry where tourist can come and enjoy local food, cooked by locals and 98% of the money stays in the host country.
There’s plenty of similar initiatives and organisations out there, wherever you choose to go. All you need to do is think ‘sustainably’.
So there you have it – the starting point.
To get travelling more sustainably, you just need to delve into the four key areas highlighted above. Start with these basics and as you go, you’ll find the time and the mental capacity to take it all in and determine the best options available to you.
Make sure to sign up for more news as in the coming weeks we’ll be going deeper and giving you more tips for all your sustainable decisions for everyday life and all your future adventures.
References and Additional Information