It seems that sustainable travel is growing in popularity every single day but what exactly is it? The first thing that most people probably think of when they think of sustainable tourism is saving the environment, but it is much more than that. Sustainable tourism includes the companies you book accommodation and tours with, the food and drinks you consume, the way you interact with people and the way you support local economies. Being a responsible tourist and travelling in a sustainable way is important for preserving culture and traditions, helping small businesses and of course the environment and all the wildlife that lives in it. In order to be a more sustainable traveller you don’t have to make drastic changes, it is all about making simple, smarter choices in order to lessen your negative impacts on any given destination. With this article, I really wanted to put together a simple list of 50 ways you can be a more sustainable traveller. And remember you don’t have to do everything on this list, this is just a guide on some ways you can contribute.
50 ways you can be a more sustainable traveller
Before you go
- Book a tour through a certified company like G Adventures or Intrepid. They offset their carbon emissions, employ local guides, care about the environment and also animal and child welfare.
- Pack lighter. The more you pack the heavier your bag is and the more fuel used to carry your bag in all modes of transport.
- Use paperless tickets and booking confirmations instead of paper print outs.
- Purchase your next Lonely Planet guide book as an e-book, rather than a paperback, or download the Lonely Planet Guides app.
- Pack a water bottle to reuse over and over again.
6. Choose local, independent hotels instead of always staying in large multi-nationals.
7. Use the do not disturb sign to avoid your hotel room being cleaned. Having your hotel room cleaned means your sheets will be changed and washed and your floors vacuumed. This uses water and electricity unnecessarily.
8. Take shorter showers and turn the tap off when you are shaving or brushing your teeth.
9. When you are not in your accommodation turn off and unplug your heating and/or air-conditioning, television sets, phone and camera chargers and anything else that will eat up electricity.
10. Hang your wet towels up so housekeepers do not take them to be washed. If they do remove your towels still, complain to your hotel and let them know how they can improve their services.
11. Choose to stay in an Airbnb over a hotel because maids will not clean your room/house and wash your sheets every single day.
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12. When it comes time to wash your clothes, take a day off from exploring to do a larger load and hang them out to dry rather than using a dryer.
13. Try to avoid using the mini soaps provided by hotels, if you do, take the remaining soap with you as the hotel will most likely throw them away once you leave.
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14. Use public transport like buses, trains, trams or ferries instead of driving or catching a taxi.
15. If you use a ride-sharing service app like Uber then opt for Uberpool wherever it is available which picks up others and carpools.
Sign up for Uber here and get $10 off your first ride.
16. If you do decide to drive, opt for a smaller car over a large 4WD or v8 sedan and if possible choose a hybrid or fully electric car.
17. Walk or rent a bike and cycle your way around a city.
18. Opt for direct flights where you can instead of making one or more stop-overs.
19. Choose long train trips across places like Europe instead of flying everywhere you go.
YOU MAY ALSO BE INTERESTED IN READING:
- 5 Reasons Why You Should Use Public Transport When You Travel
- Why you should use Uber while travelling overseas
Food and drink
20. Cut down on the amount of meat you consume and eat more plant-based meals.
21. Only eat from small, independent businesses who use locally produced and grown products.
22. Never consume food products made from endangered animals or that use unethical practices like shark fin soup.
23. When drinking coffee always choose to take your own reusable cup or drink in the restaurant instead of getting a takeaway cup.
24. Carry your own reusable straw around with you instead of plastic and avoid plastic cutlery and plastic drink stirrers.
25. Avoid eating foods that are out of season.
26. Don’t continuously buy plastic water bottles, use tap water where safe to do so and if you have to buy plastic water bottles, buy a larger size and use it over a longer period of time.
27. Buy unpackaged food items to snack on like bananas, apples and oranges.
28. Buy produce from local markets and cook your own meals if you have a kitchen.
29. Always buy locally produced and hand-crafted souvenirs rather than imported, inauthentic items.
30. Carry a reusable tote bag or backpack and always avoid plastic bags.
31. Never purchase products made from endangered animals like ivory or animal skins or unsustainably sourced wooden products or foods.
32. Also, when bargaining and bartering with shopkeepers always be reasonable and fair, never go too low, but don’t settle for the first bid either.
33. Learn some basics of the local language, like hello, thank you and excuse me. It is seen as very respectful and they will appreciate your effort.
34. Never give money or food to beggars or children who approach you trying to sell you things, this encourages them to live a life of begging and to rely on handouts instead of going to school and working.
35. Always ask for permission before taking a photograph of someone or something they might own. If they say yes, ask for their details and then offer to send them a copy.
36. Be aware of local customs and dress codes, for example, in some sacred temples and buildings it is inappropriate for women’s shoulders to be showing and shoes must be taken off before entering certain places like in Korea and Japan.
37. Immerse yourself with the local people and culture, whether that is through a homestay, a hiking trip or a local food tour, get involved and step out of your comfort zone.
38. If swimming use eco-friendly, chemical-free sunscreens and insect repellants. Some chemicals found in these kinds of products are known to cause coral bleaching.
39. Always stick to designated pathways and walkways when bushwalking or hiking, stepping off the path can kill and damage vegetation.
40. The only thing you should ever leave behind is your footprints and the only thing you should ever take from a natural environment is your photos and videos. Always take your rubbish with you and never take things away from the natural environment.
41. Never approach wildlife and also never try to feed wild animals. Wild animals may feel threatened and attack if you get too close and giving them food can cause them to be reliant on humans.
42. Volunteer your time to teach children, plant trees or undertake some kind of research through recognised NGOs or tour companies.
43. Choose small group tour companies over large group tours.
44. Decide on a tour company that is recognised and affiliated with Global organisations like WWF, Rainforest Alliance, United Nations or others.
45. Also, avoid tour companies that fund and exploit unethical wildlife practices like elephant riding.
46. Support tour companies which give back to local communities through education, tourism, commerce and healthcare.
47. Choose tour companies that take you off the beaten path.
48. Avoid visiting places during peak season or those places that are already struggling to cope with over tourism.
49. Choose tour companies that take their time in a destination allowing you to experience a place, rather than tours that speed through several cities in a couple of days.
50. Lastly, while you are travelling and meeting new people or posting on social media and also once you have returned home tell your friends and family about the importance of sustainable, responsible tourism and the benefits of why they should also do it, not only while they are travelling but also during everyday life. Let them know how they can do their part and alter their small habits for long term change.
50 ways you can be a more sustainable traveller
Thanks for reading this list of 50 ways you can be a more sustainable traveller. The fact you are reading this means you also care for the welfare of wild animals, women, young children, the environment, supporting local businesses and economies and you respect local customs and traditions. You don’t have to do every single thing on this list to be a sustainable tourist but every little bit helps. Small changes can make a big difference and as you can tell from the above list most of the things are not complicated.
We would love to hear more ways in which everyone can be even more sustainable. Let us know in the comments below because we would love to be able to add an extra 50 ways you can be a more sustainable traveller.
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You may also be interested in these other posts about how you can be more sustainable traveller:
- How to be a responsible traveller
- Why travel will make you a better person
- Travel slow and see more: Why you should take your time at a destination