10 Ways For Planning A Sustainable Travel
Opting for a sustainable travel is a choice with several benefits for us, for the places we visit and for the environment.
Despite of what is commonly thought, in fact, traveling in a more sustainable and ethical way is really simple and opens up a lot of opportunities that otherwise would not be discovered.
For example, when I travel I realized that I always look for the same things: nature, adventure, traditions and typical products. And I always get excited in front of the beauty of the landscapes and the discovery of cultures and traditions that I didn’t know.
In addition to collecting unique memories, I want to be honest: I feel truly better when I can live experiences and emotions, without causing damage and suffering to the planet, animals or other people.
That’s why I decided to be a responsible tourist, and that’s why I’m here to tell you something about it.
responsible and sustainable travel: some definition
The first step to get off to a great start is to understand what is meant by sustainable travel and responsible tourism. Here we need some explanation.
It will be fast, painless and extremely useful: when you will be reading the most disparate things, you will easily understand what are real news and which only hoaxes to sell and you will save time and (maybe) even some money.
The first and official characterization come from the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO).
Sustainable tourism is a form of travel that:
- meets the needs of the traveler;
- benefits the hosting country in order to enrich the opportunities for its future development.
But there are many others.
“Sustainable tourism is a new way of traveling for those who pay close attention to respecting the environment, natural elements and local communities“
“Sustainable tourism is that which maintains cultural integrity, local ecological processes, biological diversity, local life systems“
“Sustainable tourism is that which acts in harmony with the environment, the community and local traditions, so that these are the beneficiaries and not the victims of tourism development“.
3 constant concepts show up in these definitions.
Economy, Ethics and Environment. In fact, many consider them the basic principles of sustainable tourism.
The 3 fundamentals of responsible and sustainable travel
Growth, experience, emotion.
Traveling means always being ready for change, even when it is not foreseen or you are not aware of it.
In addition to the economy, the environment and ethics, in my opinion sustainable travel has three other key elements that distinguish it:
These are the pillars of sustainable tourism and the first and essential basis without which we cannot speak of sustainability.
I believe there can be no sustainability without the ability to understand the different, enthusiasm and respect for life and novelty and a desire for emotions.
Unfortunately, current trends show a situation that is still too unbalanced towards profit and comfort, which often has dramatic consequences, but each of us can help reduce this trend with small actions.
Ecotourism in this sense is a very powerful tool: healthy contact with nature allows us to rediscover that sense of connection that is being lost in cities and pushes us to unconsciously cultivate empathy, respect and wonder for her and her creatures, including human being.
NON-sustainable travel: trends and consequences
I want to make a clarification.
The idea of responsible and sustainable travel was born because its opposite exists.
In fact today tourism is among the main economic activities in the world and offers many job opportunities. However, according to what the Journal Nature Climate Change says, the tourism industry is one of the most polluting as well. Not only that: after the food one, it is also one of the least ethical towards animals and sometimes some populations.
On the one hand, it can contribute to the socio-economic development, and not only, of countries, but at the same time, it can become the cause of the loss of local identities and environmental degradation.
A clear example is the phenomenon of Overtourism (or mass tourism).
“Impact of tourism on a destination, or parts of it, that excessively and negatively influences the perceived quality of life of citizens and/or the quality of visitor experiences”. (UNWTO)
And I would add abuse and exploitation of many animals and local inhabitants.
But there are many others: exaggerated consumption while traveling (more waste, less attention, more waste), the economy of large chains and multinationals, the search for comfort at the expense of authenticity and environmental protection.
Carrying Capacity Assessment.
This value represents the carrying capacity of natural or cultural heritage areas so that tourism is not harmful.
In fact, each locality is able to host only a limited number of people in a productive and constructive way, both at an environmental and social level.
It is therefore essential not to follow the masses, try to differentiate yourself and organize sustainable travel, not experiences what ” everyone does because everyone does it” which almost always turn out to be trivial, stereotyping and absolutely unethical.
Let’s move on to practice.
10 TIPS FOR ORGANIZING a SUSTAINABLE TRAVEL
How can you recognize and organize a truly sustainable trip?
A journey is truly sustainable when it enriches both those who left, the destination and its habitat.
This includes, as we have seen, preserving natural heritage and biodiversity, celebrating the authenticity of local communities and diversity, traditional values, intercultural understanding.
1. Choose sustainable ways to move and travel
When organizing your trip or vacation, consider moving around using vehicles that have little impact on the environment.
Avoid using the plane, unless strictly necessary, and the car. Try to prefer train, public transport and shared cars (for example Bla Bla Car) which have a lower environmental impact and allow you to travel long distances in a reasonable time (especially the train).
Once at your destination or for shorter journeys, go on foot or by bicycle. You will have a double benefit: on health and on the environment.
2. Get aware about the destination
The growth of mass tourism has contributed to the birth of a conceptual distinction between tourist in its negative sense and traveler.
Briefly, a traveler is aware of his destination, curious about traditions, local products, local nature, places to visit, etc.
He wants to discover and experience the place where he travels.
3. Choose a sustainable and eco-friendly accomodation
The term “sustainable structure” actually means different things.
- Integration in the natural context and a low social impact
- Eco-friendly, with low environmental and energy impact
- Use of sustainable and zero waste policies, with a particular attention to “green” waste and materials
- Local management
Nowadays, many commonly used platforms, such as Booking.com, have dedicated a section to those structures that practice sustainability in some area.
4. don't waste
Even if you are on vacation, or on an adventure trip (even more so!) Keep in mind one very simple thing: water and energy are NOT unlimited. Just like when you are at home.
In practice: lights off if you are not present in the room, shower for about 10 minutes, running water only while you use it (when you rub your teeth close it), etc.
These are small tricks that you certainly already know. Even if they’re often considered useless and underestimated, they have a huge importance.
In fact, it’s with these little actions that you can be a responsible and sustainable traveler(but also a citizen), and it is essential that everyone does his/her job (in the end, we are about 7 billion people in the world).
There are two other very simple practices to avoid to not generate unnecessary waste: DO NOT print airline tickets, train tickets, etc. (unless specifically requested); and reuse towels in the rooms where they are provided.
5. Respect your destination
When you are traveling it is important to pay attention to and respect the surrounding environment, as if you were at home or in your city.
This includes some simple habits:
- Leave no traces of your passage (garbage)
- If you find litter on the ground and, as often happens, you feel disappointed or disgusted, collect it, even if it is not yours. The feeling you will experience is priceless, and you will have helped to clean up our beautiful planet of human waste.
- DO NOT take away any kind of natural souvenirs: sand, shells, exotic animals, plants, etc. You would cause terrible damage to the ecosystem.
In a nutshell: enjoy and take pictures but DO NOT touch or sully.
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6. practice recycling
Another way to respect the place you visit is to practice recycling.
Where it is not present, you can be an example to others.
To understand how to manage garbage and litter, I recommend an application that I have recently discovered: Junker. This will help you understand where to throw each type of waste. Also, if the place where you are is not registered, you can report and apply for membership yourself, thus helping to speed up the process.
7. Plastic-Free & Zero Waste
This is certainly one of the current pain points.
But what does it mean?
When we travel, but also when we go out to eat, drink or buy something, most of the time we also order and buy plastic, generating perennial waste (yes, plastic is a waste that remains in the environment for years and years).
I’ll give you an example. You go eating at the restaurant and ask for some water: the glass may be made of glass, but the bottle is made of plastic. Or at the bar you order a cocktail and it comes with a plastic glass and a plastic straw.
It probably has already happened to you.
However, it is possible to get rid of plastic simply by asking or making more responsible (and cheap) purchasing choices: when you order something you can ask not to receive straws, spoons and other “disposable” items with the product.
In this situation, I always recommend to carry a “mini travel kit” that will make you an exemplary sustainable traveler and citizen.
I’ve jus said “responsible and economic choices”. I’m not crazy.
Although the majority of people are convinced that sustainable things are more expensive, the reality is a bit different. When you buy a plastic product and even a cheap one, you basically buy the packaging and the quality of the product will be proportional to the price. When, on the other hand, you buy a product that apparently costs more but is not based on millenary waste and is truly eco-friendly and natural, you are not paying for something that destroys the environment and damages your health, but you’re investing in quality and the efforts to be low or zero impact.
That said, it’s always good to find out more about each brand and product you choose to understand what you’re investing in.
8. make your beauty-case green
To create a sustainable beauty case, there is a very simple solution: choose solid cosmetic and eco-friendly personal care products.
Check out the direct article, you can find i here.
9. Choose local restaurants and food
One of the best things about traveling is to discover local cultures, habits and products.
If you are skeptical of ethnic cuisine, I give you two tips that I have been able to understand over time.
- Don’t judge: most of the times you have no tools to do it, as long as you’ve never tried yet. Maybe you’re missing out one of the best foods you’ve ever tasted.
- There is always another way. I really understood this lesson when I decided to go vegan. I thought there could not be an alternative to all the things I was greedy of, and I discovered an entire world instead. Same thing happened to me with Indian cuisine for example, which I have criticized for years.
So don’t make the same mistake as I did.
Choosing restaurants run by local people, and local products in general, will enrich the local population, but also you.
A local and “km zero” product is certainly more nutritious and of better quality than a product that has crossed the world crammed into some container.
In addition, the locals will know how to cook it and you can have fun discovering new tastes and combinations.
The choice of local products also has an important ecological impact. The export of food causes a large amount of emissions (without considering the conservation systems and the waste of food that cannot resist during transport).
10. Slow down and enjoy your travel
This is another lesson I learned just after a big amount of mistakes.
Traveling without awareness and without freedom is a huge waste of money, and above all, time.
About the place where you are going, its characteristics, its nature and the people who live there.
Don’t plan everything down to the smallest detail (I was a compulsive organizer as well!). That is a habit that subconsciously stresses you because it is a characteristic of hasty and busy days at work. Organize the bare minimum and live the rest instead of thinking about it.
If I have a week off and then I have to go back to work, how can I slow down?
There are different solutions and alternatives to organize a memorable trip, even when the timing constrains you a little.
For example, organize your travel in a way that is both environmentally and temporally sustainable, without panicking. Try being a little more flexible (especially in your mind attitude) can help you.
Gather information about the place and mark the locations you really want to visit, make a list and choose which ones you will be able to visit and enjoy those moments.
This way you will be back home satisfied and relaxed, instead being back more tired and stressed than before.
And if you get used to travel by walking and cycling to visit your destinations, you will certainly take home unique memories and memorable experiences, as well as a more than positive impact on the environment, even if you have visited fewer places.
Quality instead of quantity. Value instead of numbers. The secret is all there.
Disclaimer: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links, which means that if you choose to make a purchase, I may earn a small commission. This commission has no additional cost to you.
Writing is what connects me to people, love for nature is the filter with which I live and capture my experiences; I long for learning new things, observing and smiling to the world, sharing my experiences with those who have the same passions.
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