For years we’ve been making little changes to our lifestyles such as recycling, composting or reducing our overall plastic use in order to be more sustainable.
The concept of ‘conscious travel’ – respecting foreign communities and wanting to do better for the environment – was reported as a rising travel trend in 2020, just before the pandemic hit.
So it’s clear, the desire is there, but how do we actually put this concept into practice once travel resumes?
There are a number of things you can do, however, here are five easy steps to start with to be a more conscious traveller. And be aware, it may take a little more planning and costs than you’re used to.
1. Choose to travel off-peak or explore unique destinations
Some of the worlds most popular travel destinations are suffering from a case of ‘overtourism.’ This means the excessive number of visitors is putting a strain on the local culture, community and environment.
If you are travelling to a tourist hotspot, visit during their off-peak season to help minimise some of the strain.
If you’re conscious about your carbon footprint, this Environmental Performance Index identifies countries that are the most sustainable. European countries like Denmark, Switzerland and Luxembourg took out the top spots in 2020.
Alternatively, consider taking your tourism to unique and relatively undiscovered destinations. Or to areas in desperate need of tourism to help them rebuild after natural disasters, like Australia’s bushfire-affected towns. Once travel resumes, almost everywhere will be needing some tourism love.
2. Be wary of who you choose to travel with
If you love to travel with an organised tour group while you’re in a new place, then opting for an eco-friendly tour company would be the best way to minimise your carbon footprint.
Typically the smaller the group the better. However, as with companies like Exodus Travels or Intrepid, you will usually be able to tell from a tour company’s website whether they have any responsible or sustainable tourism policies in place.
Other signs of a responsible tour are when they offer activities that benefit local communities. For instance, food provided by local restaurants or producers, local guides, volunteer experiences and no invasive animal experiences. Bonus points for those taking the next step with environmentally friendly initiatives such as minimising plastic and waste.
You can also adopt this approach when choosing where to stay. Keep an eye out for accommodation in homestays, boutique properties or hotels that have sustainable practices at their core.
3. Consider alternative modes of transport
Air travel accounts for about two per cent of all global carbon dioxide emissions. This statistic is reportedly growing at a faster rate than previously predicted and creating a dire situation for our environment.
Swapping plane travel for alternatives is one the best thing you can do for the planet. And ideally, swapping it for trains. According to the International Transport Forum, travelling by train generates up to 10 times fewer carbon emissions than an aeroplane. And high-speed trains like carbon-neutral Eurostar are three times more energy-efficient than regional trains.
However, if you’re travelling long distances or overseas routes travelling by plane can be hard to avoid. In this case, you should consider the ‘greenest’ option.
For instance, look for an eco-friendly airline investing in improving fuel efficiency. Opt for more direct flights as most of the emissions get released during takeoff and landing. Or choose to carbon offset your flights.
4. Think about your packing
Packing is an area where you can have the most control over your carbon footprint. Conscious travel involves packing smart and packing light. So when it comes to clothing, try to pick only the essentials or items that mix and match. Not only will this make your luggage lighter for you to carry but it also may have an impact on the weight of the plane – a heavier plane needs more fuel to fly.
Try to minimise your plastic use while you travel by packing items like reusable drink bottles, coffee mugs, reusable straws, soaps over bottled shower gels and lightweight tote bags for shopping.
5. Give back to local communities and their environment
Once you’ve reached your destination it is important to be conscious of where you are spending your money. Give back to the local community as best you can by shopping from locally run businesses, seeking out experience run by locals rather than large corporations. Staying in Airbnb’s or Bed and Breakfast accommodation is also a great way to support local.
Dining in local restaurants, visiting farmers markets and enjoying local produce is another way to environmentally friendly. Not only does it support their businesses and give you a better taste of their culture, but the food you’re eating hopefully won’t have travelled far – meaning fewer carbon emissions will be given off.
Images: Pexels Stock Photos