We all enjoy travelling to different destinations; with the millions of hotels dotted around the world, easy access to hundreds of flights and many tours available to go on. Being a tourist has never been as easy as it is now. Why wouldn’t you take a trip away from normal life? But the thing is we never really think about the effects these travels have on the environment and the local region we go to, things such as CO2 emissions and water usage. Let’s stop being that typical tourist and become a well-seasoned responsible traveller.
First of all what is a responsible traveller?
You may be asking this question in your head, well a responsible traveller is someone who makes positive impacts while travelling through countries; instead of adding damage to these beautiful destinations. They help to benefit both the Environment & local native people in the region they are visiting. Being aware of pressures the country is facing- such as water shortage, animal endangerment, and pollution to name a few; and trying to not add to these problems.
Here are some ways you can be sustainable while travelling.
Stay in locally-run accommodation
You may not think it but your accommodation has an impact on the country you are visiting; while staying in big hotel chains may not necessarily cause huge damage, staying in locally owned hotels, B&B’s and even homestay, makes such a big difference to you and the destination you are in. Experience life like a local by staying with the natives, you not only get the chance to experience the culture first hand but you can even develop your language skills with your homestay family and get advice from them as to where is the best places to eat, and visit. Also by doing this you help the local economy- as the money goes into the community.
Conserve your water
Booking your family all-inclusive holiday in a hotel chain may be the easiest thing to do with the endless supply of running water throughout your trip. You don’t realise how much your water usage affects the locals, especially in such areas where drought is a major problem for the country. Controlling how much water you use on your trip would be beneficial for preserving the environment and not use water that isn’t necessarily there. For instance you could not use the fresh towels every day service your hotel offers and simply reuse your towels- reducing the amount of water the hotel uses for laundry, even take short showers instead of long baths and carry a reusable water bottle with you throughout the day. There are many ways you could reduce your water intake while still have a great holiday. But here’s another option you could always book your holiday with hotels that are a part of the Rainforest Alliance; they work endlessly to conserve water throughout all their properties while spreading awareness about water conservation & drought issues.
Give back while visiting
Your holiday may be to get away from work and stress of your normal life back home, so of course lying on the beach, by the pool or taking a city tour for the day is what you go on holiday for. What if your trip could become more beneficial for you, the local people, and the environment? Would you try making a difference while travelling? Get out and volunteer, it doesn’t have to be a lot just a simple few hours would make all the difference, you could volunteer at a local orphanage, conservation site or simply just giving a homeless person some water and food. The little things help. But one thing I would say is be careful; you are in a different country so people & cultures are so diverse it can be difficult to know if you are allowed to help, just ask and I guarantee you that the local people in your chosen destination would be so happy and appreciate the help.
Try to avoid the selfies with exotic animals
We can all too often add an encounter with a lion or monkey to our bucket lists. Posing for a picture with a tiger or riding on an elephant’s back. It can all seem like harmless fun on your travels. Now we probably have done something in our lifetime that involves animals for instance camel rides in the desert, or going to a circus. Seeing these wild animals on your adventures can be a memorable part of any trip but you may not be aware of the hidden cruelty and abuse these animals suffer all for entertainment purposes. Make your next trip cruelty free; you could even save an animals life by avoiding these activities, which would be more memorable I believe.
Carry reusable items with you
This tip is more about helping the environment; I noticed on my last trip how much plastic & how many paper napkins are used in holiday resorts, restaurants and even bars; if I’m honest, it’s a scary amount. I bet you have never thought about the effects this has on the environment, how many drinks have you had in a plastic cup with a plastic straw? Because we don’t see where our trash goes doesn’t mean it just disappears right?- well according to environmental agencies approximately 500 million plastic straws end up in landfill every day- that is a crazy amount of waste, on just straws alone. What if you carried your own with you throughout your trip would you? Knowing that you will stop adding to the damaging impacts on the earth, oh and not to mention it will make your drinks look a lot nicer.
Eat local cuisine
Instead of being that typical tourist scared to try new foreign food and sticking to chips, why not expand on your tastes while on your travels. Make it an adventure for your palette. Try the foods the locals would eat on a regular basis. This would reduce your carbon footprint as you are eating foods produced in the country of origin- good for the environment.
I know as a vegan it can be difficult to do this as a lot of locally made food can contain meat or animal by-products in them. Always ask the servers if the food is suitable for vegans. But if you have the app Happy Cow (which is available on the app store and Google play) you can search for restaurants & cafes that would be 100% vegan or vegetarian in the local area. I found the app very helpful while in towns I didn’t quite know.