Wondering how you can travel while doing your part to protect the planet? Wanting to be more sustainable or environmentally-minded while you see the world doesn’t mean your wanderlust needs to take a backseat. From carbon offset programs and supporting small local business, to staying in hotels with eco-friendly credentials, there are many ways to make sure your footprint falls lighter on your next holiday. Start thinking about any smalls changes you can make to your next trip with these 11 easy ways for travelling more sustainably.
1. Offset Your Carbon When Flying
Make a positive impact on the planet by offsetting your carbon every time you fly. Carbon offset programs are commonly operated by travel businesses – airlines, cruise lines, travel agencies – and allow passengers the opportunity to compensate for or neutralise the emissions made during their travels. Offsetting usually happens by making a financial contribution to the program, and this support is then funnelled into projects that work to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, such as protecting native rainforest or delivering renewable energy sources to communities around the world.
2. Shop Local
Purchasing from small local businesses and producers not only supports the area’s economy; it also cuts down on the carbon emissions that go hand-in-hand with importing goods. If you can, give the chain stores, restaurants and cafes a miss in favour of independently-run options. The same principle applies for those all-important souvenirs; try looking for more unique or one-off pieces instead of mass-produced trinkets.
3. Minimise Your Plastic Use
It’s no secret that overconsumption of plastic is wreaking havoc on the environment, especially the world’s oceans. There are many different ways to cut down on plastic use without adding inconvenience. Carry a canvas tote to use instead of a plastic shopping bag; sit down at restaurants and cafes to save on takeaway packaging; trade disposable plastic water bottles for a refillable one. You can even purchase a bottle with a built-in filter for countries where the tap water isn’t safe to drink.
4. Opt Out of Animal Tourism
Wildlife encounters form the basis of many travel plans, be it seeing lions and leopards on safari in Africa, spotting toucans in the Amazon, tigers in India, or penguins in Antarctica. These experiences, when offered through verified operators, are truly spectacular. There are however, many practices the world over in which animals – especially those kept in captivity – are exploited, mistreated or neglected for the sake of tourism. If you do want to visit an animal sanctuary, reserve or park, always do your research. Who is it operated by? Is it accredited by animal welfare bodies? What are the reviews left by past visitors? If you’re venturing into habitats on wildlife-spotting adventures, also be sure to research the tour company or guide to confirm they follow best practices by not getting too close, have safety procedures in place, and take care not to disturb the environment.
5. Choose Sustainable Transport Options When Exploring
Moving around on foot is one of the best ways to explore a new destination, particularly if you’re in a city. It cuts down on carbon emissions from vehicles, plus you’ll get the chance to see more of a city by wandering side streets, alleyways and hidden paths – instead of going straight from Point A to Point B. Renting a bike is another eco-friendly option, and bike-sharing services are widely available in many cities around the world. If you can’t cycle or walk to where you want to go, make like a local as much as possible and jump onto public transport.
6. Use a Reef-Safe Sunscreen
While normal sunscreens do a great job of protecting our skin, some are not-so-great at protecting natural habitats and environments. Sunscreens may contain ingredients that damage coral reefs, causing coral bleaching and even the death of coral if the systems are exposed to these toxins regularly. If your next holiday will have you in the water frequently, think about picking up reef-safe sunscreens – there are plenty available on the market now. Check the ingredients to make sure it is free from oxybenzone or octinoxate, and opt for mineral-based ingredients like zinc oxide and titanium dioxide instead. Try to always use reef-safe sunscreen when swimming, surfing, snorkelling or diving, and consider reef-safe sunscreens even when you’re not headed to the water – especially if you are visiting an island or seaside destination. The ingredients from your sunscreen can be washed down the drain when you shower or rinse your hands and may end up in water systems anyway.
7. Give Responsibly
One of the biggest dilemmas travellers can face when overseas is feeling obliged to give out money, gifts or trinkets. While this practice has been commonplace in the past, the idea today is that it can foster a system of dependency and begging, particularly in children. Even giving something as small as a pen to a child who asks for it can encourage the behaviour. So, as hard as it can be, it is best to avoid giving to beggars. If you would like to help the communities you visit, look into verified organisations that run social welfare programs and partner with local outreach efforts.
8. Embrace Slow Travel
Travel is more accessible than ever, and it is incredibly tempting to try and jam seeing and doing as much as possible into every trip you take. The downside of that way of travelling is that you often find yourself needing a post-holiday holiday upon your return home! That is where the mindset of slow travel comes in. Snap up great-value flights to a destination on your bucket list, but take your time getting to know it once you arrive; stay a bit longer, immerse yourself in the culture, and don’t rely on minute-by-minute itineraries. There are even locations awarded official ‘slow city’ status, an initiative that started in Italy and was inspired by the slow food movement. Slow cities must meet a number of criteria, including population numbers and traffic flow. Some slow cities have included Goolwa, Yea and Katoomba in Australia; Positano, Greve in Chianti and Orvieto in Italy; Lagos in Portugal; and Matakana in New Zealand.
9. Eat Local
One of the best parts about travelling is the food; experiencing different cuisines, new ingredients, and exciting flavours. And savouring as many local eats as you can while away has an added benefit, as the more local a food item is, the less carbon emissions were likely required to transport it. Favour restaurants that support local farmers or even grow their own produce, shop for snacks or ingredients for self-cooked meals at farmers’ markets, and try to eat seasonally if possible (the latter is also great for travelling on a budget!).
10. Limit Your Laundry
Hotel and resort laundry services are renowned water-wasters, and while one of the appeals of staying in these accommodations can definitely be fresh linens and fluffy towels, the effort to maintain this luxury requires an incredible amount of water. Try to use your bathroom towels more than once or twice and ask for bed linens to be changed every other day. Consider washing or rinsing what you can of your clothes yourself in a bathroom sink or bathtub (using eco-friendly detergent, of course), or hold off until you’re down to your last pair of clean socks before outsourcing laundry to a local service.
11. Research Eco-Conscious Accommodation
Not all accommodation options are created equal, and when it comes to sustainability, eco lodges and green hotels are top-tier. Eco lodges aim to have the lowest environmental impact possible, often strive to work in harmony with and benefit local communities, and are usually found in destinations famed for unspoiled nature, such as the rice fields of Bali, the rainforests of Costa Rica, or the African savannah. Green hotels also use sustainable practices, but are more frequently located in big cities or more urban destinations. Look for hotels that use solar panels or other renewable energy sources, towel and linen reuse programs, recycling systems, electric car charging stations, bike rental, and environmentally-friendly bathroom amenities.
Put these simple swaps and tips to your next trip away, search for eco-friendly hotels and accommodation on Webjet, and look forward to having a more positive impact on the planet for your future travels.