Happy Earth Day! While I think every day should be Earth Day, today is important to remind ourselves Earth’s resources are limited, and we must conserve and protect them to sustain our ever-growing population.
Today is also an ideal time to talk about a growing travel trend: sustainable tourism. Booking.com just released its annual sustainable travel report, and it shows people are increasingly aware of the impact their travel choices can make on the environment. The study says 72 percent of people think the time is now to make environmentally responsible travel plans so future generations can enjoy the planet.
Even better, 73 percent of travelers intend to stay at an eco-friendly or green accommodation in the next year. Unfortunately, almost the same amount (72 percent) of global travelers admit they are not aware of the existence of eco-labels for travel accommodations. Just over two thirds of those surveyed (37 percent) say they would feel encouraged if there was an international standard for identifying eco-friendly accommodation. So, while the future of sustainable tourism looks promising, there is some progress to be made.
Besides staying at green hotels and resorts, there are ways to make your tourism eco-friendly right now. Below are some things to keep in mind when planning your next trip:
I personally tend to avoid run-of-the-mill souvenirs when travelling and aim for something locally made or unique enough that I won’t be throwing it out in a few years (I type this as I think of my Eifel Tower and Leaning Tower of Pisa replicas I bought when I was a kid that I have been avoiding throwing out for years). Try purchasing something that can be used like food, spices or an actual house decoration from the area. When I was in London, for example, I bought jelly from Fortnum and Mason and kept the jar after I ate the jelly.
Use a reusable
Try to carry a reusable water bottle wherever you go. Firstly, it saves money because you won’t be buying a new drink each time you run out of one. There are many different types of foldable water bottles that make traveling with reusable bottles easier. Secondly and most importantly, doing this will save a lot of plastic. Other reusable products you can pack are cloth shopping bags, a container for leftovers and even—gasp—a metal straw.
While jumping from place to place can be fun, a slower pace in one place limits your use of cars, trains, buses and planes. Think of all the energy you can save!
And if you have to jump from place to place, opt for companies who have green initiatives. Qantas Airline, for example, uses sustainable aviation biofuel, and high-speed trains like Eurostar have much less carbon emissions than normal trains. Using direct routes, such as a flight without a layover, is also more energy efficient.
Reuse your towels
I know a fresh daily towel is a common perk at many hotels, but you can save water by reusing your towels, and therefore reducing the amount of times they get thrown in a washing machine. Many hotels already have cards in their bathrooms that instruct you to hang up your towels so the maid does not take them. It’s as simple as that!
Speaking of using less water for laundry, I recommend packing as lightly as possible, as I try to do. Wearing less clothing means less laundry when you get home, and an easier time picking outfits! Additionally, less suitcase weight on the plane can help save gas.
Research your tours
If you really want to get into eco-tourism, there is no shame in trying to pick responsible tour operators. See if they have any environmental initiatives and/or hire local tour guides, which makes a direct impact on the local economy. I have successfully used ToursbyLocals in the past, which as you can guess, offers tours of cities from passionate locals.
Do not buy wildlife products
You may think you’re helping the local economy by buying from a local, but if you’re buying a real animal fur hat or a wild-caught seashell, there’s a chance you are supporting the endangerment of native species.
Stick up for wildlife
When surrounded by exotic wildlife, it’s important to remember thousands—or millions—of people see the same scenery each year. So, stay on marked trails to avoid damaging the plants and trees around you. Similarly, refuse the urge to touch marine life while snorkeling or scuba diving. Lastly, avoid animal exploitation and tourist attractions that include posing with or riding animals. I went to an elephant sanctuary in Thailand where we cooked for and fed the elephants, as well as washed them, but we were not allowed to ride them.
Do you have any sustainability tricks to share? Your knowledge can be shared in the comment section below.