By it’s very nature, travel undeniably impacts on the environment and the people and cultures who are part of the travel process. You can’t get from one side of the world to the other without leaving some form of footprint and so as responsible global citizens, there is plenty of room for us to learn how to travel “lighter” and minimise our global footprint. There are loads of buzzwords being thrown around on this topic – from eco travel to green travel and responsible travel to sustainable travel – but what travellers really want to know is how can we implement simple but effective changes to the way we travel in order to really make a difference.
We hear you! That’s why we have come up with this list of things you can do to start travelling lightly.
1. Reduce your carbon emissions. There is no denying that plane travel emits a heck of a lot of carbon. So by travelling internationally we have a lot of ground to make up if we want to go “green”. So start out right by offsetting your flight emissions and flying carbon neutral. Most major airlines have an option to offset your emissions and you can use an online emissions calculator to work out how much you will need to contribute to fly carbon neutral. The airline then usually passes on this contribution to environmental and social projects. Check out Qantas’ Carbon Neutral program to see how it works.
2. Rethink how you consume water. You might be great at avoiding plastic bottled water at home but travel seems to be one of the last bastions when it comes to ditching the unnecessary plastic. We get it. It’s practical. It’s safe. And when you’re travelling in developing countries the last thing you want is a case of violent vomiting and diarrhea from that water you just knew you should have avoided! BUT! There are achievable alternatives. You can fill reusable bottles with boiled or filtered water. Or you can invest in a nifty product like LifeStraw that literally makes contaminated water safe to drink. AMAZING!
3. Buy local. Wherever possible it is always advisable to buy local when you’re travelling. Whether it’s using a local tour operator, staying in locally owned accommodation, buying souvenirs that are ethically produced by local artisans (we know all about this – check out some of our artisan-produced treasures in the online store) or patronizing restaurants that serve locally grown produce. The best way for a country to see real benefits from the influx of tourism dollars is to ensure the money we are spending is directly filtering through to the local economy. If you stay in massive chain hotels and shop for cheap souvenirs purchased in Vietnam but made in China, chances are you could make some easy improvements here.
4. Be culturally sensitive. To me this is plain common sense, but it’s also the one that you see violated most while travelling. The number of times I’ve seen travellers wearing inappropriate clothing or draping themselves over important cultural sites for photographs, I can’t even bear to count! It’s very simple to do a little bit of research to make sure you don’t inadvertently cause cultural offense while you’re travelling. For example in some Muslim countries it is forbidden for women to show any skin. In others, tourists must cover their hair to enter important religious sites. Some cultures don’t allow photographs to be taken of any military or religious sites. The list is endless! But what it boils down to? DO YOUR RESEARCH!
5. Think about sustainability in everything you do. The World Commission on Environment and Development defines sustainable travel as “meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”. How beautiful is that? If you can make this statement your own personal travel mantra, you will absolutely minimise your global travel footprint every day. Lots of famous tourist destinations have really bad reputations for having hugely negative impacts on the environment and the local culture. We’ve all experienced restaurants that cater only to foreign tourists, world heritage landmarks strewn with rubbish and tacky souvenirs peddled at busy cultural sites. If we can all become better at questioning our behaviour while we travel and having a discussion about the potential negative impacts, we can go a long way to becoming more intentional, sustainable travellers.