There was a time when tourism was a concept of entertainment instead of an ethical dilemma. But times have changed and so have we.
We now envision the aftermath of our actions and we are aware of our footprint on the planet. We try to live sustainably and we encompass that to all areas of our lives, including travelling. The minute we realized that the way we spend our money can have a beneficial impact on the world was the very first minute that a switch flipped and change was on its way.
Change, however, does not happen overnight and sustainable travelling turned out to be a journey, not a destination.
Even the most devout nihilists would agree.
The concept of eco-tourism is not entirely new, it has been around since the Rolling Stones. What is new, is the way we now perceive it as we gained more awareness and realized that we can’t have it all. We live, therefore we consume, and therefore we are a burden on the planet, period. Which of course does not change the fact that we should be doing our best to focus on reducing environmental impacts of existence.
So, what’s stopping us?
|42%||of travelers are worried about the extra costs of sustainable travels|
|32%||feel that they don’t have enough information to make a solid decision|
|22%||of the busy bees are afraid that it would be much more time consuming than organizing a conventional trip|
|22%||are not overly excited about the eco-friendly destinations|
put luxury first as they fret about the less lush amenities and lack of comforts.
Let’s go with the worst case scenario here:
Let’s assume that there is a grain of truth to all of the above. Just a speck.
In that case, how many positives outweigh a negative?
Take that number and I’ll multiply it by ten because today we sure have enough positives to outweigh the negatives and turn the page on responsible travelling.
Welcome to the green side. We have vegan cookies.
If cookies are not enough to lure you aboard, we can’t be friends but keep reading, I’ll give you more reasons.
LET’S TALK MONEY.
Tourism is the third economic activity in Europe, according to data from EU. Every year a billion people travel throughout the world (one in nearly six people) and continue to grow. The forecast maintain that, in 2030, the number of tourists will increase to 1.8 million, doubling the number of a few years ago. And the introduction of an ethical and responsible way to do that, has created an added value for the majority of travelers.
Basically it’s like giving people more reasons to travel, hence boosting the economy.
Extra points of coolness: With sustainable travelling you enable the local communities to develop processes and structures which not only support them but also the future generations via a responsible form of tourism. By spending your money on local products and services you are generating income within the local communities and boost the vitality of the local businesses.
The main idea is that the financial gain stays within the community.
LET’S TALK SOCIAL GROWTH.
A.k.a putting the needs of people first. Instead of harming, empowering. Instead of exploiting, support cultures. Instead of imposing on tradition, preserve heritage.
The way we travel does have social and cultural impacts and there are effects on the people of host communities of their direct and indirect associations with tourists.
It’s totally ok to experience another culture. Very educational and thought provoking. So, let’s do it the right way by not imposing western civilization or visiting places that are not capable or willing to host hoards of tourists.
LET’S TALK NATURE.
Which is probably what made you read this article in the first place.
At some point we realized that tourism can cause all sorts of pollution. It goes way beyond solid waste, air pollution and littering. The carbon dioxide emissions related to transportation energy use are scary. The aesthetic pollution is another factor that we tend not to take seriously. As well as the local resources needed to meet the needs of the guests. And then there’s the land degradation of course for the all the constructions on behalf of tourism.
Unfortunately there is no carbon-neutral way to travel the world, there are no zero-damage solutions. What we can do is balance out all the negatives by developing as many good habits as possible in your everyday day, and take that mindful mindset on board on your travels. It won’t weigh your language and it will lift a weigh off your shoulders just by knowing that you are striving to have a positive impact. It’s as selfish as beneficial. You do good, you feel good.
What you can do to waste less:
Sadly, we cannot fly superman style. I know you’d love to. Hop on a plane but chose direct flights if possible. Since as much as 50% of carbon emissions come from takeoff and landing, you are starting your journey on the right foot!
If you can, travel with a green airline. Here is a list of the top ten greenest airlines to save you the research.
Fun fact: The least eco-friendly tickets of all aren't the cheapest but the most expensive. Business-class and first-class seats take up more space on the plane, thereby reducing the number of people who can fit on each flight.
A capsule wardrobe mindset is a success for yet another reason besides the fact that it helps you look flawless no matter what. Pack your own toiletries in eco-friendly jars that you will reuse time after time. Do your own laundry if possible because hotels tend to wash your items individually hence using mush more resources.
Fun fact: If passengers pack lighter—making simple changes like leaving that extra pair of shoes at home (two pounds)—the annual environmental impact from reduced fuel consumption is the equivalent to removing 10,500 cars from the road for [an entire] year.
Use reusable food containers:
Every little bit helps. Most restaurants and grocery stores are now familiar with the concept and they will probably be happy to fill your jars. A reusable coffee mug is a must whether you are travelling or not.
Fun fact: No one loves their cup of Joe as much as I do, I get it, you too, need your fix. But make sure you bring your own mug if you need that caffeine in your blood stream. Even if you try to recycle your cups and bottles, only a fraction will be recycled. The vast majority end up clogging our landfills (which have finite space) littering the countryside, eventually making their way to the waterways and ocean.
Do home exchange:
The most effective and satisfying model of alternative traveling! I have been home swapping for years and I can confirm that it will change your life. In fact this is a topic I’m so passionate about that people think it’s sponsored. It’s not.
When you home exchange you make the most of the existing resources. Basically you are using a vacant home, fully equipped with all the appliances and pieces of furniture that you need to feel at home. You live like a local, you save an enormous amount of money and you make friends for life. I have zero reasons why not to!
Fun fact: Organized home exchange originated in 1953 by a group of European teachers looking to travel internationally economically during their summer breaks. Today’s demographics show that participants tend to be well-educated and well-traveled, as the concept is experiencing rapid growth. Woohoo!
Think of the destination:
Choose conservation minded destinations.
Venice is sinking while the Great Wall of China is crumbling. There are destinations that are over flooding with tourists to the point that they’ve become vulnerable and unable to keep up with the demand.
Of course you can still travel to London but apart from that, there are plenty of stunning destinations worth a visit. Here is a list of 10 destinations worth your attention.
Once you reach your destination remember that you don’t have to sacrifice fun in the sake of sustainability. Little actions of mindfulness go a long way:
-Avoid buying mass-produced souvenirs and opt for locally made product to bring back home of you feel the need to purchase something.
-Use public transportation and walk as much as you can. It’s so rewarding and you will sneak a little exercise into your holiday plan.
-Skip the touristic sightseeing places and discover the little hidden gems that every place has to offer.
-Support restaurants that use local ingredients and local resources.
-If you have the time and energy, volunteer while you are travelling!
There’s even a word for it: Voluntourism.
There are plenty of projects that allow you to contribute in a positive way while exploring a new culture and a new country.
Have you packed your bags yet?