If we want to have a planet to travel on within the next generation, we must rethink how we look at the travel industry. As it stands, air travel, boosted on the wings of tourism, emits an abhorrent amount of CO2. In 2018, this travel titan contributed 1.04 billion tons of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere.
This is why sustainable travel is among the most important adjustments we can make to how we approach vacations.
But what is sustainable travel? And, if you do travel sustainably, what should you pack? Here’s what you need to know.
What Is Sustainable Travel?
Sustainable travel is, as the name would suggest, travel that focuses on environmental and other forms of sustainability before all else. It’s travel that examines its impact on the current and future environmental, social, and economic landscape. It takes into account the needs of visitors, industry workers, and the host nation.
In so doing, sustainable travel ensures long-term survival for all parties involved.
How Can You Travel Sustainably?
With a clear definition in mind, you may wonder, “How am I supposed to travel sustainably and still have a great vacation?” Worry not! Our tips for eco-friendly travel are here to save the day.
Fly Less, Research More
As we mentioned above, air travel releases an abhorrent amount of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere each year. If you want to reduce the carbon footprint of your trip, consider traveling via train. Or, you can keep your vacation local, and find ways to enjoy your time with your family in your own backyard.
If you must take a plane to reach your destination, fly direct. While it may seem cheaper or more convenient, when you purchase flights with layovers, you add to the number of air trips you must take.
Take It Slow
One of our biggest cultural issues is our need to move as fast as possible from place to place. Even on vacation, we keep our time filled to the limit, refusing to stop and smell the roses. If you take it slow during your travels, you can appreciate the local culture and environment more than you would in rushing from tourist trap to tourist trap.
Sustainable travel and tourism aren’t exclusive. You can still visit common tourist destinations via a slower path.
Local Owners Are Your Friends
Look, we get it. Brand names speak volumes, and chain hotels often have great specials or rewards with your credit cards. However, in visiting them, you take money away from the local economy, putting it in the hands of corporations often foreign to the lands you’re visiting.
When searching for a place to stay, or even a place to eat, local owners are your friends. If you stay local and eat local, you’re putting money where it belongs: In the hands of native business owners and into the host country’s economy.
You’ll also have much better cuisine and a better appreciation of the culture if you dive into local-owned establishments. Why visit Japan if you’re going to eat at McDonald’s in Tokyo?
Interact Responsibly With Wildlife
Safaris, snorkeling, and other common wildlife attractions make for a fantastic trip. However, if you love animals as more than something for your entertainment, you must research how you can enjoy their presence without interfering in their local ecosystem.
Don’t opt for attractions that let you touch the wildlife. Instead, search for those which will allow you to observe them from a respectful distance.
Make Sure You Pack Light
Every pound of luggage you bring onto a flight contributes to its overall weight. This can increase the amount of fuel your plane must burn to stay in the air, which adds to its carbon dioxide emissions. Think about how much you need to pack ahead versus what you could purchase once at your destination.
As a side note, if you do purchase clothes or toiletries from your destination, make sure they’re eco-friendly and made by locals. By doing so, you’ll feed the local economy and have some gorgeous souvenirs to bring back home!
What Should You Pack for Eco-Friendly Travel?
If you’re ready to go on a sustainable vacation, but aren’t sure what you should pack, worry not. We have some suggestions that will make your packing list easier to pull together.
Reusable Utensils and Bottles
If you’re going to travel in a sustainable way, you should make sure to pack reusable utensils and bottles. A reusable water bottle will save you from having to buy loads of plastic bottles while out and about. And, if you intend to eat out while you’re traveling, bamboo utensils are an excellent eco-friendly alternative to plastic silverware.
When we mention eco-friendly toiletries, we don’t mean putting your normal toiletries into green containers. We mean ensuring the toiletries themselves are friendly to the environment. You can find well-made, natural deodorants, kinds of toothpaste, even eco friendly towels if you search.
In a similar vein, consider looking into zero-waste versions of things like sunscreen or bug repellant. Going green doesn’t have to mean suffering from sunburns or buzzing insects. You can find ways to use those same products with less plastic packaging. By doing so, you reduce the amount of plastic pollution that you contribute.
Let’s Review the Facts
Sustainable travel is a hot-button issue at the moment. However, it doesn’t have to mean never taking a vacation again. Rather, it means that you should be more mindful when and where you travel, avoiding flights where you can.
It means taking time to appreciate and absorb the culture you’re visiting, rather than rushing from place to place. It means feeding the local economy, not foreign transplants. It means finding as many ways as possible to reduce your environmental impact. If we all push for more sustainability, we may yet be able to save the planet.
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