The holidays we plan for recreation can have an unimaginable impact on the planet, but hardly do we realize this. For most of us, it took a global pandemic like COVID-19 to reflect on our past travel habits and now as the pandemic-hit tourism is on the road to revival, it’s time to switch to sustainable travel hereafter.
Sustainable tourism, as defined by the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), is ‘tourism that takes full account of its current and future economic, social and environmental impacts, addressing the needs of visitors, the industry, the environment, and host communities.’
Statistically, tourism accounts for about 8% of global carbon emissions. Travelers can do their part in reducing this by becoming more conscious of their choices, right from deciding on the destination to transportation, accommodation, and food options. Here are some sustainable travel tips you need to follow so that your travels do not leave a negative impact on the community, economy, and environment.
Book Direct Flights Whenever Possible
Aviation is one of the biggest contributors to carbon emission and decarbonization of air travel is still a long way to go. Thankfully, most airlines are keen on using biofuels to run their commercial flights. But until this becomes a reality for long-haul flights, you can consider flying nonstop to your destination because the carbon emission is less for nonstop flights as compared to flights with stopovers. You can also carbon offset your flights to make up for the carbon footprint caused by air travel, in some way. The easiest way to do this is to check the ‘carbon offset’ button (which you would see if your airline is offering this option) when paying for your flights online.
Plan a Long Holiday and Travel Slow
A long vacation gives you ample time to explore your destination at your own pace, unlike a short trip where you would mostly be rushing through travel experiences and adding to overtourism at the tourist hotspots. And overtourism is the polar opposite of sustainable travel. So, avoid crowded places and try offbeat experiences to make the most of your trip. You can also plan a holiday at sustainable travel destinations in India like Thenmala in Kerala, Mawlynnong in Meghalaya, Kanchenjunga National Park in Sikkim etc. Whichever place you visit; be a slow traveler and be a sustainable traveler.
Choose Eco-Friendly Transportation Options
While you cannot avoid taking international flights when planning an international trip, you can definitely go for eco-friendly transportation options once you reach your destination. Opt for cycling tours and enjoy train journeys. For instance, India has e-bike options at many popular tourist destinations such as Goa. You can utilize them. Ditch cars and private vehicles and travel in public buses and metros like a local. This way, you can not only have cultural experiences but also reduce your carbon footprint. You should give cruising a miss if you want to travel sustainably.
Invest in Zero-Waste Travel Items
Plastic is one of the biggest threats to the environment and as a responsible traveler, you must avoid single-use plastic items at all costs. Carry a reusable water bottle so you don’t have to buy disposable water bottles every time. Pack toiletries that come in paper packaging. Carry a reusable tote that can be used as a replacement for plastic carriers when shopping. Try to carry your own cutlery and metal straw, if possible. As sustainable travel is also about leaving no trace, be mindful that your activities do not interfere with the fragile ecosystem, especially when you are visiting national parks and protected areas.
Show Your Support to the Local Businesses
Sustainable travel is an all-encompassing term, which also includes taking measures that promote local businesses and strengthen the local economy. This means choosing to stay at locally-owned accommodations like ecolodges, homestays, and guesthouses instead of large hotel chains and luxurious resorts, eating at local restaurants, buying hand-made souvenirs from local stores etc. You can also plan a staycation at farms and enjoy a rural experience and in a way, contribute to agritourism.
So how are you planning sustainable travel in 2022?