Sustainable tourism practices help travelers minimize their negative impact while maximizing the positive. Abbie Synan offers simple tips for more sustainable travel.
Now that travel has come to a temporary halt, we are becoming increasingly aware of how important our choices are when planning a vacation or business trip.
Where we choose to go, how we get there, and what we bring are choices we make that impact communities, the environment, and beyond.
The decisions we make as individuals can have a major influence on the tourism industry as a whole. Switching towards sustainable tourism practices can be a way we all contribute to a positive change globally.
Sustainable Tourism Practices: Simple Changes to Make
A Better BnB: Switching up your stays
Make a quick swap when it comes to booking accommodation for a trip. It can be as simple as where you make your bookings or the criteria for booking a hotel or apartment.
Large hotels run by multinational corporations and property management companies monopolizing rental sites can play a negative role in local economies.
For better impacting the local economy, there are a few minor adjustments you can make when planning on where to stay.
Find booking programs that prioritize sustainability. Platforms like Green Pearls, Goodwings, and Green Key are great sources for eco-friendly accommodations.
Book Different is run by Booking.com and is a great alternative to traditional booking sites.
More niche sites like Book Greener and EcoBnB are your one-stop for unique and sustainable accommodations.
Want your “go to” overall search platform to be a bit more eco-conscious?
Try browsing on Ecosia instead of Google. Ecosia is a sustainable search engine that donates a portion of its ad revenue towards initiatives like tree planting.
It is a way to still use your traditional booking sites but be a bit greener.
Sustainable travel practices: Trading in your toiletries
The simplest sustainable travel swaps can be found in your carry on or checked luggage. Changes made in your toiletry bag are an easy swap that can start in your bathroom at home.
Buying zero waste products can begin in your own bathroom, which makes it easier to pack more consciously. Look for products with minimal packaging.
Look for companies that use bamboo, glass, and metal, as well as recyclable or biodegradable products. Avoid plastic wherever possible.
Buy in bulk to fill silicone travel bottles with your shampoo, conditioners and lotions. You can then avoid using the little plastic bottles at the hotel.
Heading to the beach? Be sure to find a product that is reef-friendly to avoid polluting our oceans. There are great alternatives to traditional sunscreens.
Companies like Raw Elements are coming up with innovative ways to protect your skin.
In addition to making sustainability swaps to your travel toiletries, you could try switching out your checked baggage for carry on luggage. Bringing lighter bags means less weight for the plane, so less fuel is needed for the flight.
Cut your Carbon: Replacing your transportation
Take trains over planes whenever possible. Public transportation is a more eco-friendly mode of transportation. The issue is that some places don’t have adequate public transit, or you may be traveling to a place that isn’t as robust as others.
The United States and Europe are good examples of this.
With the sheer size of the US and historical dependence on the automobile, it is difficult to move from the west coast to the east coast in a timely manner without flying.
European holidays, however, can make moving from country to country easier by train or public transit.
Be a better planner and pick places near to one another to get from A to B easier and more efficiently.
Instead of visiting four different countries within one vacation, pick one country you’ve always wanted to explore and go to a few cities by rail or road instead of bouncing around by plane.
Take fewer flights. Direct flights sitting in economy class is the most effective way to cut your carbon footprint if you have to fly.
Choose an airline that is making strides towards sustainability. Airlines like Norwegian are using more fuel-efficient planes.
Alaska Airlines is very transparent regarding their carbon emissions, and have been a constant in a “greener skies” initiative.
Go to your favorite airline’s website and see how prominent sustainability and eco-innovations are in their mission.
If you aren’t satisfied, find another airline that takes climate change seriously.
Mind your Tours: Practicing sustainable tourism
Day tours and hiring tour operators can be a major change towards more impactful travel.
By choosing a tour operator or guide that is local, you have less chance of tourism leakage, which is when your tourism dollars don’t stay in the community that you’re visiting.
A locally owned and operated business has a far greater chance of taking the money spent on a tour and inserting it back into the local economy.
That means where you stayed, the people you interacted with, and the activities you participated in will directly benefit from the money you spent.
Larger companies and organizations, unless specified, will take your tourism dollars to outside entities. Those local economies will not benefit as much from your spending.
Tour operators like GAdventures and Intrepid Travel are larger companies that have made significant advancements in ethical travel practices.
Choosing a tour company that values their local partners, cares for the environment, and has an interest in wildlife safety and conservation is worth your travel dollars.
Find small tour operators that resonate with your sustainable travel choice.
Maybe they pay local partners a fair, living wage. They might be experts in wildlife conservation efforts and you’re looking to plan a trip observing animals.
Whatever size tour operator you choose, don’t feel shy about asking questions about how their business is practicing more responsible tourism.
Sustainable travel can feel like a daunting topic to tackle. Much like the climate crisis, it seems like at every turn, there is a problem needing remedied.
How can we attempt to try and fix such a massive issue? To avoid feeling overwhelmed, just pick one easy change at a time.
Make one choice differently and, by slowly incorporating more positive approaches in planning, it will feel like a seamless swap towards more sustainable tourism practices.
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All photos courtesy of Abbie Synan.