Many travellers are curious about travelling in a more eco-conscious way, but aren’t quite sure how to do it. There are in fact lots of surprisingly simple things you can do (and not do) in order to make your travel more environmentally, socially and economically sustainable. Here, ETG’s Head of Sustainable Travel, Alice Bayly, gives you practical tips to reduce your travel footprint, maximise your positive impact and have a more meaningful travel experience at the same time.
SUSTAINABLE TRAVEL DO’S:
Fly Direct: It might not be the cheapest, but a straight line is shorter than if you make stops en route, and this cuts down on carbon emissions. Also, take-off and landing uses more fuel than flying at altitude, not to mention all the emissions and the environmental impact of stopover airports. At the same time, some airlines operate more fuel-efficient aircraft than others or have a reputation for running fully-booked routes rather than running lots of half-empty planes so, if you are interested, you can make a deliberate choice.
Fly less but stay for longer: The carbon footprint of your flight will be the same whether you are away for a week or a month, and staying longer increases your contribution to the local economy. When travelling around a country, look for alternatives to domestic flights where possible, and enjoy the more immersive, less obtrusive experiences afforded by walking and cycling tours.
Pack smart: We all need to do our bit in the fight against plastic so don’t forget a reusable water bottle (or if you don’t have one, we’ll give you one on arrival) and shopping bag and try to avoid taking throwaway items. Read about ETG’s “one bottle at a time’ initiative to reduce plastic water bottle waste and give our clients access to refill stations here. We’ve also got tips for a sustainable traveller’s packing checklist here. Packing smart also means packing light – according to Tomorrow’s Air, if everyone packed 2lbs less, the impact on carbon emissions would be equivalent to removing over 10,000 cars from the road annually!
Plant some trees, or choose another way to offset the carbon footprint of your travels. Some airlines offer you the opportunity to do this at the time of booking, in the form of an optional add-on to the cost of your flight. If you travel with ETG, we will make a contribution on your behalf to support mangrove planting and rainforest protection projects in Asia. Read about our collaboration with SeaTrees here or get in touch if you would like to know more.
Learn a bit of lingo: Simply being able to greet and thank people in their own language shows respect, breaks down barriers and your efforts are sure to raise a smile!
Eat, Shop Local: Locally made crafts and souvenirs are not always the cheapest, but by purchasing them you’ll be contributing directly to the communities you visit. We also always recommend you opt for the smaller eateries; that way you’ll support the local economy, preserve traditional cuisines – and have the tastiest food.
Save water. Drink beer instead! Or, on a more serious note, asking your hotel not to change your sheets and towels daily will reduce water, electricity and chemical consumption, not to mention increasing the lifespan of all that linen.
Be a traveller, not a tourist: Ask questions, keep an open mind and respect the customs and culture of those you meet. In short, be travel curious! At the same time, for a more meaningful cultural exchange, be prepared to share something about yourself and where you come from as well.
Support a local charity or NGO: If you find you have some unused currency at the end of your trip why not put it to good use? Your guide will be able to recommend a charitable organisation or social enterprise making a real difference to people’s lives.
Travel with a responsible tour operator: When selecting your holiday company, ask questions to ensure that their practices are socially, environmentally and economically responsible. At Experience Travel Group we have a designated sustainable travel team who work to ensure our holidays are as respectful and sustainable as possible.
SUSTAINABLE TRAVEL DON’TS:
Do not scare the animals. Avoid disturbing wildlife and do not damage their natural habitat – generally, this means keeping a safe distance and being careful to leave the environment as you left it. A local guide will be able to further educate you on how best to respect your surroundings. And to ensure future generations will be able to enjoy the same natural wonders, don’t purchase souvenirs made from endangered species natural materials (bone, feathers, shells, coral etc).
Do not touch coral. When snorkelling or diving, touching corals can kill them as oils from your skin interfere with the delicate ecosystem. Admire from a safe distance!
Do not encourage begging. Spending your money in the normal way or supporting a charitable organisation is more effective and of longer-term value than giving to beggars.
Similarly, be wary of giving sweets and other gifts to children and villagers in developing countries. Though well-meaning, this kind of act can create conflict within the community or a culture of dependency. You can instead give money or goods to reputable local charities who will distribute them in a more culture-conscious way. Our in-country partners will be happy to advise you or ask us when you get home.
If you’d like more information on sustainable travel, please don’t hesitate to get in touch. You can reach us on 02079247133, or drop your questions in here. Don’t worry – this carries no obligation; we’re just happy to talk (eco) travel.