10 Ideas For Becoming A Sustainable Traveller

Tourists have a responsibility to ensure they comply with sustainable practices wherever they travel. Some of these include buying local products, opting for ecofriendly accommodation and travelling in local transport
Women travelling in India
Women travelling in IndiaFlickr: Jeff Beazley

Sustainable tourism is gaining steam as global efforts to combat greenhouse gas emissions are ramped up. Tourists are increasingly calling for planet-friendly initiatives and actions, and practising responsible tourism when they travel. To this end, they need to make informed decisions before embarking on their journeys.

Here are 10 ideas that can pave the way for a sustainable and fulfilling travel experience.

The Right Destination Matters

A modern art sculpture at the Bihar Museum in Patna
A modern art sculpture at the Bihar Museum in Patna Flickr: Harvey Grenville

Selecting an appropriate destination is of utmost importance when choosing to travel sustainably. Opting for local adventures, or 'microadventures' as coined by the adventurer and author Alastair Humphreys, means exploring lesser-known areas of your own neighbourhood or visiting museums within your city.

Engaging in activities closer to home minimises carbon dioxide emissions and offers a sense of exploration and discovery. If you desire a more distant getaway, consider embarking on a short road trip to a nearby beach or forest.

Opt For Sustainable Places

The Nicobar pigeon or Nicobar dove is found in the coastal region of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands and is a near-threatened species
The Nicobar pigeon or Nicobar dove is found in the coastal region of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands and is a near-threatened speciesFlickr: Alan Greenberg

When selecting your travel destination, prioritise the regions and areas that embrace planet-friendly and sustainable practices. Look for places that demonstrate a commitment to preserving natural resources, protecting local communities and heritage, and reducing energy consumption. Opting for destinations with established governing bodies dedicated to managing sustainability ensures that your visit contributes positively to the environment and supports responsible tourism practices.

Avoid Travelling During Peak Season

Visit Venice during the off-season
Visit Venice during the off-seasonFlickr: Jimmy Pierce

Planning your trip during off-peak months is advisable when visiting bustling and popular cities. You can avoid the peak season crowds and enjoy a more relaxed and authentic experience. Consider extending your stay to immerse yourself further in the local culture and explore lesser-known attractions.

Travel To Destinations Needing Recovery

The island of Maui witnessed devastating wildfires in 2023
The island of Maui witnessed devastating wildfires in 2023Flickr: jamesclifford1

Travel and tourism play a crucial role in revitalising areas affected by natural disasters. Engaging in volunteer work for environmental and social projects can contribute to rebuilding devastated communities. Travellers can assist in the recovery process by travelling to destinations needing economic help but should first conduct due diligence to understand whether their arrival will be welcomed or resented by local communities.

Choose Ecofriendly Stays

The Heritage Palace Homestay in Odisha
The Heritage Palace Homestay in OdishaFlickr: gajalaxmi places

When selecting accommodation, prioritise ecofriendly options such as certified green hotels or locally-owned guesthouses. Seek tour operators and travel agencies that actively promote sustainable tourism and are committed to community development.

Commute Wisely

The Delhi Metro is one of the best ways to travel in the city
The Delhi Metro is one of the best ways to travel in the cityFlickr: Yusuke Kawasaki

Opt for bike or walking tours to explore your destination. If you are near a body of water, choose sailing over engine powered boats. Consider electric vehicles or select the smallest rental vehicle that accommodates your family's needs. Utilise public transport whenever possible as an ecofriendly option and an opportunity to connect with local people.

Pack Smartly

In Myanmar, people use a paste of ground bark called 'thanaka' to protect their skin from sun exposure
In Myanmar, people use a paste of ground bark called 'thanaka' to protect their skin from sun exposureFlickr: Wonderful Vietnam

Packing smart is crucial to reducing your environmental footprint and simplifying your travel experience. Opt for biodegradable shampoos, laundry bars, and reef-safe sunscreen to minimise ecological harm. Bringing your own water bottle and reusable cutlery helps reduce your reliance on single-use items, thus reducing plastic consumption.

Buy Local As Much As Possible

Artwork made by artists from Mizoram
Artwork made by artists from MizoramFlickr: Rangarajan V

Support local businesses by patronising them during your travels. Seek out establishments that offer unique products and support the local economy. Be mindful of items that contain animal products, especially when their origin is uncertain.

Eat Thoughtfully

Most South Indian dishes are vegan
Most South Indian dishes are veganFlickr: I In India

Making thoughtful choices about your diet can contribute to a sustainable and environmentally-friendly lifestyle, whether at home or while travelling. Opting for a vegetarian or vegan diet is an excellent way to reduce your ecological footprint. If you still want to consume non-vegetarian products, consider eating chickens raised in healthy pastures and sustainably-sourced seafood. However, if you are open to eliminating meat and dairy entirely, tofu and nuts are one of the most sustainable alternatives.

Choose Local Outfitters That Care For The Planet

An elephant herd at Jaldapara National Park, West Bengal
An elephant herd at Jaldapara National Park, West BengalFlickr: Niloy Mukherjee

Whether you choose a wildlife safari or go snorkelling and scuba diving, book your tour with a local company that is accredited with or adheres to the standards of the Global Sustainable Tourism Council. Refuse tour operators who promise hands-on engagement with wild animals. Give your money to tour operators who prioritise community-based tourism and take an active role in conserving the region's biodiversity. Do your research first and then ask local community members about such travel outfitters.

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