National Tourism Day 2024: How To Travel Sustainably With Family

National Tourism Day is celebrated in India on January 25 to educate people about the importance of tourism. In 2024, let's focus on making our travel experiences not only memorable but also sustainable
Making our travel journeys more sustainable is important
Making our travel journeys more sustainable is importantDeposit Photos

Everyone should go on a family vacation. There are reams of research on how these wholesome holidays strengthen filial bonds, mend relationships, create precious memories, and even prevent divorce. However, while all travel, including those with family, may be good for the soul, there's no escaping the fact that it harms the environment.

Rakesh Mathur, President of the Responsible Tourism Society of India, says that there is no such thing as a "100 per cent sustainable trip." "No matter what you do, you will indulge in some form of consumption and leave a carbon footprint," he said. According to the United Nations Environment Programme's Green Economy Report, tourism would increase energy consumption by 154 per cent, greenhouse gas emissions by 131 per cent, water consumption by 152 per cent, and solid waste disposal by 251 per cent by 2050.

With these alarming statistics, it is not surprising that many Indians are increasingly conscious of reducing their carbon footprint when traveling. A report by online travel agency found that around 91 per cent of Indian travelers surveyed want to travel more sustainably over the coming year, which is a 15 per cent increase compared to 2021. Being conscious of the climate crisis and having sincere intentions to do something about it is half the battle won. Our handy checklist will help you plan your green, guilt-free sustainable family vacation.

Choose The Right Destination

When choosing a sustainable getaway, you must consider several factors, beginning with deciding how far you want to go from home. For, the further you travel, the more impact you are likely to have on the environment. Look for destinations closer to home that offer sustainable stay options and activities. For instance, the Uttarakhand Tourism Development Board actively initiates village treks and provides funding and support to local homeowners.

Ecotourism is big in Arunachal Pradesh, with organizations Ngunu Ziro and Greener Pastures spreading awareness among tourists about their responsibility towards the destination by encouraging local stays and safeguarding the ancient tribal culture. Non-profits Karbi Anglong Council and Root Bridge Foundation in Assam create rural tourism models to promote villages. Yale and Columbia University's environmental performance index research project helps plan an international vacation. It ranks 180 countries for their greenness.

Ecotourism is big in Arunachal Pradesh
Ecotourism is big in Arunachal PradeshPhoto by Unexplored Northeast on Unsplash

Travel Responsibly

Transportation releases a lot of greenhouse gases. Reports suggest that the emissions of worldwide aviation are approximately 1 billion tonnes of CO2 per year. Airplanes generate about 100 times more CO2 per hour than shared bus or train travel, and 2.4 per cent of yearly global CO2 emissions are attributed to aviation, most of which comes from commercial travel. Thus, passengers can do their part by making conscientious decisions before and during flights. A variety of tools can help travelers plan a sustainable vacation.

For example, Google Flights has added carbon emission estimates to its searches and recommendations for less-polluted routes. Skyscanner's Greener Choice, which provides a similar service for air travel, has expanded to car rentals, where you can now search for hybrid and electric cars. also has a Travel Sustainable badge and filter that highlights eco-friendly lodgings. Shivya Nath, a travel author, blogger, and consultant on sustainable tourism, shared some clean travel pointers.

Planes emit large amounts of fuel during takeoff
Planes emit large amounts of fuel during takeoffPhoto by Artturi Jalli on Unsplash
  • Planes emit large amounts of fuel during takeoff and landing, so book a nonstop flight.

  • Bonus points for choosing a sustainable airport, such as Cochin International Airport (the first green airport in the world) or Mumbai's Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport (CSMIA), which has entirely switched to green sources for its energy consumption needs.

  • Support airlines that have done away with single-use plastic or use oxo-biodegradable cutlery, such as Vistara, Air France, and Alaska Airlines.

  • Reduce your airtime by remaining in one location for extended periods.

  • If you have enough vacation days, consider railways, which are always the gentler option.

  • For road trips, rent a car with good mileage, opt for an electric or hybrid vehicle, or use public transport like buses. Of course, walking and cycling are the greenest forms of travel. To cover greater distances, hop on an electric bike or scooter.

  • Avoid cruise ships since they harm marine life, release tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, and dump toxic garbage into our oceans. Investigate the cruise line's sustainable ethos before booking.

Look For Green Lodging

Going green doesn't mean going off the grid. Nowadays, it is easy to find sustainable, comfortable, and well-connected accommodation. "Choose smaller, independently-owned lodgings wherever possible because they often produce less trash and foster stronger links with the neighborhood," said travel content creator and sustainable travel advocate Tanya Khanijow. The Coconut Lagoon in Kumarakom, Kerala, is a fabulous example of accommodation that incorporates the community. "Shantha (a local woman) provides tea from a copper samovar on the old plantation tea canoe within the Coconut Lagoon. Other ladies from the local community weave and sell screw pine from their shops within the grounds. In addition, a local man—Jijo—is employed as the resident naturalist," said an executive from the resort.

Nath said that her favourite travel experiences are in tiny homestays, guesthouses, and lodges that make an effort to have a less environmental impact rather than luxurious hotels. "While Grand Oak Manor in the Binsar Wildlife Sanctuary runs on wind and solar power, all garbage is composted or recycled at The Secret Garden in Goa, where vegan-friendly meals are created entirely with locally sourced ingredients. In the picturesque town of Sarmoli in the Uttarakhand region, community-run sustainable tourism homestays support local women."

Choose smaller, independently-owned lodgings
Choose smaller, independently-owned lodgingsDeposit Photos

Beware Of Greenwashing

One should also be mindful that even though a hotel makes an eco-friendly promise, it may not live up to it. An unfortunate result of the sustainable movement is greenwashing, which occurs when an organization spends more time and money presenting itself as ecologically friendly than actually reducing its environmental impact. Toby Sinclair, a founding member of the Responsible Tourism Society of India and a wildlife filmmaker, shares an anecdote about greenwashing: "I visited a property in Rajasthan recently and was welcomed by a presentation on their sustainability policy. But it was a blatant lie.

I would turn the air conditioning off in my room, but housekeeping would turn it on and set it at 18 degrees Celsius. The property had over 100 keys and many flat roofs but no solar panels or water heaters. Water was served in plastic bottles instead of glass ones." To check for authenticity, he suggests seeking out properties that have received a stamp of approval from a reputable environmental organization. "When choosing a destination or an accommodation, travelers can compare environmental initiatives, conservation efforts, and how much investment and commitment it is putting into delivering a truly sustainable experience."

Choose Sustainable Activities

For excursions, the type of tour you choose is as critical as the mode of transportation. The aim should be to support the local economy, particularly indigenous communities and under-represented groups like women. You could stay on a working coffee or tea plantation in Kerala (Tranquil Plantation Homestay) or Darjeeling (Makaibari Tea Estate). A trekking tour that supports sustainable tourism and is environmentally friendly is also a great option.

Most cities have walking tours led by locals, and visitors can sign up for such personal excursions. "Learning about a place with someone familiar with it intimately and has the desire to give back can improve our understanding of the world and help us form genuine human relationships," said Khanijow. For additional green outing ideas and tour companies, check with the city, state, or country's tourism office, which often has materials dedicated to ecotourism.

  • Ecotourism operators like Kipepeo connect you to local homestays, create bespoke itineraries, and bring you closer to the communities and lives of Northeast India.

  • Evolve Back, which has several resorts in Karnataka, promotes and engages in responsible tourism, including responsible trash management, energy use, and water consumption.

  • Spiti Ecosphere runs locally managed homestays, contributes to the villagers' meager farming wages, and invests in solar energy.

  • India Untravelled offers rural farm stays and homestays in remote regions.

  • In Uttarakhand's Nag Tibba, Kanatal, and Uttarkashi, Green People have established a supply chain for the superfoods that grow there. They have trained locals to serve as hosts.

Look for local homestays while travelling
Look for local homestays while travellingShutterstock

Eat Local, Reduce Waste

"Finding local, farm-to-table eateries is a terrific way to get eco-friendly meals while on vacation. These businesses buy their products from nearby farms, reducing transportation emissions and boosting the neighborhood economy," said Khanijow. One of the best ways to reduce waste when planning an eco-friendly family vacation is to focus on reusable items. This includes everything from bringing your reusable water bottles to packing clothes that can be worn more than once. Opt for things that can be reused or recycled. You can carry a set of reusable dishes and utensils instead of paper plates and plastic silverware.

Interact with locals and understand their way of living
Interact with locals and understand their way of livingDeposit Photos

Get The Kids Involved

Teach your kids about sustainability and its importance from a young age. Explain every sustainable decision you make. Tell them why you chose a train over a flight and why you are choosing slow travel over multiple destinations. "Being a sustainable traveler starts at home, in your personal life. Take the time to show them video clips or books on irresponsible travelers' impact on the environment and local communities. Afterward, brainstorm ways each person in the family can make a difference. You will be surprised at how eager they are to rise to the challenge. The more they change their habits at home, the easier it will be to transfer that too on the road," said Mathur.

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