How To Explore India While Minimising Your Carbon Footprint

Whether you're travelling to another city or going deep into the hinterlands of the country, choose to be a responsible traveller and leave a positive impression behind
A scene from a train platform in India
A scene from a train platform in IndiaFlickr: Lucy Higgins

As more and more people live economically better lives, access to tourism has progressively expanded and along with the advent of social media, travelling etiquette and ethics have changed in unimaginable ways. According to data and business intelligence platform Statista, over 1,731 million domestic tourist visits were made across India in 2022.

With the domestic and international tourism industry set to increase year-on-year and the climate crisis becoming even more intractable, we believe it's imperative that travellers make ethical and sustainable tourism a cornerstone of their itineraries. If you're travelling to rural and remote areas in India, these six tips will help tourists plan holidays in a manner that leaves a lasting positive impression on themselves and on the places they visit.

Ditch The Tried And Tasted

Wahan Mosdeng or pork bharta is a famous delicacy of Tripuri cuisine
Wahan Mosdeng or pork bharta is a famous delicacy of Tripuri cuisineWikimedia Commons: Tuhi2001

Try the local cuisine and leave McDonald's behind. It's enormously rewarding to learn about and taste the variety of regional meals made with indigenous crops and locally procured herbs and spices. It's worth giving your taste buds a vacation, too.

Find Yourself At Home

A homestay in Rumbak village, Ladakh
A homestay in Rumbak village, LadakhFlickr: Jeremy Barnett

There are several community-run and individually-owned homestays that enable local people and their families to earn a dignified livelihood. Armed with humble means, limited resources and plenty of warmth, such accommodations use innovative and ecofriendly measures to ensure their guests have an authentic and homely experience. Take pride in your reduced carbon footprint when you shower with hot water that is heated by solar panels.

Cycle, Walk Or Use Local Transport

Rajasthani women wearing traditional attire while shopping in the local market
Rajasthani women wearing traditional attire while shopping in the local marketFlickr: RISHABH SRIVASTAVA

Try not to hop from one prescribed destination to another in a motor vehicle as you will likely lose out on the opportunity to see how a day in the life of a resident looks like. Take a walking tour of the place you are visiting or better yet, rent a cycle. Allow yourself to pause at any given spot. See what they sell at the bazaars, pay attention to the colours of flowers lining the alleyways, appreciate how the local homes are decorated, and play with the toys that the local children play with.

Make Conversation

A Bhil tribesman playing the fute during the Bhagoria Festival celebrations in Madhya Pradesh
A Bhil tribesman playing the fute during the Bhagoria Festival celebrations in Madhya PradeshWikimedia Commons: CHETAN SONI

Get chatting with the locals and expand your memory with the tales and legends they tell. Ask them about the folklore they tell their children, the secret ingredient that makes their food taste distinctly delicious, and their tips on keeping their livestock content. In case you're lucky, they might also teach you the beat to a local song on a home-made percussive instrument. If you're in remote places then ask around if you can lodge with a local family.

Hand-Pick The Handmade

Dhokra handicrafts in Mayurbhanj district, Odisha
Dhokra handicrafts in Mayurbhanj district, OdishaFlickr: Pallavi Anvekar

Nothing showcases the sociocultural heritage of a place more than its handicrafts. Local artisans source materials and motifs from their immediate environment to produce a stunning range of aesthetics. Each product can be traced to its region of origin simply by identifying the technique and depictions.

From the Dhokra jewellery of Madhya Pradesh to Warli paintings on textiles from India's east coast, each handicraft is a piece of treasure and art. What better to remind visitors of a land they once visited than the handiwork of a local artisan?

Let The Animals Be

Dholes at the Nagarahole National Park in Karnataka
Dholes at the Nagarahole National Park in KarnatakaFlickr: Sourav Biswas

We were always meant to coexist with other creatures and organisms but modern life has siloed and isolated us. As we encroach ever more into the habitats of nonhuman creatures, at the very least we should allow them to roam about freely without interference in whatever is left of their habitat. Take a safari but watch from afar. Do not feed wild animals or try to get near them. Simply appreciate their existence and do what you can to conserve them and their way of life.

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