Being away from home and the responsibilities of everyday life not only gives you the freedom to reset, but also immerse yourself in different cultures. Doing that can make you see other ways to live and be happy through exploring the world. While travelling is so profoundly beneficial to our personal wellbeing, it is important to consider the impact we have on the environment and communities we visit.
More and more hospitality brands are taking steps to improve their sustainability, but it is equally important for travellers to take responsibility and travel consciously. Low-impact tourism has to be more than just a trend. We rounded up ten tips for sustainable travel to help you make a positive impact.
When it comes to packing, the key is to think about what not to bring, rather than what to remember. For a short trip, it is always best to travel with hand luggage. Only pack your favourite items and think of ways you can re-wear them. For instance, pairing different tops with the same skirt, or layering pieces over the same dress. Take your own travel mug to taste the local coffee and refill your reusable water bottle to stay hydrated during a long haul journey and warm days.
Consider your sunscreen
Choose a product that fits your skin the best and doesn’t contain harmful ingredients that will damage ocean ecosystems. Waterlover Sun Milk by Biotherm is the result of seven years of research conducted by a team of 20 scientists who aimed to create a sunscreen that respects aquatic life. Weleda has developed a range of waterproof mineral sunscreens where the active ingredients zinc oxide and titanium dioxide work by sitting on top of skin to physically block UVA and UVB rays. The City Shield Photo-protector by Sepai prevents the harmful effects caused by sunlight and environmental pollution through an exclusive DNA-Protect complex.
Plan a slow itinerary
Slow travelling allows you to develop a stronger connection to the area you are visiting. In choosing experiences over sights and allowing flexibility in your schedule, you are more likely to find those magical moments that happen when you least expect it. When planning your trip, leave time to enjoy unplanned moments too. Likewise, don’t dwell too much on the what-ifs, the risks or the problems you might face there; get out of your comfort zone and keep it spontaneous.
Support the local economy
Connect with the locals to learn about their lifestyle and regional cuisine. Listen to their best tips and insights on favourite locations, secret beaches and tourist traps to avoid. Participate in the local economy by shopping homegrown ingredients in markets and favouring local restaurants and cafes over international chains.
Take care of the wildlife
Wildlife tourism can be tricky to navigate and it is essential to do some research. When selecting a place to stay, look at locations that invest in the local community. Campi Ya Kanzi in Kenya is run on 100% solar power and rain water and 90% of its guides and trackers are from the local Maasai tribe. As a general rule, any safaris that involve touching or being photographed with animals should be avoided. You should never feed local wildlife, either.
Find the right place to stay
There are many ways hospitality brands can achieve sustainability. For example, Song Saa works with villages, governments, investors and donors to improve local livelihoods and preserve marine life and rainforests. In order to create employment for the local communities, every SALT hotel has its own farm, using permaculture practices and hydroponics to yield diverse crops and offerings based on daily harvest and fishermen’s catch. Lagom enables its customers to minimise their carbon footprint by deciding how often they want their rooms cleaned, sheets laundered and toiletries replaced.
Stay off the beaten path
According to the Global Sustainability Dashboard, nearly half of tourism’s economic impact comes from just ten destinations, putting a strain on each of those location’s resources. Choose a lesser-visited city, and if you’re going somewhere that’s over-visited, travel at off-peak times to minimise your impact. Venice receives 200 million visitors a year for example, yet has a population of around 270,000. Non-profit Green Destinations publishes an annual list of the top 100 sustainable destinations, which is worth a look if you’re trip planning.
Aviation contributes to 2% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, so choose to take a train or bus, or even drive if you can. If you do have to fly, pack light (see above) and opt for a budget airline. They tend to pack more people onto one flight, and usually have newer planes that are more fuel efficient.
Opt for a staycation
Another way to reduce your carbon footprint is to plan a staycation. Exploring your city as a tourist and identifying charming new corners is an exciting opportunity to check out from your everyday routine. In London, it is easy to soak in a different atmosphere as you change boroughs and we are lucky to have so many museums and parks peppered across the city. Central London’s Hotel Café Royal is Regent Street’s gem: from an award-winning waste management system to locally-sourced menus, the hotel combines British style with sustainable values.
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Written by - Severine Etienne