We started because we imagined a business that mirrored the values of the type of travel that we love – story driven, community based, built on direct relationships and a commitment to respecting provenance. Now, tourism has grown to such an extent where there are over a billion tourists annually. However, it puts a lot of strain on the local environment, as travel isn’t as sustainable as we would like it to be. From excessive carbon emissions from airplanes to plastics ending up in landfills or the ocean, travel has a hand in all of this. Still, there is something we, as tourists, can do. As we travel, there are ways we can be mindful of our own habits and patterns.
Here are 6 tips on how you can be a conscious traveler:
1. Don’t litter, dispose your trash properly
Litter affects water systems, wildlife and plants, so make sure you trash your waste everywhere you go. If you are in the outdoors, or can’t find a trash bin nearby, carry it with you until you find one.
2. Buy local craft, eat local produce
When you buy items that need to be imported, it causes more harm than good. Not only does buying local cut down on the pollution from transporting the goods, it supports local families and not large corporations. Explore what the region has to offer and eat what the locals eat – it is an experience on its own to eat food grown by the people sitting in front of you.
3. Bring your own bag and bottle
Limit consuming single-use plastics such as cups, straws and bags. These plastics make their way into the ocean and kill hundreds of thousands of seabirds and sea-mammals. Make a difference by carrying your own reusable glass or BPA-free plastic bottles instead of buying bottles everyday. Also take a trip to the farmers market, with a tote bag of your own, and buy your fruits and vegetables – sans packaging.
4. Walk or ride a bike
For short distances, walking and biking is a good way to reduce the amount of carbon emitted if you were taking a car. Apart from the health benefits of physical exercise, a walk or bike ride is also a great way to explore, especially in places with narrow or even no streets.
5. Don’t pick flowers or take seashells from their habitat
Even though they might seem like free souvenirs, don’t pick flowers or seashells from their habitat, as it damages their ecosystem and put the animals who need them at risk. Such as hermit crabs – they don’t need them for decoration, but rather for survival.
6. Don’t buy wildlife products, or engage in animal shows or activities
With populations of multiple species on the decline and many other already extinct, it’s important we don’t encourage the demand for wildlife products such as ivory, shell, skins, furs, or even live animals. Additionally, remove riding on the back of elephants off your bucket list as they are physically harmful for the animal, but also the training that goes behind making the elephants docile is emotionally wrecking. If you want a souvenir, go to a local community and buy handiwork instead.
There are many ways to be responsible while you travel, it all depends on the effort you put in. Whether it is to research about environmentally friendly tours and hotels, or taking it upon yourself to pick up any trash you see lying around, everything counts. Sustainable travel doesn’t necessarily mean following the backpacker lifestyle, but rather the philosophy of taking nothing but photos, and leaving behind only footprints.
Here’s a sum up of all the tips: