We all love to travel to beautiful and exotic places.
The world is bursting with stunning vistas, charming small towns and fascinating cultures just waiting to be discovered and explored! From the majestic slopes of Mount Fuji in Japan to the stunning teal waters off the coast of Phi Phi, Thailand — nothing is more exciting than an overseas adventure.
Travel gives us our greatest stories and our most cherished memories. It teaches us about ourselves and each other. It deepens our understanding of the world, introduces us to different cultures and just like a reset button, it forces us to focus on what really matters.
As important as travel is for the mind and soul, the carbon footprint we leave behind every time we pack our bags and jet off overseas can be significant. In recent times, the term "sustainable tourism" has been been thrown around loosely in blogs, newspapers, television and magazines. But what exactly is sustainable tourism and how can we be more conscious travellers?
What is Sustainable Tourism?
According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), sustainable tourism is defined as "tourism that respects both local people and the traveller, cultural heritage and the environment." It means supporting local communities by doing the most good with as light of an environmental footprint as possible.
Although tourism can never be truly sustainable, the aim of the movement is to lessen its impact. We cannot control the carbon emissions of the planes we fly in, nor the cruel animal tourism encounters offered in the destinations we visit. However, we can choose more earth-friendly transportation, accomodation, tour operators and animal encounters that are less harmful on the environment.
If you're just getting started on your sustainable travel journey, we've put together some useful tips to help you along the way!
1. Do Your Research
When planning your next trip, try searching the internet for eco-friendly activities and accomodation in your destination of choice. You'd be surprised at what you could find! Opt for activities run by local communities to create economic opportunities for them.
When looking for accommodation, we like to use Book Different. This clever little platform enables you to search from thousands of hotels around the world, displaying the most sustainable accommodation options at the top of the search results. Whatever your budget, there are plenty of options at all different price points, from budget cabins to luxury resorts.
The idea that you have to stay in a 5-star luxury hotel to be eco-friendly is completely untrue! Thanks to the growing interest in sustainable travel, more hotels are going green, using solar energy, recycling water and using eco-friendly products. Beware though of green washing — if a hotel claims to be eco-friendly but gives away plastic water bottles and washes your towels everyday without consulting, they are definitely not eco-friendly.
2. Travel off-peak or off-beat
Overtourism and overcrowding in popular travel hotspots has become a real problem and one that isn't going away anytime soon. In cities such as Venice and Barcelona, overtourism is straining infrastructure and pricing locals out of communities. Beaches in Thailand, Indonesia and the Phillipines have been destroyed and national parks in the US and Japan are being degraded, prompting government action.
Forget jostling through hordes of limbs and selfie sticks. Next time you book a trip, consider the road less travelled. Cities such as Antwerp and Belgrade offer exquisite architecture, hidden gems and delicious food with a fraction of the crowds! Or perhaps consider visiting one of Canada's stunning national parks. They're just as breathtaking as the ones you'll find in the US, just without the flocks of tourist groups.
If you can't resist seeing the canals of Venice or the Eiffel Tower in the city of love, consider travelling outside of summer or the school holidays. You'll not only be doing the environment a favour but your wallet one too! You'll also enjoy a more authentic travel experience and won't have to worry about dodging large crowds of people.
3. Buy Local
Make a positive impact by staying at locally-owned accommodation, eating at independent restaurants, buying locally made products and engaging in authentic, local experiences. When choosing gifts for your loved ones at home, try and seek out indigenous artisans. When you buy directly from an artist, you're not only helping them support their family, you're helping to preserve their culture and break the cycle of poverty in those communities.
Opt for locally grown produce and refrain from buying anything made from endangered plants, animals, unsustainable materials or ancient artifacts. Not only is it unethical, you might not be able to get them back through customs and could land yourself on the next episode of Border Security!
4. Pack Reusable Items
The best way to reduce waste is to produce less waste in the first place! When packing for your next holiday, only take the essentials and don't forget to take your reusables. A stainless steel water bottle, coffee cup, food container (preferably collapsible) and a Lapanda Bamboo Cutlery Set can help you avoid those nasty single-use plastics. Use an organic cotton bag when shopping at local markets and take zero-waste toiletries such as shampoo bars and natural toothtablets to avoid unnecessary waste.
5. Choose Animal Experiences Carefully
Although it may be tempting to ride on the back of an elephant or pet a wild tiger, it most certainly isn't ethical. Animals shouldn't be used for human entertainment, nor should they be used for the perfect Instagram shot. Steer clear of elephant rides and avoid all experiences where animals are behaving unnaturally. If you're interested in seeing wild animals in their natural habitat, choose places that offer ethical interactions such as elephant sanctuaries.
I was fortunate enough to visit the Elephant Retirement Park Phuket last year and the staff there are doing a wonderful job at protecting these majestic animals from the abusive animal tourism industry. If you're planning a trip to Thailand in the near future, I'd definitely recommend paying them a visit — a once in a lifetime experience.
The best way to travel sustainably is to be more mindful of yourself, and your surroundings. Respect the fact that you're visiting someone else's home and think about how you can make a positive impact throughout the duration of your stay. By being more mindful and considerate of the local people and the environment, we can all become more sustainable travellers. So what are you waiting for? Get on board the sustainable and responsible tourism train!
Have any other sustainable travel tips? Share them in the comments below or visit our blog for all things environmental. You can follow Lapanda on Instagram for more sustainable living tips or signup to our newsletter to be notified about new and exciting eco products!