Let’s face it: sustainability and travel are often diametrically opposed. It is virtually impossible not to leave a footprint when you travel. However, you can make that ecological footprint smaller by making sustainable choices while traveling. Sustainable travel means taking into account the environment, the welfare of the population and respecting nature and culture. With small choices and adjustments, sometimes you can make a big difference. In this article, we provide 10 tips that everyone can easily apply while traveling.
#1 Never buy anything from children
In many developing countries, children are used to sell stuff on the streets or to beg. This happens simply because travelers are more likely to find children pathetic and find it harder to say “no” to a cute face than to an adult man or woman. Children are obviously not supposed to beg or sell stuff and the only way to counter this is to never buy anything or give money to a child. If everyone did this then these children would be able to play and go to school again. Of course, always be nice when you turn something down, even when the child runs along or whines. After all, that child is not standing there of his own volition.
#2 Respect the rules of the underwater world
- The number one rule when you go snorkeling or diving: don’t touch anything underwater! The coral will die if you touch it and a lot of coral has already died over the last few decades so let’s be sparing with it. Also, don’t touch animals like whale sharks or turtles. Most of the marine life has very thin and fragile skin and if we touch it with our hands, we damage it or make them sick.
- Unfortunately, during our travels we still occasionally see people taking a starfish out of the water to take a picture with it. When you grab a starfish and take it out of the sea, the water will flow directly from its stomach. This is because the starfish’s mouth is on the bottom and its stomach is on top. When you then put it back in the sea, there is an air bubble in its stomach and it will be in a lot of pain. If you see someone holding a starfish, first put the starfish back in the water upside down for a few minutes so that its stomach can fill up with water again. Only in this way will the air bubble that has formed in its stomach be able to exit through its mouth. If the starfish is above the water for too long it will die.
- Besides not touching anything, you can also help the underwater world by using sunscreen without oxybenzone. If this is in it then this too will kill the coral.
- Also, leave the beautiful shells you found on the beach. This is because these are the homes of hermit crabs, which they keep changing as they grow. If they cannot find a suitable shell, they will be eaten quickly.
#3 Try to book a flight without a transfer
It’s common knowledge: flying is bad for the environment. To reduce your CO2 emissions somewhat, you can book a flight without a transfer. After all, landing and taking off costs a lot of fuel and therefore extra CO2 emissions. In addition, the stopover often requires a detour. So it would be a shame if you could fly directly to your final destination. Oh, and for everyone flying business class: next time choose economy class. When you fly business class, you take up much more space on the plane and that means you emit proportionally much more CO2 than someone in economy class.
#4 Set a good example and pick up trash
Going for a day at the beach or a hike through nature? Then take an extra bag and pick up the litter you find along the way. If we all do this once in a while we will make the world a little cleaner. You also set a good example to the local population this way. In many countries people still don’t understand that you can’t just throw everything everywhere and maybe you will make them think. We don’t have to lecture them, but setting a good example is already very effective.
#5 Support the local population
You support local people tremendously when you choose to stay in guesthouses or small-scale hotels. You also do this when you eat at local restaurants or buy some food from a stall on the street. This way the money gets directly to the people and it is also much nicer than big international hotel chains or restaurants.
#6 Travel by train whenever possible
This is unfortunately often out of the question for faraway destinations but when you are going on a city trip in Europe it is many times better to take the train instead of the plane. Air travel is 7 to 11 times more harmful to the environment than the same trip by train. It may cost you a little more time but it helps tremendously in keeping your carbon footprint smaller.
#7 Skip attractions and tours with animals
In the last few years, you must have seen some article or video saying that tours or activities with animals are incredibly bad. Because of all this media attention, many animals have been saved but there are still people taking elephant rides in Thailand. Therefore, this item should not and cannot be missing from this list. Almost all tourist attractions with animals are bad. For example, elephants are mistreated so a tourist can sit on their backs, the tiger you get to take a selfie with is drugged and the dancing monkeys are also dead wrong. Besides all the terrible things people do to these animals, these animals belong in the wild and certainly not on a chain or in a cage. Therefore, never go here so you don’t support this financially.
#8 Make it a sport to use as little plastic as possible while traveling
Everyone knows by now that plastic is a very big problem. Therefore, let’s try to use as little plastic as possible while traveling. Again, you are setting a good example for the locals.
- Take a reusable bag when traveling for groceries. In many countries, supermarket employees put your purchased items in plastic bags. Often even in about 4 bags for 8 products. Therefore, bring your own reusable bag and ask him to put the items in it.
- Always say “no” to a plastic straw. Fortunately, you see more and more places replacing plastic straws with bamboo or metal straws but if you do get a plastic straw, don’t accept it and explain why not if necessary. You can also bring your own bamboo or metal straw when traveling.
- Do not use the small tubes of shampoo, conditioner and body lotion that are in your hotel room. The same goes for the small free bottles of water in your hotel.
- Still (much to our chagrin) free earplugs and eye masks are handed out on the plane. If you think for a moment about how many flights go per day, these are bizarrely many disposable earplugs and sleep masks. Therefore, bring your own earplugs and sleep mask.
- One million plastic bottles are bought every minute worldwide. one million! A water bottle should not be missing from your packing list. In more and more hostels and hotels you can fill your own bottle. Often this is free or for a small fee. This way you save a lot of plastic bottles. It also keeps your water cold for a long time. Our favorite is theMizu V8 water bottle. This one is a bit pricey but you can use it your whole life because the quality is super good. TheLifeStraw water bottle goes even further. It contains a filter that removes bacteria from the water. So you can drink tap water in countries where the tap water is of poor quality or water from streams while hiking and camping.
#9 Stay at ecolodges
At an ecolodge, you can assume that they keep their carbon footprint as small as possible. For example, they help protect the nature around them, work with the local community and pay close attention to waste reduction and water conservation, among other things. Be careful before booking an ecolodge, though, because not all ecolodges are so eco. eco’ sounds very fancy so some normal lodges and hotels also call themselves ‘ecolodge’ while they are not at all concerned with sustainability. So always check the reviews carefully in advance.
#10 Unplug at home before leaving
This is a very simple tip to apply and it will save you some money. Unplug all appliances before you travel. Especially with appliances such as the television, microwave and computer, this is effective because then they are completely off and not on standby.