We love the planet, most people do right? We love it so much we named our child ‘Gaia’ – after Mother Earth, and we try our best to live our lives in a way that is good for the earth. This love for the planet was also my main motivation for giving up meat over 6 years ago, but there is one thing I don’t think we will ever give up, and thats travel, so sustainable and responsible tourism is super important to us.
I truely believe that travel can have a positive impact on places, people, and the environment, and I’ll tell you why – travel connects us. It shows us the impact we have on the planet, it teaches us how others live, and it can drive us to do better. I also believe there are some basic things we can do, to ensure we are travelling in a more sustainable way.
Disclaimer: we aren’t perfect, but we strive to do better every day.
rule one of sustainable and responsible tourism – Travel slowly
I know for many people, annual leave can be limited and the desire to see as much as possible is appealing, but slowing down and spending longer in one place can have so many benefits. Not only do you cut down the number of flights (or long drives) you have, you also get the opportunity to really get to know a place, to immerse yourself in the local culture, and to meet locals and form meaningful connections. These experiences help encourage and drive us to protect and do good for the communities we visit.
Stay in locally owned accomodation
Avoid chain hotels, and opt for a locally run guest house or b’n’b ( don’t get caught out by a guesthouse owned by expats!). This way you know your money is going directly to the locals who run it, helping their economy, and it gives you the opportunity to get to know more about the local way of life. Try and also opt for accomodation that cares about sustainability – that doesn’t use small plastic shampoo and conditioner bottles, skip housekeeping changing your sheets and towels every day, and let them know that sustainability matters to you!
eat like a local
Much like the last point, eating at locally owned restaurants, cafes, and markets is a great way to travel more sustainably and make sure your money is having a positive impact on the places you’re visiting. Not only is it good for the local economy, it means you’re also more likely to be eating food thats in season, and not imported.
Use local tour operators
Day trips and excursions are a great part of every trip, and an awesome way to learn more about a place, but as with staying and eating locally, try and opt for tours that are run by locals. There are a lot of companies that hire expats to guide groups (I was one of them!), while locals struggle to find work, or profits go offshore.
Consider your transportation
Flying is often the only option for getting to a destination thats far away, but once you get there you often have so many choices as to how you get around. Can you walk (we love walking – you see so much more of a place!), or perhaps you can get public transport around (such a cool way to really feel like a local). If you have to drive, try booking taxis locally (rather than pre-booking transfers through an offshore agent). As a side point – avoid cruising! No amount of good intentions can make this a sustainable option. If you have to go by boat, opt for a small ship and ask them what they do to minimise their impact.
Ditch single use
Pre pandemic, there was so much great stuff happening in the single use plastic space, but in 2020 single use really made a come back, and we lost so much of this progress. The number one culprit is single use water bottles, and we understand it – the water is often unsafe to drink, and this can make us nervous. A reusable water bottle and good filter is the best option, and if your room has a kettle you can boil the water and leave it to cool first for extra peace of mind. We are currently trialling some filters and will let you know what we think! The other thing we travel with, is a super compact cutlery set (made from wheat), so we can avoid single use plastic, and we always have a tupperwear container or lunchbox to take leftovers.
offset your carbon emissions
This can feel like an overwhelming one, but it doesn’t need to be! Offsetting your carbon is just a process of working out what your carbon footprint is (for some or all of your trip), and purchasing carbon credits to offset your impact. The money you pay will go into any number of projects, such as fighting rainforest deforestation, building wind farms, or another project thats helping the environment. This is a great option when you can’t avoid something (like flying), and it can also go beyond the environmental impact, by creating jobs, conserving animal species, or improving local sanitation standards.
There are so many other things you can do to be a more sustainable traveller, but above all we believe that treating travel as a way to learn (about people, places, and our impact) is key, and a great place to start. No one is perfect, but we can all strive to be better than we were yesterday, and if it all feels too much – just start small!