10 Tips on How to Be a More Sustainable Tourist

Alix M Campbell

Senior Contributor

With climate change looming over our heads, the collective need to be more mindful is growing. Not only in our day-to-day lives but also when we’re travelling. Can the travel industry become more sustainable? It’s not only up to big enterprises. Everyone can do their best to leave as little footprints as possible to preserve our wondrous world for future generations of adventurers. Maybe you can apply some (or all) of these tips when planning your next trip.

Discover a destination by foot/bike

This can be applied quite easily when visiting a city. Instead of catching an Uber or renting a car, try to rely on public transport and, if the weather permits, rent a bike or discover a new place by foot. It’s not only healthier and more adventurous, but also allows you to get lost in small alleyways and find little treasures like a cute café or an art gallery that might be tucked away, not visible from the main road.

Respect wildlife and the environment

A no brainer but in today’s selfie-hungry world, people often forget that the perfect shot is not everything. Nothing against a good insta-story, but if you are somewhere watching wildlife, don’t get too close, enjoy the spectacle without disturbing the animals and try not to stray from the path to preserve local plants and flowers. Being respectful is an important ingredient of being a sustainable tourist, which also means: Take your trash with you when you leave.

Support locals

If you’re getting to know a foreign destination, try immersing yourself in the local culture. By doing that you’re more likely to stumble upon at small family-run restaurant where you can try some local dishes instead of eating at international food chains. Local farmer’s markets offer the opportunity to buy fresh produce without any unnecessary plastic packaging and local shops are often the best source for small handcrafted souvenirs.

Choose eco-friendly accommodation

There’s often the misconception that eco-friendly hotels and hostels are more expensive compared to their non-sustainable counterparts. This doesn’t have to be true and it’s easier than you think to consider some things and ask some questions before booking accommodation for your next trip.

- Were locally available and recycled materials used for building the place?

- Are renewable energy sources used like wood burners or solar panels?

- How about the use of composting and rainwater (e.g. to flush toilets)?

- Are there any green roofs/walls, maybe a garden to grow vegetables?

- Are recycled/upcycled pieces of furniture used?

- Is there a ban on single-use plastics?

- If there’s a restaurant, does it use locally sourced, seasonal ingredients?

Try slow travelling

Slow travelling already sounds quite relaxing, and one thing you probably want from your holidays is feeling relaxed and rejuvenated. Instead of visiting ten countries in a span of two weeks, slow your pace and pick one destination, which you then explore more deeply and in a less rushed manner. That way you’ll be flying/driving less and thus reducing your carbon-footprint. Plus, you’ll have more time to immerse yourself in the local culture.

Plan a staycation

Who says you always have to hop on a plane or jump in a car to enjoy your well-deserved vacation? Take a look at areas in your surroundings and book a nice hotel there, or you could visit your city-spa with a girlfriend for some quality relaxation time. A trip to a new museum in town followed by a visit to an exotic restaurant will also have you feel like you’ve stepped out of your day-to-day life. With a little bit of creativity, staycations can surprise you, while being kind to your wallet, your stress-levels and the environment.

Use chemical-free, reef-friendly beauty products

This one’s important, especially if you’re planning to swim in the ocean. Many products can contain chemicals that endanger marine ecosystems and can bleach coral reefs. Be sure to check the label on a product before packing it for your holidays or purchase them in an organic store. Next to preferably buying recyclable packaging you should avoid ingredients like oxybenzone, siloxanes (silicones), synthetic fragrances, triclosan, BHA, BHT, microbeads, polypropylene or polyethylene.

Travel with re-usable items

If you’re already using items like a stainless-steel water bottle, a refillable coffee cup and a designated shopping bag, it makes sense to bring those items with you in order to keep up your environmentally friendly daily habits. This also means that you can save a bit of money not having to buy bottled water every day or scramble together some extra cash for a (plastic) bag at the shop’s checkout.

Respect the culture you’re visiting

As important as it is to respect local wildlife and the environment, it’s equally crucial to be respectful when it comes to the people of the country you’re visiting. When you’re planning your must-see list, take a few minutes to research cultural traditions of your destination and take note of important information and absolute no-go’s when it comes to dressing, behaviour, etc. to avoid cultural misunderstandings. If you bring an open mind to discovering new cultures, you will most likely gain new insights and broaden your horizon.

Choose carbon-offsetting when possible

When you book transportation, see if you can select “carbon offsetting”, where you pay a little bit extra to help compensate for the carbon emissions produced during your bus ride or flight. This money is often used to plant trees or install renewable energy sources. Look out for companies that already have this option in use and book your trip with them.

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