Responsible travel in 2021

Angela Wood

Senior Contributor

The year 2020 has been one of reflection for many, invoking a thought process as to how we can live differently and preserve our planet’s resources. Moving forward, travelling sustainably is a major key to making those positive changes. Whether you substitute your favourite all-inclusive for a luxurious sustainable hotel, alter the way you travel or give back to local communities and conservation programmes during your stay, there are many ways you can help. Here are a few of the best ideas as to how we can travel more responsibly in 2021.

Consider Your Transport Options

It’s no secret that travel can leave a huge carbon footprint on our planet, but if you plan ahead and consider different options, there are ways to remedy the issue. In 2021, we could consider holidaying closer to home, integrating hiking and cycling into our itineraries – both zero and low carbon emission activities. However, if, for you, the only way to travel is by private jet, download a carbon emission calculator which tells you the cost of offsetting your carbon footprint. You can donate to worthy causes, such as providing drinking water purifiers for villages in Africa, opt to plant trees in a rainforest, lower meat and dairy consumption and more. Alternatively, if you choose to fly commercial, there are now over a dozen airlines including Qantas, British Airways, Emirates and Delta which operate carbon offset programmes where passengers can voluntarily pay the costs of offsetting - the funds of which are then passed onto relevant conservation projects. You could also consider becoming part of the “slower travel” trend, arriving by train, bike or coach to your chosen destination. These modes of transport don’t just lower the carbon footprint, they also greatly enrich the travelling experience, plus, you can stop at picturesque, scenic locations you would miss if flying. 

Check for Green Accreditations at Hotels

It’s important when choosing a hotel to support one which in turn supports the environment. A hotel can give the appearance of “being green” by popping a few recycling stations outside and by reducing the number of days they clean your suite, but is that enough? Hotels which truly follow a sustainable path advertise the fact, a lot. They take solid steps to make a difference by utilising solar panels for heat and water or by placing wind turbines on a city hotel roof. They don’t offer excursions which damage or exploit the natural environment and wildlife and some even donate a percentage of the room rate to local businesses and charities. One way to check a hotel’s sustainable credentials is to see if they have LEED certification. This is one of the highest accolades a sustainable hotel can achieve as each one has to pass a 100-point check list before they receive the award – akin to Michelin stars for hotels. However, just because a hotel has not obtained LEED certification, it doesn’t mean it’s not sustainable. There are other ways to check - via the hotel website and their marketing materials and you can also see if they have a dedicated spokesperson heading up sustainability in their organisation. Also, research if the hotel has been revered for its efforts by other reputable sources such as TripAdvisor Green Leaders, the Green Key Eco-Rating Programme and Rainforest Alliance.

Only Pack Eco-Friendly Essentials

Unbeknown to many, packing lighter saves energy, not just for yourself, but for your mode of transportation too! On aircraft, trains and ships, every pound or kilo counts, if every passenger reduced the articles in their suitcase by just one pound in weight, it helps to save energy, thus reducing the carbon footprint. Another great way to help is to reduce the amount of plastic you take on holiday with you. A lot of hotels have zero plastic initiatives in place, but if they don’t, always check if there’s a recycling station so you can dispose of any packaging safely. It’s also good to be mindful if you’re travelling with shampoos, shower gels and body moisturisers to choose ethical, biodegradable and natural, organic brands which won’t harm or pollute the water when you wash or bathe.

Support Local Restaurants and Communities

All-inclusive holidays, as wonderful as they are, can severely impact the profitability of local bars and restaurants, especially when there are abundant large hotels in a concentrated area. This year consider ditching the “everything on-site” option and back small businesses when it comes to shopping and dining. Sustainability is not about hotels importing in the finest sushi from Japan or beluga caviar from the Caspian Sea, it’s about supporting the people who are cornerstones of the community. There are restaurants in almost every town, city or village which grow their own produce in gardens and allotments or work with local farmers and fishermen to gain the freshest ingredients. It’s all about seasonal dishes too - chefs familiar with the region are aware of what’s being harvested throughout the year and they create innovative menus based on availability. Shops and market stall vendors need help too, so rather than visiting glitzy, air-conditioned shopping malls where many of the products are imported, search for upcoming local designers who create their own bespoke clothing or jewellery and artisans who hand-craft ceramics, furnishings and textiles. You could also consider spreading your gift-giving budget across several different stores, helping many members of the community rather than just one!

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