I debated not calling this post sustainable travel tips. Sustainability is a word used a lot these days and when linked to travel, people tend to look mostly at impacts to the environment. If you focus strictly on environmental issues, travel is not sustainable. But there are three pillars of sustainability: economic, environmental, and social. If we travel responsibly and focus on having positive economic and social impacts while minimizing our environmental impact, maybe we can travel sustainability.
I found a definition I really liked for Responsible travel:
Responsible travel — being mindful of the economic, environmental, and cultural impact/sustainability of travel. Responsible travel encompasses: the cultural impact of travel on locals, how travelers' money is injected into/distributed in local communities, and the environmental impact of travel.
Here are my tips in no particular order (except for the last one):
1) Travel with a zero-waste kit and consume less
Do some research on water in the area you are traveling. A lot of times plastic water bottles can be avoided with a little preparation.
2) Look for environmentally minded accommodations
Here are some suggestions ( I haven’t tried all of these )
stay with a local host on Airbnb
See this blog on why some airbnb’s aren’t the best choice
3) If you need to buy something new for a trip, buy from a sustainable brand
I got a warm water surf suit for my last trip to Costa Rica from We are Mona
4) Avoid flying when you can
This is hard as sometimes flying is the only option. Try to book direct when it is available. I enjoyed this read on airline sustainability.
5) Eat and drink local
Spend your money where it is more likely to be of direct benefit to the community. My best tip for this is to do research on places to eat before you go.
6) Take a local tour or class
My favorite part of traveling is connecting with locals and sharing cultures. One of my favorite travel memories is sitting on a kitchen floor with 5 Nepali women making dinner for 3 hours. Sometimes it is hard to find these experiences because there is so much outside money flooded into big tours. Try speaking to locals or sites like i-like local to find activities.
7) Make a goal to truly connect with X amount of people
This is going to be a new thing I try. When I travel I bring home culture, education, and stories from people and places I have the privilege of interacting with. Very rarely do I make an effort to continue any of these relationships, which is a missed opportunity.
In high school I was a part of a Chinese exchange program. One thing that has always stuck with me was the gifts and letters of thanks the students left when they went back home. I think because of that we have stayed in contact over the years.
I have a trip coming up, I am going to bring 3 small gifts that reflect my home culture and community. I hope to leave these along with a thank you note with new friends when I head home.
8) Give back
Try doing some research on how travel has affected the local community. On our last trip to Costa Rica we visited a howler monkey rehab facility. Due to the growth of travel and population, howler monkeys have been impacted by expanding power line infrastructure.
If you have the means donate time or money to a local initiative.
9) Carbon Offsetting - this is last for a reason
I have mixed feelings about this. Contributing to projects that are reducing GHGs is a good thing, but be mindful that offsetting alone without making efforts to reduce personal emissions does not solve the problem.