If the year 2020 and the beginning of 2021 demonstrated anything, it is that you should never take travel for granted again. If you are looking forward to seeing the world but also care about protecting the planet, We have rounded up the best trends and tips for travelling more sustainably.
As we witnessed in 2020 when most of the world was in lockdown and nature began to thrive, the planet actually excels without the harmful interference from humans. However, there are still ways to explore the planet and have a lighter impact on it after travel resumes.
What is sustainable travel?
It is about extra care to make sure your trip has a minimal negative impact on the planet and the community you are visiting. Travelling consciously means that your trip is not just about you anymore. You will still have the time of your life but at the same time it is also about educating yourself on how to be a better global citizen.
In this article we will go through the most popular sustainable travel trends you need to know so you can keep it green on your next trip.
Is Sustainable Travel Possible?
Sustainable travel might sound like an oxymoron. After all, any kind of travel has an impact on the planet. But so does daily life. It is impossible to move through the world without leaving some sort of impact, good or bad. The best thing to do is to try your best to treat the planet as kindly as possible.
The benefits of travel are also hard to ignore. For instance, some people do not understand the problems facing the planet until they get out of their neighbourhoods and see it first hand. Travelling opens up your mind and makes you feel like a global citizen, which gives you more capacity and understanding to care about the planet.
So while perfectly sustainable travel may not be realistic, there are several steps you can take to lower your footprint while still setting foot all over the globe. It just takes some preparation, but in the end, you will still get all of the benefits of travelling and feel good about the steps you took to create a minimal negative impact on the planet.
Sustainable Travel Preparations and Trends
In order to travel sustainably, you have to do most of the planning work before your trip. How you travel, where you go, where you stay, and how you pack can all make a big difference when it comes to your carbon footprint. The following sustainable travel trends in relation to travel preparation can have a positive impact on travelling.
Even before the pandemic hit, sustainable travel trends were focused on flying less because of its environmental impact. Sustainable travellers have been challenging themselves to plan trips without any flights, and you can join them.
Driving, taking a train, or taking a ferry are all more sustainable options compared to flying, and they are expected to see an uptick in customers once travelling resumes. Besides, walking, biking, utilising public transportation and using rideshare services are more sustainable options than renting a car.
If you do fly, the key advice is to try to fly direct. Most of a plane's carbon emissions happen during take-off and landing, so extra connections make for a heftier carbon footprint. If not flying is not an option, you can look into carbon offsets, which are also growing in popularity, to make up for the flight's greenhouse gas pollution.
Staying Closer to Home
The idea of going on an adventure in a faraway destination where you do not speak the language or know the customs used to be the most popular way to travel, but that is changing. In fact, sustainable travel trends are moving towards "microcations" instead of grand voyages.
Focusing on the adventure and cultural opportunities closer to home are expected to be increasingly popular even after the pandemic ends and travel restrictions are lifted. This trend will save time, money, carbon emissions, and your travels will also boost your local economy.
To join this trend, try budgeting the amount of "microcations" you can do in a year compared to doing one faraway trip. Another option is to take an international trip every two years, instead of every year, and fill the time in between exploring the areas around you.
Choosing Green Accommodations
When it comes down to where you stay, you have plenty of options. It has been easier and trendier than ever to make the greener choices. Eco-friendly hotels have started to pop up everywhere, and they are much more desirable to eco travellers than chain hotels. While many major chains are finally starting to make an effort to be more sustainable, in general, they are still not yet widely considered as the greenest option.
For instance, larger hotels waste a lot of water from washing linens every day. At an eco-friendly boutique hotel or an Airbnb, they typically do not have that "wash-every-day" policy. Hotels are also filled with single-use plastics: from disposable coffee cups to tiny shampoo bottles. Sustainable travellers value impact over convenience, which is why they are choosing greener accommodations.
But that does not mean you need to sacrifice comfort to stay somewhere more eco-friendly; there are plenty of sustainable luxury travel options all over the world, and they make for great Instagram photos. You can still find trendy upscale accommodations while caring for the planet.
If you want to know if a hotel is eco-friendly, look for any of the following certifications: LEED, Green Globe, TripAdvisor Green Leaders, Green Key Global, Green Tourism Active, Audubon Green Lodging Program, Green Seal, EarthCheck or Travelife.
Packing lighter is also being embraced by sustainable travellers. It is not just lighter on the planet, but it also will improve your travel experiences. No one likes lugging multiple suitcases through airport terminals, train stations, on and off taxis, or up flights of stairs, this is why packing lighter is a great way to make a positive impact. Furthermore, Aeroplanes, trains, and cars burn through fuel more quickly when they are heavier. Having less cargo therefore will reduce emissions.
Sustainable travel also focuses on packing items that will help you avoid unnecessary waste on your trip. It is expected to be common for travellers to pack their own set of cutlery, a reusable to-go coffee cup, and zero waste toiletries when travelling is back to normal again.
Ask yourself what you really need for your trip. Chances are you will be just fine with fewer clothes, and a few reusable items. This can go a long way in reducing your waste while you travel.
Responsible Tourism Trends
Responsible tourism is also on the rise next to sustainable travel trends. What is responsible tourism? Simply put, it is travelling in a way that is respectful to the environment and native people around you.
Travel has made the world smaller, and conventional travellers often traipse around with the idea that the world is their oyster. However, this mindset can lead to unknowingly taking advantage of or even damaging the culture and environment of your destination.
As awareness of this problem grows, a growing number of travellers have shifted to focusing on being better visitors. Responsible tourists want to connect with local communities instead of just passing through as a spectator. They take time to learn about the local culture and the ecological identity of their temporary home.
According to the World Tourist Organization, responsible travellers should keep sustainability in mind to avoid any long-term damage occurred by their trip. The following list of tourism activities can enhance your travel experience and add to a more responsible journey:
Ideas For Responsible Tourism Activities
- Visit a museum where you can learn about the cultural history
- Support local businesses and artisans
- Seek out ethical animal encounters
- Support local tour companies
- Learn about the local ecology
- Participate in a trash clean-up
Responsible tourism is all about being courteous and treating places the way you would want someone else to treat your home. Also spending time getting to know the local culture will enrich your journey and stimulate your personal development towards becoming a more well-rounded person.
More Sustainable Travel Tips
Eco-friendly travel has been a hot conversation topic for the last few years, especially among millennials and generation X. But anyone of any age can take steps to reduce the impact of travelling on the earth. For inspiration, follow top YouTube travel blogger Kombi Life to see how they are making sustainable travel work amidst the COVID-19 crises. We also have created the following list with sustainable travel tips for you of which you can already implement straight away:
Eat more plant-based. Reducing the number of animal products you eat has a huge impact on the planet since animal farming is one of the most polluting industries. A little research upfront can help you find the best plant-based restaurants at your destination. Always try to eat at a local restaurant instead of an international chain.
Book a room with a kitchen. Cooking some of your own meals will help reduce food waste, and you will save money. Shopping at local markets is also a great way to learn about the culture of where you are staying.
Refuse straws. Turning down a straw or two at a restaurant may seem like an insignificant act, but it has a bigger impact than you realise. In the UK, 4.4 billion straws are thrown away every year. Most plastic pollution ends up in oceans, so if you want to have beautiful beaches around the world to lay on, reducing the amount of single-use straws that you use is a great step.
Avoid cheap souvenirs. If you want to take home a souvenir from your trip, purchase something locally made. Most cheap souvenirs are mass-produced and exported from other countries, so getting something made by a local artisan is more special and earth-friendly.
Explore the local nature and culture. Whether you are staying in a bustling city or a villa in the countryside, you should make it a priority to explore the nature and culture around you. Ask locals to recommend a beautiful hike, local museum, or historical place to check out. Getting into nature and the culture of where you are staying will give you an appreciation for the community and inspire you to keep making sustainable travel choices.
Use reef-friendly sunscreen. Many sunscreen brands contain chemicals that harm the coral reef. In fact, Hawaii has banned the sale of several of them to protect their sea life. Since the point of sustainable travel is to not harm the environment, make sure you have reef-safe sunscreen.
Go paperless. Opt for a mobile plane or train ticket instead of a printed one as much as you can, and keep your itinerary on your devices instead of printing out several copies. These may seem like small steps, but anywhere that you can cut waste makes a difference.
Get international data. Making sustainable choices in an unknown place will require some on-the-go research, so make sure you can rely on your Internet. Choosing a secure international data plan will save you a lot of headaches so you can enjoy your trip more.
Top Sustainable Activities Per Travel Destination
Want to explore some sustainable activities that you can do on different travel destinations? We have developed the following overview for you to inspire you for your next journey:
- Greece for amazing locally grown food
- Antigua and Barbuda Islands for the "Green Corridor"
- Rwanda for ethical wildlife tours
- Palau Island for sea life conservation
- Copenhagen, Denmark, where bikes outnumber cars
- Vancouver, Canada for urban farming
- Curitiba, Brazil for amazing urban forests
- San Francisco, USA, for a waste-free city experience
- Costa Rica for eco-friendly hotels
- Patagonia for stunning national parks
- New Zealand for protected nature reserves
- Peru for protected rainforests
- Vietnam for sustainable tours
- Iceland for experiencing geothermal and hydropower energy
Checking out at least one of these sustainable travel destinations and seeing how these entire cities and countries are making eco-friendly moves will inspire you to keep making eco-friendly choices even at home. But remember, you can make any trip more eco-friendly regardless of where you go.
Make All Travel More Sustainable
Sustainable travel trends are, just as any other trend subjective to time. However, the heart of the movement, caring about the planet and other people, will always remain the same. It may seem tricky at first, but more learning and practices will help you realise that there are better choices to make everywhere.
The more people care about travelling sustainably, the more the industry will grow and the trendier it will become. Give these sustainable travel trends a try as soon as travel becomes safe again, and let us know which tips above work for you.
- Zara & Michael @Goodspeed