Ecotourism: 5 Simple Tips For Sustainable Travel

Words by Andrew Groves, images by JustCantSettle

Whilst the tourism industry has seen a significant drop in demand over the past year or so (I’m looking at you, COVID), there seems to be light at the end of the tunnel. As vaccine rollout programs gather momentum, it seems 2021 will finally see us jetting off on a much needed holiday or two.

But before you rush to Skyscanner to book your next trip, it’s worth considering the impact tourism has on the environment and the ways you can reduce this impact.

2020 was recently announced as being tied for the hottest year on record despite the reduction in economic activities and it’s on all of us to do our part by changing our habits.

With that being said, here’s 5 simple tips you can use to be an ecotourist on your next trip.

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1 – Start Before You Leave

Believe it or not, you can start your sustainable travel before you even leave the house. If you’re going to be away from your home for an extended period of time, it’s worth making sure you’ve unplugged all of your devices before leaving.

Phantom energy, or standby energy, is energy consumed when you’re not actively using something. It’s estimated that phantom energy can account for up to 10% of your electricity usage so bear that in mind even when you’re not travelling!

2 – Think Before You Pack

I often find that packing for a trip is one of the most exciting parts. You start to visualise what you’ll need and for what activity. Now is a good time to analyse your inventory for anything that can be replaced by an eco-friendly alternative.

Your plastic toothbrush? You can easily swap this out for a bamboo version which is compostable. Plastic toothbrushes take an incredibly long time to degrade (all plastic toothbrushes ever created are still around today) and have been found in their millions in our oceans.

All of those mini travel accessories packaged in plastic? Think about opting for soap and shampoo bars that are plastic free (not to mention the fact you wouldn’t have to worry about a dreaded shampoo explosion in your suitcase).

You could also think about bringing durable, reusable makeup wipes instead of the disposable versions.

Even your day-to-day rucksack/backpack can be eco-friendly. For those on particularly wild adventures you’ll definitely want something durable and waterproof so try some like a backpack made with faux leather. This type of backpack is made with eco-friendly materials whilst being cruelty-free. Win-win.

3 – Be savvy when it comes to transportation

Whether you’re taking a road trip or flying to the other side of the world, small choices can have a huge impact. Sustainable transport choices don’t stop there either – when you’re at your destination there are a plethora of options to choose from to ensure you’re not over-polluting.

Travelling to and from your destination

When choosing your method of travelling to and from your destination you should keep a few of things in mind:

  • Flights will always be more polluting than other forms of transportation, such as by train or by ferry
  • By making sure you fly direct, you’ll be reducing the amount of carbon emissions needed for your overall journey

Travelling within your destination

When at your destination it’s highly likely that you’ll be spending most of your time moving from place to place. Here are some tips to keep in mind:

  • If you feel confident enough, hire a bike and cycle from place to place. Not only will your emissions literally be zero, you’ll be getting fit in the process.
  • Plan your days out so that you’re not coming back on yourself multiple times. Not only will this save on distance travelled but it will also be time efficient too.
  • If you have a lot of activities planned within a small area, walk as much as possible.
  • When walking is out of the equation, try to use public transport.
  • If you have to use a taxi service, choose ride-sharing with other travellers when possible.

4 – Offset your carbon emissions

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This applies particularly to those who prefer flying. According to the Air Transport Action Group, aviation is responsible for 2% of all global carbon emissions, and for 12% of all carbon emissions from transport.

A return flight from London to New York emits roughly 0.67 tonnes of CO2 per passenger. This is the equivalent to 10% of the annual emissions of someone living in the UK.

If this concerns you, but you’ve got your heart set on a trip that involves a long-haul flight – there are ways you can mitigate your impact. By contributing to a tree-planting initiative, you can offset the entirety of your carbon footprint. What’s more – these tree-planting programs are far cheaper than you’d imagine.

The typical cost of offsetting such a return journey would only be about £10. A small price to pay to be climate positive.

5 – Reuse and recycle

Reusing and recycling is a fundamental part of ecotourism. When travelling, it should be your goal to make sure that you try not to waste anything. Granted, zero-waste free travelling is very difficult but there are a few things you can do.

Go digital – recycling rates vary around the world. If you’re visiting a country like Germany you can be confident that most items you use will be recycled. However, countries like Mexico, Turkey and even Canada have less than desirable recycling rates.

By going digital you’ll at least ensure paper waste will be kept to a minimum. Boarding passes, tourist information and maps can all be accessed at a click of a button these days.

Avoid disposable items – when you’re on the go it’s important to stay hydrated. By bringing your own water bottle you’ll cut down on the use of plastic water bottles you’d otherwise use. 

This can also be extended to your coffees. Either sit in or think about bringing a travel mug. It’s worth remembering that billions of disposable coffee cups end up in landfills every year.

Whilst these are just 5 examples of how you can practice responsible ecotourism, there are many more things you can do including:

  • Visiting an eco-friendly resort
  • Reusing towels at hotels
  • Eating local produce
  • Avoiding places suffering from over-tourism

What are some of your favourite examples of ecotourism?

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