I love travelling, yet I get annoyed with tourists all the time – and particularly when I’m on a trip too. Things like taking inappropriate selfies and leaving rubbish behind drive me crazy a little. It might be the case of being unaware of these things, so – to spread the word and celebrate the World Environment Day – I’ve put together a list of easy tips on how to travel responsibly.
Making travelling more locals-friendly doesn’t have to take much effort. Some of it really boils down to the basics, like picking up the chocolate wrapper you dropped or asking permission before you take a picture. It’s simply about minimising impact, conserving the local environment and – ideally – improving the well-being of local people. Here are some of the things you can do to make your travels more sustainable and environment-friendly.
Buying locally-made souvenirs and eating at local restaurants supports the local economy. Ask locals where to eat and try to find places serving authentic local cuisine. Speaking of which…
Be a traveller not a tourist
Immerse yourself in the local culture. Get to know the locals, listen and learn. Respect the local traditions and cultural differences. You’re there to experience their culture and if that means covering up a bit more and not taking pictures of sacred places, just take that into account.
There are some easy ways to avoid excessive waste. Choosing a reusable water bottle and returning brochures and maps you no longer helps. If possible, hold on to rubbish until you can recycle it, take half-used hotel soap home (otherwise it might just get binned) and reuse that hotel towel.
Do some research – many countries don’t dispose of plastic waste, which means tourism creates additional mountains of plastic to deal with. Pick products without microbeads, avoid aerosol cans and sulfate shampoo, and use biodegradable soap if you can.
Save the elephants
And other amazing wildlife. Never buy anything made of endangered species (turtle egg soup, crocodile handbags, you get the idea), non-sustainable hardwoods and ancient artifacts. Read labels and ask questions.
Walking or taking the bike is a nice way to explore many places and see things you’d miss when travelling by the tube/metro. Apart from being good exercise, it puts less pressure on the environment too. Public transit is also slightly less evil and gives you a more local experience. Again, do some research and find out what’s safe.
Stay on route…
Marked trails are there for a reason. Stick to the path to avoid harming native plants and creatures.
… and head off the beaten track
Seeing top sights and well-known monuments is a common way of travelling and while famous places are famous for a reason, not all of them might be ‘top’ for you. Pick what you truly like and explore destinations less well-known. Experience local life.
Learn the language
Even if it’s just a few words. It won’t take much time and it will make a world of a difference in the way locals treat you.
Support responsible hotels…
If your accommodation also makes an effort to give back to the local community, all the better. Picking the responsible hotel only takes a little research.
… and responsible businesses
Look for businesses that use organic products and sustainable methods. There are always restaurants, shops and manufacturers that champion greater consciousness about the environment and do the good deed.
Although some of the green choices might not seem like much of a difference at all, they add up. Every little helps!