Sustainability is all about allocating resources towards things that are beneficial for humanity and our planet. It’s not always about going without (although a less is more mentality is very helpful!) but, it’s about ensuring that we are mindful about the things we do. Both everyday tasks and indulging in pleasurable splurges can be done sustainably. Travel is one of the most impactful and practical ways that a sustainable mindset can make a big difference.
Unfortunately, travel and tourism are far from sustainable in most cases. From harmful CO2 emissions, to tourist experiences and resorts being built on natural areas, it’s time to disrupt the industry.
While I do believe that it’s important to live sustainably in our everyday lives, if you’re someone who only travels a few times a year -- choosing to do so sustainably is be super doable.
So, What Is Sustainable Travel?
Sustainable travel means finding a way that tourism can be maintained long-term without harming natural and cultural environments. The negative impacts of tourism should be reduced, and there needs to be a focus on how tourism can benefit the area being traveled to.
The World Tourism Organization recognizes the need for sustainable tourism and defines it as such, “development [which] meets the needs of present tourists and host regions while protecting and enhancing opportunity for the future. It is envisaged as leading to management of all resources in such a way that economic, social, and aesthetic needs can be fulfilled while maintaining cultural integrity, essential ecological processes, biological diversity, and life support system.”
Getting to your destination sustainably is the best way to get started when planning your next trip. Do you have the option to take the train, car share, or bus? If you’re traveling with a group, exploring options for car share or the bus is the best place to start, but sometimes it can be greener to fly if you’re traveling alone.
And let it be known -- you can incorporate sustainability into your decision making for a flight. Choosing direct flights is the most practical way to reduce carbon emissions, as you are taking the shortest route to your destination.
Airbnb has changed the game for travel in so many ways. It's easy to opt out of the giant resort or global hotel chains and have a more down to earth, personal experience by booking with a local airbnb host.
If you do choose to stay at a hotel or resort, look for places with a commitment to sustainable initiatives. If it isn’t obviously stated on their website, you can email to ask what their sustainability efforts look like, but the lack of visibility there means they probably aren’t being too mindful about sustainability. However, in the same breath it’s worth noting to be weary of “green washing.” Unfortunately there are hotels and resorts that market themselves as green but don’t have sustainable initiatives in place. Just be sure to ask questions, the phonys are usually pretty obvious once you start poking around.
Eat at local cafes and restaurants, buy souvenirs from local artisans, and find markets to buy local fruits and vegetables! These options are out there, you just have to look for them. If you’ve chosen sustainable accommodations, your host or hotel can often point you in the right direction for the best places to support local.
Resources to Help Your Travel Sustainably
The accreditations listed above are a great place to start when planning any trip, not just excursions and tours for while you are there! Many of them offer ample resources for where to stay and what to do when you visit to make your trip fun and sustainable.
From resources on how to be a sustainable traveler, to working with local communities to bring new experiences to travelers, the Sustainability Tribe is a go to for planning your next trip.
Amruta Kshemkalyani, an expert sustainability professional turned social entrepreneur, is the founder of the Sustainability Tribe, AK Sustainability Advisory, and #ZeroWasteUAE social initiative. She has been helping businesses with sustainable transformation for more than 14 years. Amruta is a well-known figure in the region as well as internationally for her subject expertise as well as contribution to changing mindsets and behavior through sustainability education for the last 12 years, and creating an urban grassroots movement for sustainable change by building her ‘Sustainability Tribe’!
Scott’s Cheap Flights
This company will reframe your travel mindset. They find the cheapest direct flights to destinations all over the world, but how? Scott’s Cheap Flights has actual “cheap flight experts” who hunt for the best deals, but sustainable travel is actually one of the ways they do it! By helping people “travel slow” (aka stay in your destination longer) you will not only save money but also mitigate the negative impact of excessive or careless air travel. Best of all? They have a free option for cheap flight notifications. No brainer.
Hoping 2022 Brings New (Sustainable) Adventures Your Way!
As someone who loves to travel, and hopes to instill a love for travel in my kids, I am grateful for resources that help me do it sustainably. Sometimes the small things are the big things, and I truly believe that learning how to travel sustainably is an integral piece to creating a more whole and happy earth for our children. Where will you be traveling to next? Let me know in the comments!