“Green travel” is becoming increasingly popular, as many tourists are approaching their vacations more responsibly. You don’t have to make drastic changes to your lifestyle or travel plans to become a more responsible traveler. In fact, the smallest tweaks can make the biggest impact during your adventures. Below are a few eco-friendly trip ideas to help you travel more sustainably and minimize your footprint.
It’s no secret that the cruise industry has been a significant contributor to carbon emissions in the past. In recent years, cruise lines have made more serious efforts to change their sustainability standards at sea to help restore the ocean’s health. The commitment to green cruises makes them a great option as a vacation for the environmentally friendly traveler.
Sustainability at Sea
These days, it’s easier than ever to find a sustainable cruise line that’s working towards minimizing their environmental impact. A few ways cruises are taking action to become more eco-friendly are: clean and efficient energy, water treatment, waste management, and banning the use of plastic.
Efficient energy options on cruises help reduce the carbon footprint that’s left behind. Developers are now implementing: solar panels to power rooms, pools, kitchens, bars, and entertainment areas that need to be lit both night and day, tinted windows to keep the sunlight out leaving the room cooler, LED lighting, and room sensors to reduce the use of energy. You can even go above and beyond and decline maid services and reuse towels to reduce the energy used to clean linens.
Cruise lines now have access to technology that can purify wastewater so that it’s clean to drink and safe enough to go back into the ocean. This is crucial because the water that goes back into the ocean directly affects sea life as well as humans.
Reducing waste means no more buffets, plastic, or single-use materials. Items such as straws, water bottles, shopping bags, food packaging, stirrers, and takeaway cups are now being replaced with recycled materials. Food options are becoming more sustainable by providing seafood options, and products that are a result of direct trade which supports the local communities you're cruising to.
The Eco-Friendly Traveler
As you pack for your vacation, consider ways you can travel more responsibly and sustainably. The little changes you make can have a huge impact on preserving and protecting the world’s precious resources. So, where should you begin? As a responsible tourist, it’s important to have an active awareness about the effect your travel has on your destination and its culture.
You can help beautiful communities thrive by supporting local businesses. When shopping at local markets, bring a canvas bag for your items to help reduce your plastic consumption while traveling. It’s easy to get caught up in the relaxing atmosphere of tropical destinations—but try to be mindful of your water usage by limiting showers to one minute. Some destinations don’t have a large supply of fresh, clean water, so any efforts you make to conserve the supply is impactful. While this advice may seem obvious, it’s important to remind yourself of your individual impact when traveling, that way, you’re consistently making responsible choices during your journey and positively impacting the world.
If you decide that cruising isn’t for you, there are plenty of hotels and luxury resorts that are also making efforts to become more sustainable. While these establishments focus primarily on the guest experience, they are also working towards integrating green-friendly initiatives—such as green building materials, energy and water efficiency, and recycling programs— that enhance the experience.
Much like the cruises, hotels are implementing new strategies to reduce their energy and water usage while keeping their customers happy and comfortable. Rooms are being designed with a darker interior to keep guests cool, which minimizes the need for air conditioning. Other efforts include linen and towel reuse programs that are now an industry standard, as well as the installation of low-flow water fixtures for showers and sinks.
Building supplies are a crucial part of efforts towards becoming a sustainable business, and it’s something many of us wouldn’t even notice. Companies are working towards being eco-friendly, starting with the foundation of their establishments. Resorts like Six Senses, work towards designing their rooms to reflect the local culture by using local materials such as certified wood, recycled and renewable materials as well as natural fibers, fabrics, and flooring.
The hospitality industry has made great strides towards implementing recycling programs that are more than just the basic standard of reusing materials or limiting plastic use. Food waste and composting programs are becoming increasingly popular allowing businesses to give back to the environment around them. Many hotels are also making the switch to more environmentally friendly room keys; instead of using plastic cards, they are moving to paper, wood, and bioplastic materials which are better for the environment and equally as durable.
There are many buzz words used surrounding the ideas of travel and being eco-friendly. One word that is commonly heard (but misunderstood) is eco-tourism. Eco-tourism is defined as “responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment, sustains the well-being of the local people, and involves interpretation and education.” There are plenty of locations that provide the opportunity to immerse yourself into the culture and environment you’re in.
An eco-tourism trip can include any of the following activities: aid in animal and environmental conservation, help a village or teach English. Volunteer trips are important, especially to the eco-friendly traveler because it gives you the opportunity to give back to the local communities and habitats you're visiting.
These types of trips that allow you to aid in animal and environmental conservation will not only expose you to a new level of respect for the earth and its environment but also change the lives of the beings you work with. These trips work with animals that are ingrained into the culture of the communities that surround them and develop initiatives to create more sustainable solutions that benefit everyone involved.
Taking a trip to teach English or help a community is not only a great way to give back to communities but also a way to immerse yourself in the culture of a new country. It provides the opportunity to learn a new way of life— and even a new language. If you're more interested in getting your hands dirty, assisting in the building of houses in communities is a perfect way to help a community in need.
No matter which trip you choose to embark on, being aware of how you impact the environment and culture is key. You can make your travels even more enjoyable by immersing yourself in the local culture and respecting their traditions, and the planet will benefit from your commitment to making more eco-conscious choices while exploring the world.
This is a featured article from guest blogger, Alexis L.