Let’s talk about 2020 (cue hesitant shudder).
Last year, we were all forced to slow down; travel was restricted, we were advised to work from home and social activities were limited. Yes, this was largely discouraging but while we were all selfishly thinking about how the pandemic was affecting our social lives, we forgot about how valuable this interruption might be for the environment.
With travel constraints on an international scale, this significant slowdown of social and economic activities has seen air quality improve in many cities, a reduction in GHGs emissions, lessened water and noise pollution, decreased pressure on tourist destinations, and miraculously allowed the Antarctic ozone hole to finally close.
Now more than ever it’s important that we think more sustainably going forward so that we don’t undo this progress.
So, how can we continue to look out for the environment once we start travelling again?
The World Tourism Organisation (WTO) defines sustainable travel as “tourism that takes full account of its current and future economic, social and environmental impacts, addressing the needs of its visitors, the industry, the environment and host communities”.
Sustainable travel is finding a way to travel that minimises our negative impact on the planet. This includes taking care not to harm cultural and natural environments so that they can be maintained long-term.
Sustainable travel should reduce the negative impacts of tourism and be beneficial to the area in which it takes place. As a sustainable traveller, you are committed to preserving environments, ecosystems and communities while exploring them.
To ensure you’re travelling responsibly there are a few things you can do:
Although air travel is the most convenient way of travelling, it is also the most detrimental to the environment, therefore if you can, try to travel by train or bus. Not only does this reduce your carbon footprint but it can also be cheaper.
Limit flying where possible, and if you must fly attempt to fly direct if you can.
When choosing destinations, try to avoid countries or cities that suffer from overtourism. By doing so you won’t be putting as much pressure on local communities and from a personal perspective, you won’t have to deal with huge crowds, steep prices and long queues.
Eating like a local when visiting a new place has a few benefits. It allows you to fully immerse yourself in the local culture while at the same time supporting the local economy and reducing your environmental footprint.
Food that is imported carries a higher carbon footprint, so when travelling sustainably be sure to enjoy food that is grown locally, seasonal produce and organic.
This goes without saying but plastic produces a huge amount of waste. Whether it’s plastic bottles, toothpaste tubes or shopping bags each contributes to harming the environment when disposed of.
Avoiding plastic both at home and when travelling will greatly reduce your environmental impact. Instead, consider buying a reusable water bottle, using toothpaste tabs, carrying your own cutlery and travelling with reusable canvas bags. More importantly, say no to straws.
Cruises are fun but when it comes to total greenhouse gas emissions and overtourism, cruising is one of the biggest perpetrators.
As a result of cruises, port cities can see such high levels of carbon emissions that people can die prematurely. Further to this, day-trippers from cruises are overwhelming local economies, driving up prices, forcing out locals, and creating destinations that are over-reliant on tourism.
Before you rush to ASOS to buy your holiday wardrobe for your next trip, think twice. In the UK, around 300,000 tonnes of clothing is sent to landfill each year and shockingly most of these items are holiday wear that is discarded after being worn once and sometimes not at all.
Pack items you already own and if you must purchase new items look to sustainable fashion brands and try to buy things that will last forever.
Equally, packing light will also benefit the planet. Each extra kilo requires extra fuel, so think smart when packing your suitcase.
These are just a few of the ways you can become a more responsible traveller. Remember, every little helps.
Need travel insurance for your next trip? Expatriate Group can help.
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