5 ways to be a better traveller in the future
1. Support local communities
When you travel, you support a huge network that employs people all over the world – from chefs to trekking porters. Since the pandemic, the financial impact has had a knock-on effect all the way down the supply chain, hurting communities, and individuals who depend on tourism to survive.
Opting for more community-based tours on your next holiday can be both a rewarding and meaningful way to experience the world while putting money in the pockets of those on the ground.
Community-based tourism is about offering experiences that are completely owned by the people that live there. Some of our favorites include the Juanelama community project in Costa Rica and the Anurak Lodge in Khao Sok, Thailand. By opting for these kinds of locally-run experiences, you’ll not only get an authentic insight into the place you’re visiting, but you’ll make a real difference to the whole community.
2. Help protect wildlife and habitats
As travellers, our choices have an impact on the places and eco-systems that we visit, especially in areas that are prone to heavy tourism. This is a problem for wildlife and habitats that draw huge visitor numbers. But there are glimmers of hope. With fewer tourists in Thailand this year, conservationists have reported a rise in rare leatherback turtle nests around Phuket, showing that eco-systems can flourish when given a little breathing room.
We always recommend planning your travels to avoid areas where over-tourism is an issue. Not only are you likely to have a more rewarding experience with fewer tourists around, but it will also be less stressful on local wildlife and habitats too.
Sadly, when other means for income is scarce, communities are often driven to exploit natural resources in order to survive. Tourism can offer an alternative solution; a solution that empowers people to protect these environments while making a steady income and educating visitors too. By choosing wildlife experiences that invest not only in the welfare of the animals but in wider conservation efforts, you’re creating demand for a more sustainable industry that advocates humane practices and provides much-needed jobs.
Initiatives like Save Elephant Foundation, which operates a handful of wildlife conservation projects across South East Asia, does amazing work for elephant conservation through responsible tourism, while also providing work and empowerment for communities too.
3. Use less plastic
Plastic pollution is one of the biggest environmental challenges we have ever faced. There’s no denying that tourism is part of the problem, but it also has a major role in supporting the solution too. Much of the plastic produced for tourism is for single use and can’t be recycled. Every straw, every plastic fork, every carrier bag, and water bottle. This throwaway culture can lead to a huge build-up of waste that not only spoils a pretty view but is harmful to creatures too. According to OnePlanetNetwork, “each year, an additional eight million tonnes of plastic end up in the world’s oceans where it is responsible for the deaths of up to one million sea birds, 100,000 sea mammals, marine turtles and countless fish.”
We all have a responsibility to reduce the amount of unnecessary plastic we use. Some of the easiest tips include:
- Taking a reusable straw with you, everywhere you go
- Carrying a steel travel mug or reusable water bottle and seeking out water re-fill stations
- Opt for more second-hand clothes instead of new ones with plastic-based fibres which take a long time to break down in landfill. Organic cotton, hemp and linen are much more sustainable choices and are tend to be more comfortable in hot climates too
- Switch from plastic bottled shampoo to shampoo bars – they’re easier to pack and are better for the environment too.
4. Travel to learn (about yourself and others)
Travelling can have an extraordinary impact on our mental health, as well as our sense of connection with who we are and the things we value most in life. It also provides an opportunity to learn more about the places and people that are different to us, while offering an insight into our own worlds in return; a sort of two-way exchange.
Experiencing a lockdown and the isolation that comes with it has left many of us craving more human connection and face-to-face interactions. Life is short, and there’s a big world out there. When it’s time to travel with confidence again, relish the opportunity to strike up a conversation with strangers, meet like-minded travellers and savour the things you learn. You might find that we’re not so different after all.
5. Manage your carbon footprint
There’s no denying that tourism leaves a huge carbon footprint on our planet, with the likes of transport, shopping and food production being major contributors to carbon emissions. (Sustainability Times)
While the whole issue around climate change might feel overwhelming, there are ways you can personally help reduce your impact, without writing-off travel forever. A few of these ways include looking at the carbon-cost of your flights, choosing to offset your emissions and supporting companies that aim to operate sustainably.
What is carbon offsetting?
Carbon offsetting means investing in projects that reduce greenhouse gas emissions elsewhere to compensate for your own. It’s like a trade-off, where the overall aim is to reach net zero – carbon neutrality. As international travel opens up, voluntary carbon offsetting will be more important than ever before, with many environmental organisations encouraging travellers to invest in additional carbon credits, to exceed carbon neutrality.
How can I carbon offset my flights?
You can carbon offset your flights either directly with your airline or through another initiative. One of the biggest issues that most travellers face is choosing (and trusting) which scheme to use. If you’re looking to offset a dedicated company (i.e. not through an airline) then it’s worth doing some research and getting a steer from environmental organisations who’ve looked into them and certified the best.
Gold Standard is a widely recommended non-profit organisation, founded by a group of environmental groups and NGOs including the WWF. However, there are other Gold Standard certified projects around the world too, like Atmosfair in Germany, MyClimate in Switzerland, Climate Care in the UK and Terrapass in the US.
We know that the issues of climate change feel overwhelmingly big – we feel it too. But we know there are solutions within our power as consumers, and we believe that we can make a big difference if we unite to bring change.