With the Christmas Holidays coming up and restrictions starting to relax, we thought it would be suitable to explain some ways for you to be a sustainable tourist, whether it be now or years in the future.
Do your research
What you do before you travel will have the biggest impact on your sustainable footprint, whether you’re travelling within the UK or abroad.
Look at the location of where you are staying and when you are staying there. If you are travelling in high season, then there is a good chance that the city or town you are staying at will be over-congested, especially in the city centre, so look further out. Not only will you be reducing the already crowded nature of the city, but prices will also be cheaper. Travelling in the low season is also a good alternative as prices are lower, and the area you are travelling to will be less burdened by large numbers of tourists.
Research your hotel: what is its energy rating? Can you reach it by public transport or on foot? A website – bookdifferent.com – allows you to check the sustainability rating of hotels before you book.
Travelling closer to home is always the best option when it comes to sustainability, however, if you do want to travel abroad there are some countries that are rated very highly on their sustainable tourism. As always do your research but some places to consider are Palau, Slovenia and Spain.
The surrounding area and communities of where you are staying are essential to consider before you travel. If you are travelling somewhere wild or near the coast, will you be based in a conservation area such as a Marine Conservation Zone? Will the local community be supportive of nature-based initiatives?
Once you have chosen your dream location, you quite importantly have to get there. There are many different travel options but which is best? Flying is a large polluter, so if possible look at train travel or eco-friendly cars. Many people consider cruises as a sustainable way to reach their destination, however, these are far more polluting and environmentally damaging than planes, with their enormous size and high fuel usage coming into play.
Slow travel is a superb form of travel to consider, often emitting far fewer emissions and having a smaller footprint than other faster forms of travel. This can involve trains, hikes and bikes as well as smaller sea vessels. Slow travel turns the journey into as much of a holiday as the destination itself.
If you do have to travel by a less sustainable method then look at offsetting your travel emissions. There are a large array of websites and organisations that allow you to pay to have your emissions offset whether it be through tree planting or supporting environmental initiatives, they often have travel emissions calculators too.
Pack with nature in mind
For the sustainable traveller, packing is an essential part of the trip. Not only does it save weight but it saves time, money and most importantly your poor shoulders that have to carry your suitcase.
Try to minimise how much you are bringing with you and stick to the essentials. The less your luggage weighs the cheaper it will be to transport but also the less fuel it will take to transport it. When packing your toiletries look at what they contain, if it is environmentally harmful and if you can find a more sustainable alternative. Many toiletries such as sun cream, insect repellent and moisturiser can contain harmful chemicals that can leach into the surrounding environment when you use them on holiday.
Bringing reusable items such as tote bags, food containers and cutlery are essential for travel, and the reduction in single-use plastics you will use along the way will greatly benefit nature.
While you are visiting these amazing locations it is likely that you will want to spend some time and money exploring the area. Where your money lands is as important as anything else on this list.
When eating, always look for locally sourced food: it will have fewer miles on it, often be cheaper, far better for you and less processed. Ask where the food has come from, or how they obtained it, as this can indicate its level of sustainability.
You should also try to avoid large chains of shops or restaurants and focus more on smaller and more localised businesses as spending your money here will ensure the purchase of probably more eco-friendly products, as well as supporting the local community. When you are looking for places to explore, try and find local nature conservation areas as visiting these will support them and provide funding for the environmental guardians looking after them. The funding of wildlife areas also empowers the local communities, provides them with work and a reason to protect these precious areas.
When buying anything abroad or here in the UK always ask questions or try and figure out for yourself how sustainable it is. Some useful questions to bear in mind are:
- Where has it come from?
- When was it made?
- What is it made of?
- How long will it last?
- Where is the money going?
- How transportable is it?
- Is it an animal or plant product that could be being used illegally?
When travelling, always do your research, never be afraid to ask questions whether it be online, locals or travel agents – everyone is willing to help – and as always, stay safe.
Images: taken by Ollie Riley-Smith