And for good reason. The world is creating a hype around this topic because it’s important – heck, it’s absolutely crucial that sustainability is at the heart of everything we do.
So why am I writing about this on a travel blog? Well, because put simply, travel is largely destructive to our planet. Think about the emissions produced on one flight alone. But sustainability isn’t JUST about fighting climate change. Sustainability is about ensuring we sustain or maintain our environment, cultures, animals’ habitats etc on the long term.
Slowly, slowly the world is realising that our impact on the planet is becoming unmanageable. Glaciers are melting, coral reefs are dying, and the plastic problem has spiralled out of control.
So what can we do? Without this becoming an essay on how we all need to work collaboratively to change the world, I wanted to think about little things we can do that will change the bigger picture.
I thought it’s about time to question other travel bloggers on what made them realise that sustainable travel is important, and actions they take on their trips to travel more sustainably.
I first realised how important sustainable travel is to me during my years traveling full time, probably 10-12 years ago from now. It came with learning as I traveled, through information from people I met, guides and travellers that made me think more about the consequences of my actions.
And I’m still learning. With time, I started to notice the effect of over tourism in people and places I traveled to. I stopped throwing rubbish (and cigarette butts at the time) on the ground. Then I started picking up rubbish and even cleaning up beaches as I traveled in Asia.
I learned more about the negative impacts of animal tourism and stopped visiting zoos (I was never a big fan of zoos, but went along with friends anyway). The recent years I also learned why you should not ride elephants, even in animal rescue sanctuaries. I just wanted to cry because I used to love to ride elephants and had no idea it was harmful for the animal. Now it seems like I become more and more conscious every day.
Travel off season if you have the opportunity and be curious. This definitely makes a lower negative impact on the destination, its people and wildlife.
First of all, it is easier to interact with locals in low season. Most of the time locals are happy to interact with you if you show respect and are curious about their country and customs. If you are lucky, someone will tell you about a local, secret gem you can visit or even invite you home for a local meal. This way you get way more out of the trip. You will also leave money to the local community outside peak season, which is a great thing.
Secondly, it is harmful to nature when it gets too crowded. It is harder to control the masses so they don’t harm nature. It provokes more rubbish and it’s harder for the local community to manage it.
Thirdly, when it comes to wildlife spotting, there is nothing better than traveling off season. Places where wild animals can be spotted are in danger of being spoilt when too many people go to see them at once. The animals choose to move other places and their natural cycle gets disturbed when interrupted. This can affect the whole ecosystem of an area.
Finally, for your own benefit you will most likely be much more relaxed on you trip, get much better photos and enjoy the real culture of your destination.
I will soon be going to Morocco on a road trip. I know that a car is not the most sustainable transport to take, but it also depends on the alternative. It is much more sustainable to take the car across the pond from southern Spain to Morocco than it is to take a plane.
And I love road trips. It gives me the freedom to stop where I want and when I want to. In this way I get to experience places I would never even know existed if I traveled differently. It really offers the opportunity to explore small unknown towns and the countryside of a country. Also, it is easier to find affordable accommodation outside the cities.
I have always known sustainable tourism is important, but my desire to make changes grew after travelling around Asia for 3 months last year. In Australia, our rubbish is taken away from us every week, which gives people the idea that it literally does just disappear. But we know this isn’t true. It ends up somewhere. Seeing the reality of this while travelling inspired me to make changes, one step at a time.
I actually have a business degree with a major in Sustainable Tourism so one day I would love to make an impact on a larger scale, but for now, I am just thinking about the changes I can make in my lifestyle.
The easiest change you make is carrying a refillable water bottle, reusable coffee cup and bamboo utensils and a straw. I think travelling more sustainably is a process that you can improve on over time, so starting here is a great step. Then making other changes by remaining conscious of your impact and how you can reduce it. This could be by taking fewer flights or assisting with community projects. See more of my sustainable travel tips here.
This year I will be travelling exclusively to Australian destinations. I can’t wait to share my country with the world.
As I travelled around the world, I started to realise the impact that travel has on world – both positive and negative. This awareness started creeping in slowly, but really hit home when I was in Africa. The Rwenzori Mountains are an incredible environment, but a fragile one, and they have limited the number of travellers who can go there each year. I was impressed by this. Safari tourism gives the local people a way to make money from the animals other than poaching, and actually going there made me more aware of this.
However, I also noticed that frequent contact with foreigners was changing the lifestyle of the Masai people and I wasn’t so sure that this was a good thing. From all this came a very clear realisation that if I was to continue travelling, doing so in a way that minimised my footprint was important to me.
Something that I have started to do more and more is to take workshops with local artisans, teachers and people working from their homes. For example, I try to take cooking classes that women hold in their homes, or learn a handicraft like block printing in India or mosaic tile work in Morocco from artisans.
This has several advantages. It gives me a deeper insight into the handicrafts and the culture. However, it also gives these artisans an opportunity to make more money from their craft, thus seeing that maintaining these cultural traditions has monetary as well as cultural value.
I am actually going to Stockholm for two weeks in summer. Every blog post I read about Stockholm is “Two Days in Stockholm”. I want to experience the city more like a local and get a deeper feel of the place by celebrating mid-summer and living like a local for two weeks.
As I began to travel more and see with my own eyes what mass tourism can do to a specific destination, including the ones very close to us. I live in a small village in Portugal called Ericeira which is much sought after by tourists, especially by surfers, since it is considered a World Surfing Reserve. I know the impact that tourism can have on a small town, and I believe that if we take small gestures, such as not littering or respecting the locals, we can make all the difference.
The simple things can make all the difference. From not using plastic utensils, conserving water, picking up trash on a beach, even when it’s not our own, or not harming the environment or local animal species. Think of the destination you are visiting as if it were your own home.
I’m going to Bali in April, and I’m a bit in expectation of what I’m going to find there. I have not been to Bali for 10 years, and I have heard that the island has reached alarming levels of pollution, especially on the beaches. I hope that the situation is improving as there have been many awareness-raising actions. In any case, I will play my part and take on small actions that help Bali to overcome this situation.
Although I am still relatively young (mid-thirties), I have been traveling for more than 20 years and I have been able to check in situ many of the natural disasters that humankind caused so far. That’s when I understood, a long time ago, that tourism and travel as we understood them had to change and become more sustainable; or we could not continue traveling.
Think before you leave. And discard all those ridiculous trips of one or two days on the other side of the world. They simply are not worthy of so much associated carbon footprint! Every day I’m more a fan of slow travel and things like cycling, walking, and sailing around the world!. These adventures have minimal impact, yet change lives. I encourage you to try it!
It is a bit paradoxical, but our next trip is a meeting in Cuenca, Spain, where will deal with issues such as sustainable tourism and how to make our trips more responsible.
When I left first time to travel to Southeast Asia, I was so excited to see the rainforest and the real, exotic jungle. But I quickly realised that the jungle I imagined is nearly gone and a vast of it has been replaced with palm oil plantations. The wildlife is kept only in reserves and national parks and the image of the jungle I had has completely changed. Then I saw beautiful beaches and nature which is being destroyed by pollution and huge amounts of plastic. There was everything you can imagine on the beach, washed up from the sea.
This made me realise how important responsible tourism is nowadays and how much there is to do. Everyone can take simple steps to reduce waste and carbon footprint. Here is a beginners guide on how to do it, and how to travel more eco-friendly.
I am trying to stay with locals as much as possible when I travel, I buy on the local markets to support farmers and producers, I only buy hand made souvenirs and crafts. I believe this is a great contribution to local businesses.
I am currently sitting in the airport of Bohol, Philippines, boarding to Borneo Island, in discovery of the wildlife.
I’ve always been aware of sustainability and the impact we have on the environment. As a child I would run around the house and switch off lights in rooms that weren’t being used. So for me trying to have a positive impact while travelling came naturally.
During my many trips I saw the negatives that traveling can have on the environment and the local communities. So I decided to become a travel journalist and inform people on how to travel as sustainable as possible.
Over 18 months my boyfriend and I set off to an amazing trip around the world. We wanted to continue our efforts to have a low carbon footprint lifestyle. So we decided to travel the world without flying. So far we’re doing pretty good; in the last 12 months we have only taken one 1-hour flight due to closed land borders. Other than that we’ve been traveling by trains, buses, boats and rides from locals. And it’s been amazing!
We are not against flying, but we do believe we could all do with fewer flights. Of course flying is easy, comfortable and fast. But you miss all the fun that traveling is really about: meeting the locals and going off the beaten track.
We get to go to places were hardly any tourists ever go. We experience the changes of the landscape, people, language and food culture. We meet amazing people from all over the world and get into adventures we would have never had if we took a flight.
When you do need to fly to get to your destination, try to take a direct flight, since taking-off and landing causes the most pollution. And always offset the negative impact through a carbon emission program.
We are now on the island of Sumba in Indonesia. It’s an incredibly beautiful place and tourism is just starting. With many ecolodges and community projects it’s a great place to have a positive impact during our stay. Our next destination will be Timor, which we will reach by a 22-hour ferry. What an adventure!
I grew up living in several different countries and travelling constantly, so I always knew it’s important to be culturally sensitive and aware as a kid. If we were talking about the environmental side of things, then again it started very young and at home. It’s just the idea of valuing the continuation of sights, traditions, resources and our world in general.
Environmentally, a water bottle. Everyone who travels tend to drink more fluids on holiday for whatever reason. You leave your room and you almost always leave with a bottle of water or you go buy one while you’re out. That’s a lot of plastic, which most of us don’t know how to recycle in whatever location you are at.
A easy fix is to bring a water bottle and fill it with chilled boiled water from your room. If you drink 2-3 bottles a day and you only relied on bottled water then that’s an incredible amount of plastic.
Culturally, I would say learn how to be an observer. Your aim should be to go to a place and leave without any trace of your visit left behind. That’s your rubbish, your activities, or even your values and behaviour on the local people.
I don’t have travel plans as of right now but by the end of this year I will most definitely be going to South Korea, Japan and Australia.
It sort of crept up on me to be honest! I was always aware of a need to be more sustainable, but didn’t do much about it for a long time, like many people.
Visiting New Zealand and falling instantly in love gave me a deep passion for protecting the world and taking extra care to treat nature with respect, and seeing the destruction of reefs around Asia and the Great Barrier Reef made me realise something drastically needed to change.
It was really the final straw in various Asian countries when I couldn’t fathom the amount of plastic and waste used, and the rubbish lining the road and beaches … It broke my heart! I vowed to myself then to not only practice better habits myself, but encourage others to do the same.
Start small! It doesn’t have to be life-changing right away, or it can be. Whatever makes you feel most comfortable is the key.
I started with a really sturdy (and stylish!) reusable water bottle. I then changed my liquid shampoo to a shampoo bar, a small but hugely effective change in the long-run. I then advanced to a reusable straw, and slowly but surely many other elements fell into place.
These small changes are also much easier to carry on at home too – it’s making the habit stick which is important!
I’d also suggest finding sustainable products and services through thorough research and recommendations to see what suits you and brings you joy. It’s always more encouraging when you’re genuinely excited to use your funky new environmentally-friendly accessory!
I’m off to Marrakech in a few days, and I can’t wait! I’ve not visited Morocco before so I’m excited for new experiences and new adventures. Of course, I can’t wait to bring my little Earth-friendly utensils with me for the ride!
The moment it hit me was when I was traveling in Thailand. Don’t get me wrong, Thailand is a country I love. But when I saw the maltreatment of animals, and local culture ripped down and replaced by western fast food chains and bars, I realised something had to change. It had a profound impact on me, and now I try to encourage everyone to travel responsibly. Tourism drives a huge part of Thailand’s economy, so it’s easy to see why they cater to western tourists. But this should not be at the cost of destroying the things that made people travel there in the first place.
Be aware of your impact and educate yourself. The things we do, and the money we spend while traveling either supports good and bad causes. I’ve noticed a lot of people think they are the exception saying things like, “Sure, elephants are mistreated for the sake of tourists, but my one ride won’t make a difference.” It does! The problem is that everyone thinks that same way! We need to make sure we’re supporting the good in the world, even if it means sacrificing something for ourselves!
Next, I am headed to Europe (Sweden, Greece, Italy, England, Austria). Then either Asia or South America!
I’m not sure that I had an “a-ha” moment, but I began traveling more while living in Korea, and I just started realising how much waste it was all producing. Korea has a huge cafe culture, so I was probably going out once or twice a day for an iced latte, which means I was using way too many plastic straws, cups, napkins, etc.
I also had friends who were either vegan or environmentally-conscious, so being surrounded by that also helps with awareness. I actually feel a bit bad because I had a friend talking about not using plastic cutlery and straws back in 2014, and I didn’t start thinking about it until at least a year+ later!
Start small and don’t be too hard on yourself if you’re not perfect right away. I think once you realise just how not sustainable you are, you can get overwhelmed with guilt or frustration to the point that you just stop caring altogether – or you do very stupid things like try drinking a thick smoothie without a straw and spilling it on yourself!
I’d say, just start with one thing and make it a habit. For me, that was definitely not using straws so much and forcing myself to tell baristas or waiters not to give me one. You really don’t need a straw at all and drinks last much longer when just sip them. If I do want to use a straw, I carry a reusable one in my bag and rinse it out in the sink afterwards.
I’m off to Kuala Lumpur next! I’m planning to spend about 2 months in Asia, visiting new places and revisiting old favorites. I actually just ordered a bunch of stuff off Net Zero that I’d been meaning to get, like a reusable straw that bends into a package, a bamboo cutlery set to avoid plastic forks and whatnot, and those silicon baggies to replace Ziploc bags for snacks!
I first realised this when I began to read more and more about the impact of tourism on some of the more delicate and older sites in the world, like the Great Wall and Machu Picchu. I want to know that these beautiful places will still be there for my children and grandchildren to see.
Follow the posted rules when you’re traveling to delicate areas! So many people still insist on trying to touch, climb and feel the things they’re seeing, despite being told that doing so will cause further degeneration of the site. I was disappointed when I realised at Stonehenge that I couldn’t touch the stones, but I understood why when I read that if people kept touching them, they wouldn’t be there to touch soon!
We’re going to Cancun in two days! Really looking forward to seeing Chichen Itza and not climbing it!
A few years ago, while traveling in India I was keeping track of how much money I was spending as I was in a tight budget. On that 2 week trip I purchased fourteen 2 litre bottles of water. Fourteen! On top of that, everywhere we went there were plastic water bottles on the ground. I didn’t want to be part of creating more plastic waste anymore. Every trip since then I’ve carried my little Sawyer water filter with me.
When traveling, it’s so easy to use single-use products, but you don’t have to. On every trip, I bring my Sawyer water filter, a metal straw, a spoon/fork/knife, and my shampoo bar. Through these methods I can almost completely eliminate my former single-use habits.
At the end of February I’m beginning a new life as a Travel Writer, Travel Nanny, and Adventure Trip Leader! I’m excited and completely nervous for this new and exciting journey! I’ll be traveling for a little over a month. During that time I’ll be: Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, going on Safari, beaching it in Zanzibar, visiting a friend in Ghana, and doing a bit of solo travel in London!
We started travelled long-term as a family in 2017, to ‘worldschool’ our kids, by exploring the globe together. While preparing our life for long-term travel, I realised that we would be having a detrimental impact on the places we were visiting and contributing a lot to carbon emissions if we just travelled conventionally, so I spoke with my family about travelling slowly (mostly overland) and keeping a focus on ethical experiences and supporting local people. It worked well and was very enjoyable for us too, and I think it’s great that our kids are not only experiencing amazing travels, but are also learning that we can do it while having a positive impact.
There are many ways to travel more sustainably, but I think at this point my best tip would be to travel slowly, and if you must go to a superstar destination, travel in the off-peak or low season. It’s ok NOT to visit the main attractions in each place, and those cheap flights to somewhere that everyone is going is probably not going to be an amazing experience any
more. Choosing one or two destinations for a holiday that are a bit unusual, and which allow you to settle in a bit and get to know the place and some of the people, is a much more satisfying experience than just skimming the surface of several places and getting the same photos as everyone else. I do understand that sometimes a big tourist attraction is what you’ve come to see, or have always wanted to see. We recently visited Australia’s biggest drawcard, Uluru, as I’d always wanted to and our kids were keen to go there. To keep our trip low-impact we travelled in the shoulder-season and took our time travelling there, supporting small towns along the way. We also stayed at Uluru for 10 days so we could explore properly and learn much about our historic, amazing red centre. We took workshops which support local people, rode around Uluru on bicycles, and had time to meet other travellers too. It was a really amazing experience and I highly recommend this approach, as it lessened demand at their peak times, and also benefitted us with lower prices and more connection to others.
Next we are heading to South and Central America! We have been planning to get to Mexico and Costa Rica for some time now, and while we’re over that side of the world we will explore some of South and probably North America too. It’s a huge flight from Australia, so we will make the most of our time in the Americas, travelling by bus or train once we get there and seeking home-stays and ethical, local tours. My whole family is learning Spanish in preparation and we are very excited to be departing later this year!
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Thanks for reading and happy travels!
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