How to Travel Sustainably Post-Pandemic
After months of lockdowns and restrictions, many of us are understandably raring to get back out there and travel again. But as we all emerge from our homes and head back out to explore the wonders of the world, it is important to think carefully about how, where and when we travel. We must travel sustainably.
Unsustainable travel and mass tourism take a heavy toll on people and ecosystems around the world. And once restrictions are lifted, there is a danger that this toll could become even greater than before, as so many people travel to top destinations en masse. So how can we make sure we travel sustainably post-pandemic? As a sustainability consultant, here are my top tips:
Consider Where and When You Travel
One aspect of sustainable travel that is often overlooked is that, even when we as individuals make the right choices, we can still be a problem when part of a crowd. As an individual, the water, energy and other resources you consume as you travel may not have a major impact. Your footprint may not be very large. But when you travel to popular destinations, there is a risk that all that individual consumption, and all those individual footprints can take a greater toll on ecosystems and communities.
It is important, therefore, to consider where you go and when you travel. For greater sustainability, seek destinations off the beaten track. Avoid the crowds. Seek out new and exciting places to visit where the number of travellers will be less, and travel during off-peak times.
When considering where to go, don’t overlook fascinating destinations closer to home. Often, we seek adventures across the world when we have not even fully explored our own areas. Sometimes, staying closer to home can also be a great way to reduce your negative impact.
Think About How You Reach Your Destination
Surely, by now, everyone is aware of the shocking carbon cost of air travel. Vilifying those who do take occasional flights is not the answer. But before hopping on a plane, it is always a good idea to consider other options. For distant destinations, take a train, sail, or buy or hire an electric vehicle for road trips. When staying closer to home, consider slow travel solutions like hiking, cycling, kayaking, canoeing, or horseback riding, for example.
If you do take a flight, offset your emissions, and make sure that you choose an offset scheme that is really making a difference. Not creating emissions in the first place is obviously preferable to offsetting, and the aviation industry (and cruise industry) must change. But in the meantime, we as individual travellers can at least do something to reduce our negative impact.
Stay Sustainably – Seek Accommodation Options That Share Your Goals
Once you reach your chosen destination, where you choose to stay will obviously also have a major impact on how sustainable your travel will be. Fortunately, there are an increasing number of sustainable accommodation options which share your green goals.
Camping can be a great low-impact choice, but there are also plenty of other, less rustic options. Sustainable farm stays, hostels, B&Bs, guesthouses and hotels are available in many places around the world.
When choosing a sustainable accommodation option, think about:
- Construction and material use (Was it built and fitted out in a sustainable way?)
- Energy (Does the establishment use renewable green energy?)
- Water use (Do they use water wisely and conserve it?)
- Food and drink (Do the accommodations offer sustainable food and drink to guests?)
- Waste (How is waste managed on the site?)
- Community (Is the accommodation an integrated part of the local community? Does it benefit the locals? How does it give back?)
Eat Sustainably Wherever You Roam
If the accommodation option you have chosen also provides sustainable food and drink, this is a great start. But whether you are dining in, dining out or self-catering, you should always be sure to make sustainable choices about what you eat.
Remember that, whether at home or while travelling, what you eat is a major contributing factor to your environmental footprint. Always choose sustainably grown, fresh, local and ideally organic options whenever possible. Reduce meat consumption, and think about what the things that end up on your plate really cost for people and the planet.
Choose Sustainable Activities While You Are Away
Seeking out sustainable food can be one enjoyable activity during your travels, but there are plenty of other sustainable pursuits to try. Choose sustainable cultural activities such as visiting historic sites, galleries and museums, and spend plenty of time exploring the wonders of the natural world by hiking, walking, and enjoying other eco-friendly outdoor activities. Think twice before choosing activities which utilise fossil fuels or have a negative impact on ecosystems.
Consider Waste of All Kinds
Zero-waste travel does not begin with what you throw away. It begins with what you buy. Make sure, on your travels as well as at home, that you refuse, reduce, reuse, repair and recycle. Plastic waste is high on the agenda, and it is important to reduce plastic use whenever possible – especially single-use plastics. But remember, zero-waste is not just about plastic. You also need to think about food, water and energy, for example. Avoid waste of all kinds.
Respect the Locals (Of All Species)
One of the joys of travel is all of the people you meet and creatures you see along the way. Respect human communities, and help sustainable ones to thrive by supporting local green businesses and aiding the local economy. Make sure you don’t trample on local flora, fauna or humans as you enjoy your adventures.
Give Back – Consider What Good You Can Do on Your Travels
Finally, travel can be about more than just enjoyment. Think about how you can give back, and do some good as well as just having fun. Volunteer for organic growing, sustainable building, beach cleans, conservation or rewilding projects… the options are endless. Through your travels, you can not only explore the world, you can help to make it a better place.
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Elizabeth Waddington is a permaculture designer and sustainability consultant based in the United Kingdom. She is passionate about sustainable travel, preserving all the world’s wonders and safeguarding the future for generations to come.