How to become a more sustainable traveller

Photo courtesy of Chait Goli/Pexels

By: Sanjida Amin

According to the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), Sustainable tourism refers to “Tourism that takes full account of its current and future economic, social and environmental impacts, addressing the needs of visitors, the industry, the environment, and host communities.” According to a study conducted by the University of Sydney, tourism is responsible for 8% of global carbon emissions, with the United States leading the way, followed by China, Germany, India. It was also found that travellers from Canada, Switzerland, the Netherlands, and Denmark exert a much higher carbon footprint when travelling than in their own countries. The United Nations declared 2017 as the “Year of Sustainable Tourism” in an effort to highlight that many popular tourist locations were not operating in the most environmentally sustainable ways. This initiative aimed to inspire tourists to consider their impact on the environment, society, and local economy while travelling.  

Tourism has a significant impact on ecosystems and the overall health of the planet. While air travel is responsible for about 5% of the world’s carbon emissions, travel is not just about emissions. Travel can also result in excessive water use, deterioration of the environment, improper waste disposal, increased greenhouse gas emissions, and more. However, sustainable travel is becoming an increasingly important area of focus in the tourism industry, and there are multiple ways travel can have less of an impact on the environment. Below are several simple tips to help you travel more sustainably. 

1. Consider your destination carefully 

As Jim Sano, Vice President of Travel, Tourism, and Conservation for the World Wildlife Fund once said, “Selecting a destination that achieves a balance of protecting natural and cultural resources, providing for sustainable livelihoods, and creating a high-quality traveler experience is challenging.”  

When choosing a destination to travel to, there are many factors to consider, such as how far away the location is, how efficient the lodging is, transportation option in the destination, and more. Asking these questions can help you find a destination that takes into consideration sustainability and reduces the impact your trip can have on the environment. 

2. Pack smart 

  • Bring a reusable water bottle with you to avoid purchasing single-use plastic water bottles. 
  • Reduce your use of single use plastics and pack zero waste items instead, such as reusable bags (e.g., totes and produce bags), reusable straws, reusable cutlery, etc. 
  • Invest in an energy-efficient multipurpose electric plug for all your devices. 

3. Be conscious of where you stay and try to choose hotels/lodges that follow environmental guidelines. 

4. Explore locally grown and organic food items. Read our recent blog post to learn more about organic food consumption! 

5. Be aware of your carbon footprint: Choose to use public transport, walking, or biking over a car whenever possible. By using public transportation, you can easily visit new places and interact with people you might have not otherwise encountered! 

6. Do your part 

  • Avoid excessive food waste. 
  • Consider your water usage by taking shorter showers and turning of the tap when not in use.  
  • Take a nature-based tour if they are available in the city you are traveling to and explore the local natural areas! 

Travelling is a wonderful way to experience other cultures and expand our understanding of the world. However, travelling can also be intensive on the environment. Luckily, there are many ways to minimize our environmental impact while travelling, and this blog highlighted a few simple alternatives you can try during your next trip to become a more sustainable traveller. We hope these tips serve as a reminder to be mindful of the places you visit and consider the future impact of your travel choices!

Categories: Outdoors, Student Contributor