Sustainable Travel – Statistics and Facts
Sustainable travel refers to tourism that aims to reduce adverse effects on nature, the environment, local cultures, and the economy. There are three fundamental principles of keeping your travel impact lower, commonly known as the Three Pillars of Sustainability.
- Environmental. As far as the Earth is concerned, this is the primary pillar. Sustainable travel should be organized in such a way that it does not impinge on nature and the environment. This includes simple courtesies like not littering to more demanding challenges like avoiding holiday resorts built in areas of unspoiled nature and reducing your CO2 footprint.
- Social. The social pillar concerns itself with local communities, which should not be affected by tourism. History has seen some dark times with various forced removals and relocations. As a result, the social pillar includes travel that does not have adverse effects on local health and healthcare systems, education, or social justice. It also entails the preservation of cultural heritage.
- Economic. While there is the factor of keeping some businesses running, places people travel to should have the most benefits from the economic pillar. Sustainable tourism should open job vacancies, bring revenue to local communities, promote local trade, and involve proper accounting of cost-benefits (i.e., not undervaluing their services).
The fact is:
- CO2 emissions were significantly reduced during the pandemic due to the global travel ban.
- Nature and the environment recovered (hello, dolphins in Venice … that was a hoax, by the way!)
- This trend simply cannot continue indefinitely.
Although the pandemic is not over, the world seems to be over it, and travel has increased in recent months. Fortunately, responsible travel has also been on the cards for many individuals. According to studies and research,
- 53% of travelers stated they try to travel sustainably.
- Every third person believes that sustainable travel opportunities will become more accessible and prevalent in the future.
- Sustainable travel could open up 111 million new jobs worldwide in the coming years.
- Nearly 70% of people would be willing to help the recovery of local culture and nature through personal engagement, donations, or focusing on local products.
- Nearly half of surveyed individuals believe that global tourism is doing less than it could to improve the situation.
Having said that last one, what can we do to take more responsibility for the impact we’re making?
See the World on Its Own Terms – Travel Responsibly and Sustainably
Sustainability is all about taking action to reduce the negative impact of your own travel or taking responsibility for factors you cannot control. On this occasion, I am aware that the better part of climate change and pollution are hardly down to individuals. Large companies are the real culprit, but we as individuals can still play our tiny role and help our planet.
Traveling on someone else’s terms may be initially challenging, especially as you’re learning the ropes and abandoning your comfort zone. Sacrificing your luxury class or opting out of fancy hotels could sound off-putting and require more planning, but the difference you make could dictate our future. However, as a globetrotter myself, I can guarantee that the tips I provide today will grow on you.
Airtight Ways to Travel Sustainably
There are many small changes you can make to your travel plans to make your trips more sustainable.
- Avoid in-land flights. While we’re still far away from banning jets from streaming across any country, you can still do your best to avoid them. Trains and buses may take longer, but they are also more affordable. You can also be more specific about your final destination and have amenities at your disposal (Wi-Fi, toilets, on-board service, the ability to walk around freely). My pro-tip is to take night trains for longer destinations – simply drink a cup of hot chocolate, and you’ll sleep through most of your journey.
- Go for economy class. Business class sure offers small luxuries like more leg space and slightly bigger seats, but they also add extra weight to the plane, increasing carbon emissions. Long-haul flights are meant to be comfortable for all classes, and for shorter flights, you sure can live with a smaller seat.
- Choose environmentally friendly companies. Don’t dismiss low-budget flights – these guys are onto something. Their planes are usually newer and less damaging, and they take more travelers on board, reducing the number of flights overall. Kayak.com offers a search filter showing the environmental impact of your flight – so if you can afford it, go for the ones doing the world some good.
- Use public transport once you’re there. It goes without saying that most towns, let alone big cities, have a well-designed system of public transport. Taking a bus or tram lets you get a taste of local life. You can, of course, always take a taxi or Uber if there is no public transport available.
Once You’re There …
- Use local accommodation. Avoid big hotel franchises – there is nothing greater for pollution than these big names in the industry. Check out Airbnb, Couchsurfing, or Booking.com to find places offered by more sustainable sources. A plus point to these places is that you usually have access to the kitchen, and while, sure, you don’t want to cook on vacation, having breakfast at home actually reduces food waste that big hotels tend to dump where no one can see it.
- You can also check the green certifications of hotels/hostels. Disclaimer: I know that these places can be more expensive, and, given the current economy, we are all tightening our belts. If you can afford these places, go for them, but don’t feel obliged if it’s not within your budget.
- Avoid package tours. All-inclusive tourism means you get everything arranged for you. Consequently, you have less motivation to explore local culture on your own. Travel agencies also usually have deals with providers they choose, so they might be overcharging you for options you won’t even like.
Honoring the Local
- Eat at local restaurants or shop for locally-sourced goods. Local food hits better than McDonald’s anyway.
- Don’t shy away from street food. Yes, I admit it may be a bit greasy out there, but you shouldn’t let your diet or germaphobia get in the way of some delicious treats.
- When shopping, go to local artisans. Whether you’re looking for souvenirs or gifts, authentic arts and crafts are far better than anything you’ll find in a shopping center.
- Go off the beaten track. Don’t just cling to the most touristy places, waiting forever to take a picture at the same spot millions have already been. Check out some guides or special tours that’ll take you to the hidden wonders of the place you’re visiting. Don’t be afraid to do it alone; solo travel has many advantages!
- Slow down. Slow travel is all about staying longer in one place. One longer holiday is more sustainable than several shorter ones, especially if you’re covering great distances.
Additional Sustainable Travel Tips
To truly be the master of sustainability on your touristic ventures, do your best to follow some of these pro tips:
- Plan and book in advance. You’ll have a greater choice (and probably better prices), and there won’t be any inconvenience for companies/accommodation servicing you. If you’re taking a plane, booking in advance means you can actively reduce your CO2 footprint. You can also choose to pay two to three bucks extra in favor of greener travel.
- Pack lightly. If you’re one of those people dragging ten suitcases, a surfing board, and a tiny boat on a flight, I’ll be the one to tell you – stop it. Any unnecessary weight means more fuel is needed, and we know what that means. Wherever you go will have a laundromat, and you can most likely rent out any fancy equipment you need.
- Save energy. Wherever you’re staying, you can do the basics – turn the lights out, make sure the tap is firmly shut, and reduce heating when you’re not in.
- Avoid single-use plastics whenever possible.
- Be respectful of local culture. You’re visiting someone else’s home, and you should behave as such. Don’t litter, obey laws and rules, and treat people kindly.
Is International Sustainable Travel Possible?
With all the discourse around sustainable travel, the question of international tourism has been brought up. Similarly, air travel is still some ways away from complete operation without negative effects on the environment.
Ultimately, international travel can be highly sustainable if you follow as many tips outlined today. After all, the whole point lies in taking responsibility for our own traveling and its effects on the locations we visit.
Sustainable Travel Checklist – When You Travel, Remember These
Enabling individuals to travel responsibly is one of the keys to reducing the adverse effects of tourism. When you travel, you should make sure that you’re aware of how you can help the planet and local communities. Your contributions will mean conserving natural resources and boosting the local economy.
To make sure you’re doing your part, check out this checklist (pun intended 😊):
- Go for green flights.
- Pack lightly.
- Shop locally. From food to souvenirs, opt for local goods.
- Avoid big hotel branches and choose local accommodation.
- Use public transport.
- Don’t be afraid to go off the beaten track.
Have a safe and sustainable trip!