Five Simple Tips for More Sustainable Travel

Have you noticed a new area on my blog? I’ve grouped together all of my posts that focus on sustainable living, recommending ethical brands and sharing tips for living a more sustainable life. Going forward, this is going to be a bigger focus on my blog, as I hope to encourage my readers to make simple changes in their lives that make a big difference to the wider world. Starting here, with five simple tips for more sustainable travel.

I travel quite a lot, as one of my greatest loves is to explore the world and visit new places. Yet, I’m fully aware just how bad my travels are for the environment. Not only do my frequent flights drastically increase my carbon footprint, but I have previously visited destinations that are struggling with over-tourism. Needless to say, I’ve been questioning my own travels quite a lot recently, thinking about what I can do to make my holidays more sustainable. I don’t want to stop travelling, but there are small things that I can do to lessen my impact on the environment.

Consider alternative forms of transport

This may come as a surprise but you don’t always have to fly to reach your destination. Look into other forms of transport such as boats or trains, even if just for part of your journey. For my recent trip to Finland, I flew to Helsinki but then took the train to Lapland rather than taking a second flight, and I’ve previously taken the ferry between Greek islands. You’re still taking a carbon-guzzling flight to get to your first destination, but you can make a huge difference by travelling by train or boat to continue your journey. Alternatively, boycott planes all together and take some time to explore your own country or to visit places easily accessible by other modes of transport. I’m based in England, and have taken several trips to mainland Europe on the Channel Tunnel or on ferries.

Stay away from destinations struggling with tourism

Many places around the world are struggling to cope with the huge amounts of tourists that are constantly visiting. Cities such as Barcelona and Venice, areas including Tulum in Mexico, and entire islands such as Santorini simply don’t need more visitors. Spread your wings and visit someplace different, rather than following the Instagram crowds. If you discover a place off the beaten track, be subtle about how you promote it to the world. Don’t use a specific location tag on Instagram and try to help to keep hidden places hidden. If you really want to visit an overcrowded destination like Venice and Santorini, don’t contribute to the cruise ship problem where people come in for the day, don’t spend any money and leave again on their ship. Rather, stay in accommodation owned by local people and spend your money in local restaurants, helping the local economy.

Shop in local stores and markets

Whether you’re buying food and drink or souvenirs to take home with you, shop local. Stay clear of tourist trap shops where they’re selling cheap tat, and spend a little more money to buy authentic items made and sold by local people. Often, the cheap versions are made overseas and imported, not only adding to your carbon footprint but likely made from unsustainable materials or in questionable factories. Support the local economy by buying a couple of environmentally friendly mementos of your trip (but stay away from anyone selling items such as shells or made from animal parts). The same goes when you’re purchasing food and drink - put your money into the local economy by staying clear of chain restaurants and supermarkets and buying from local shops and markets. Avoid imported food and spend your money on locally grown produce.

Leave places as you found them

If you stumble upon a beautiful beach or rolling meadow, by all means enjoy your day but make sure that you leave the place exactly as you found it. That means tidying up after yourself and taking all of your rubbish with you (to recycle) but it also means don’t take anything with you. Don’t pick flowers or take shells and pebbles with you leave. Don’t trample on protected ground (such as on the lava moss in Iceland) and don’t touch anything fragile (such as coral reefs). Respect the nature that you have traveled to admire.

Never participate in animal exploitation

Never, ever take part in an activity that is designed for human entertainment at the expense of animal welfare. The most obvious examples of this are riding elephants and posing with tigers in Eastern Asian countries, but similar activities can be found all around the world from dancing monkeys in Moroccan squares to cramped zoos in Europe. If the purpose of your travels is to see a particular animal, travel to a place where you can see it in the wild. If you are going on a safari or a whale watching trip, do your research and take the most sustainable option that has the minimum impact on the animals. Never feed or touch wild animals, and stay clear of tours that encourage this.