Air travel is also too harmful to the environment, but since we cannot stop flying, let us at least be sustainable travelers who contribute to enhancing the green life of the destinations we visit.
In this blog, airssist provides detailed tips and recommendations on how to achieve sustainable and eco-friendly travel goals during your trips.
What is Sustainable Travel & Who Is the Sustainable Traveler?
Sustainable travel is all about finding a way to keep travel and tourism safe for nature, environment, culture, and community on a long-term basis.
To be more precise in defining sustainable travel, there is no better definition than the UN World Tourism Organization definition of sustainable travel to quote: “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.”
The main issue is that the travel and tourism industry activities consume too much burning fossil fuels, contributing to climate change. It is estimated that by the year 2050, 40% of the world’s overall carbon emission will be generated by travel and tourism, divided between transportation, accommodation, and tourism activities.
To add on, sustainable travel is about understanding the value of the environment and wildlife, preserving the earth’s natural resources, and realizing how tourism affects a country’s local people, natives, and their businesses.
From the previously mentioned definition, we conclude that sustainable travelers are travelers who are truly aware of the way their travel choices can affect the world environmentally, socially, and economically. Thus, sustainable travelers are those who choose to protect the nature of the destination they visit, preserve its wildlife safety, support its local businesses, and cut down on polluting transportation means.
The Three Pillars of Travel Sustainability
The sustainable travel concept consists of three main pillars, known as the three pillars of travel sustainability, and they cover the aspects that sustainable travelers must commit to during their travel and tourism:
The Environmental Pillar – this area focuses on decreasing the negative impacts of traveling on the environment and wildlife. This includes reducing carbon footprint, especially the percentage caused by air travel, water usage, and plastic waste. As sustainable travelers, we can make a positive impact by carrying our own reusable packaging items. We can also book hotels and restaurants that recycle their waste and are built from sustainable materials, and we definitely must help in protecting animals in their natural habitat.
The Social Pillar – this is mainly about our effect on local people and their communities. This involves supporting businesses where local people manage, work, and support the shop, in addition to NGOs, community tourism projects, charities, and social enterprises. Responsible travelers can search for opportunities to join these types of projects and learn who businesses are employing, whether they are paying them fairly, and whether they work in a safe working environment.
The Economic Pillar –the economic pillar of sustainable travel indicates that sustainable travelers should spend their money at local economy shops to positively contribute to the local economy. As tourists, we can book in locally run hotels, tour guides, and restaurants to boost the local economy.
11 Actions to Take as a Sustainable Traveler?
Local and international tourists must be familiar and mindful of how to travel sustainably and the valuable impact they can make on the destination area once they arrive:
1. Get to Your Destination by the Most Sustainable Form of Transportation
According to your destination, you may have many travel options, you may drive, fly, take a bus or train. You have to compare between the available options, for example, if you are traveling with a group, it would be convenient to share a car; whereas if you are traveling alone, it would be greener to take a train or fly, depending on the distance of your destination.
As a result, always consider that taking a bus or train is much more sustainable than flights and car rides.
2. Choose Direct Flights when Possible
When flying, always choose the shortest flight route to your destination. Try to book a direct flight with no transit stops, as landings and take-offs cause the largest amount of planes carbon emissions.
3. Fly on Economy Class
First-class or business-class seats occupy more of the plane’s space per passenger, causing a considerable increase in carbon footprint. That’s why we recommend you to book economy seats, they are better for the environment and your budget.
4. Use Sustainable Forms of Transportation when You Arrive at Your Destination
After you arrive at your targeted location, go to local locations by foot or by bike, those are the most sustainable and the greenest forms of transportation. When your next destination is a little far and it is not feasible to walk or drive by bike, use public transportation, i.e., minibuses, metros, or car shares, instead of a private car or taxi.
5. Stay in Locally Owned Accommodation Facilities
The first thing you can do to support local businesses is to make sure that you stay in a locally owned accommodation facility, such as hotels, resorts, bed and breakfast, and guesthouses. Read and research thoroughly on hotel recommendation websites to learn who owns and runs the place, because sustainability is achieved when your money goes to support the local economy instead of being redirected abroad for a foreign owner of a hotel or resort.
6. Check Hotels’ Green Certifications Before Booking
Search for accommodation facilities that commit to sustainability initiatives, such as recycling, energy-efficient lighting, solar power, and so on. Also, inquire whether the hotel recruits a local staff or not, and if they source locally made food meals.
There are standard international certifications for hotels and resorts that are proven to be sustainable, such certifications are Green Globe and Green Key.
7. Go Camping
If you aim to be a sustainable traveler and love the outdoors, it is your opportunity to go wild by camping as an accommodation during your trip. This would be the most sustainable place to stay, with many environmental benefits.
· Sustainable Travel Activities
8. Join Sustainable Tour Organizers with Green Certifications
Before joining any tours, do a thorough research to learn whether the tour organizers are committed to sustainability or not. Check if they hold any of the most trusted green certificates, such as Green Globe, Rainforest Alliance, EarthCheck, or any other green certifications. Also, check other travelers’ reviews on specific websites, like Google Reviews, Trustpilot, and TripAdvisor to know more about green travelers’ satisfaction with the sustainability of tour organizers.
9. Join Trusted Wildlife Tours
One of the most important factors of sustainable travel is to avoid causing any harm to animals. If you want to have a sustainable travel experience, never go on a wildlife tour if it includes close encounters with animals. Wild animals are not familiar with human contact and it is disturbing to them. For that reason, avoid any tour that allows tourists to touch, ride, or cuddle animals. Search for tours that would not disturb the wild creatures and would commit to preserving a certain distance between them and the tourists.
10. Responsible Snorkeling and Scuba Diving
If you intend to snorkel or scuba dive during your trip, be careful not to tread or cause any damage to the sea coral as this can harm the fragile ecosystem. Nearly half of the coral reefs globally have been damaged beyond repair. If we want to save the beautiful coral reefs, we must scuba dive and snorkel responsibly. When you go snorkeling or diving, join small groups to prevent overcrowding. Also, do not try to feed the fish and sea animals and do not touch them, too. Additionally, it is highly important to use reef-friendly sunscreen, in other words, a sunscreen that does not contain titanium dioxide because this mineral reacts in seawater, forming hydrogen peroxide, which is very harmful to all sea animals.
· Supporting Local Environment
11. Visit Local Restaurants, Cafes, and Shops
Once again, the sustainable travel system advocates travelers to spend their money in restaurants, cafes, shops, and businesses that are run and owned by locals only.
Eating at local restaurants will spark warm feelings within your heart, because of their cozy atmosphere and the enthusiasm local owners show to the customers who want to try their local food. Also, we all know that local restaurants offer meals that could be only found in their community. It is always recommended to try the local cuisine of every new city you visit. Avoid eating at international food chains because with such restaurants your money never enters the local economy.
Even in shopping, buy locally grown vegetables and fruits because imported goods have taken a long transportation journey, causing undesirable carbon emissions.
Moreover, when you shop for souvenirs to take back home, buy the ones made by local artists and handmade crafters, even the clothes at local shops are environment-friendly clothing.
On your next trip, follow all these steps and do not take them for granted. The biggest mistake we all make is believing that it is fine if we did not contribute to saving our planet because someone else will certainly do it. In fact, we cannot save our planet unless we all collaborate to do so. Take your responsibility during your next journey, airssist is ready to accelerate your airport journey so you can get out faster to a sustainable, enjoyable trip.