I believe travellers can have a wonderfully positive impact on the world as they expose themselves to new ideas and ways of living, injecting money into struggling economies and promoting cross-cultural awareness and understanding. The education you receive as a traveller is invaluable on both a personal level and on a broader scale. Much like anything, tourism also has a dark side and can be harmful as much as it does good, if we don’t go about it thoughtfully. Here are five simple steps toward sustainable travel and treading more softly on people, planet and your back pocket.
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1. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
This can be more difficult when you’re away from home, but with some thoughtful packing and a few clever products, you can greatly reduce your rubbish on the road. Here are some of my favourites:
- Refillable toiletries – buy your favourite toiletries in bulk and fill reusable travel-sized containers to take with you.
- Reusable water bottle – there are so many places that the water is unfit to drink. Take a reusable water bottle to refill at your accommodation, and reduce plastic refuse along the way.
- Reusable coffee mug – if you can’t live without your morning latte or cup of tea, use a reusable mug or mini thermos to limit the number of disposable cups you churn through over the course of your journey.
See more of my sustainable travel essentials in this post.
Reconsider your mode of transportation, accommodation and restaurant choices– is there another option?
A local business over a multinational chain?
An eco-hotel over an OTT resort?
A bicycle over a taxi? A train over a plane?
Locally produced, artisan-made mementos over imported souvenirs?
Every choice is an opportunity to make a difference!
Do your pre-departure reading and find out about local customs and etiquette. It’s much easier to plan appropriate clothing before you start packing than scrambling to find the right attire when you get to your destination. Also, some prior knowledge can take the edge of culture shock and help you communicate non-verbally in places you don’t speak the language, without offending anyone. Here are more tips on avoiding culture shock.
Refuse begging children–I know it’s hard turning down those cute, pleading faces. While these kids may be an important income source for their family, the cycle of poverty can never be broken if they don’t get an education. If they aren’t earning money, their parents are more likely to send them to school and the education they receive is vital in busting the poverty cycle. Buy from adults instead and help send the right message to parents and community members that children are not free labour or cash cows.
Always politely request to take someone’s photo. A simple smile, as you hold up your camera will usually get a nod. In some places now heavily frequented by tourists, don’t be surprised if a tip is expected in return. If signs indicated there is no photography allowed, heed them.
What steps can you add to becoming a more sustainable traveller? I’d love to read them in the comments below… For help buying more sustainable or what I call Soulful Souvenirs – download my guide for FREE over here!
Peace, love & inspiring travel,