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Let’s Cover the Basics of Sustainable Traveling
Sustainable travel is a type of travel that prioritizes the conservation of natural and cultural environments while finding ways to be more conscious about your travel footprint. This includes transportation, accommodations, activities, shopping, and more. Investing in sustainable travel practices is key, and these are some ways to do it.
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The Ins and Outs of Sustainable Traveling
Sustainable traveling – sometimes referred to as “green travel” – is environmentally-conscious travel that has become more popular over the years as we begin to see the impacts of the climate crisis.
Reducing your carbon footprint and getting serious about the impact of your emissions can make a difference. You can approach sustainable travel in a variety of ways, but it all starts with a single commitment to travel in a more conscious way.
People often take one of two approaches to travel more sustainably – or a combination of the two. First, they may use more eco-friendly modes of travel, travel shorter distances, and follow other tips for traveling more sustainably. These are often independent travelers that make decisions for themselves on how they plan to travel.
The other way involves working with a sustainable travel agency. This is often referred to as ecotourism or sustainable tourism. Agencies offer organized trips to specific locations that consider both environmental and cultural impacts, and they educate travelers on the importance of living and traveling sustainably along the way.
We’ll cover characteristics of sustainable tourism as well as pros and cons of eco-friendly travel. First, let’s take a look at some of the latest sustainable travel trends.
Here Are 8 Sustainable Travel Trends to Keep an Eye On
Consumers are starting to adapt lifestyles that cater to more conservative travel as sustainable tourism development continues to evolve. Here are eight sustainable travel trends to keep an eye on:
- Sustainable Properties – More and more people are looking for low-impact properties that utilize sustainable materials for their furniture, watch their consumption of water, and more. In fact, 78% of travelers plan to stay in a sustainable property in the next year, according to Booking.com’s Sustainable Travel Report 2022.
- Sustainable Luxury – Five-star sustainable luxury accommodations are growing in popularity and demand.
- Off-Peak Travel – Off-peak seasons are when more people are prone to stay home. Studies show that 33% of travelers decided to travel outside of their destination’s peak season in order to avoid overcrowding.
- Cultural Immersion – Learning more about the culture you’re visiting in order to have a more authentic experience is becoming more popular when visiting an unfamiliar city. In fact, reports show that 66% of world travelers want to have “authentic experiences that are representative of the local culture.
- Stewardship – Taking part in keeping the local economy afloat to support native communities is becoming more important to travelers.
- Responsibility and Relaxation – When traveling internationally, travelers are now paying more attention to how natural environments are being destroyed by huge crowds of people and making concerted efforts to make sure the environment is much cleaner than when they arrived.
- Traveling Closer to Home – While it may be fun to travel abroad, staying closer to home to lessen your carbon footprint is a choice many travelers are starting to make.
- Changing Travel Methods – People are starting to actively seek out other methods of travel than just air and are supporting carbon offsetting initiatives when they do travel.
Why Is Sustainable Travel Important?
Recent research on sustainable travel statistics shows that 71% of American travelers want to travel more sustainably over the next year. This is an increase of 15% over last year and means more people are taking it seriously.
So, why is sustainable travel important to so many travelers? Let’s check out the pros of sustainable travel.
Pros of ecotourism include:
- Valuable biological education for environmentalists and biologists – The education elements of agency-organized sustainable travel and other sustainable tourism companies mean people understand the components of an ecosystem and can better appreciate the natural environment and species in that area.
- Economic support in the localities – There are various sites around the world marked as the top destinations for ecotourism. This notoriety can provide sustainable economic growth.
- Financial benefits – The financial benefits that help improve conservation in the area are huge. A significant portion of ecotourism profits go to conservation efforts.
- Support for managing natural resources – Ecotourism helps people gain new perspectives and mindsets that use prudence in extracting natural resources during their sustainable travel experiences.
Are There Cons to Sustainable Tourism?
While there are many pros, there are also some ecotourism cons to consider :
- Relocation of original residents – In many cases, residents are displaced when companies come and build hotels, excavate natural resources, or expand their presence. Often these relocations don’t consider those residents for jobs or compensate them for their losses.
- Threats to indigenous traditions – Tourists can rewrite traditions or wipe them out from the natives, which can be detrimental to the indigenous population.
- Degradation of the ecosystem – While some companies consider the current ecosystem, they often contribute to damaging that same ecosystem with their demands for more resources that strain the current environment.
When considering an ecotourism company, spend some time researching their sustainability efforts and reading reviews before making your decision.
Discover more details about the pros and cons of ecotourism.
Best Ecotourism Companies
You can travel more sustainably by working with a sustainable travel agency or ecotourism company, or by planning your own trip and prioritizing sustainability when booking lodging, amenities, and activities.
There are a wide range of sustainable travel companies that offer:
- Conservation projects
- Off-grid lodging
- Safari tours
- Sustainably conscious hotels
We’ve compiled a list of the best ecotourism companies to help you get started. These 10 companies are highly regarded in terms of responsibility and ethical practices. Many offer sustainable travel for international trips too!
- Gondwana Ecotours – group tours
- Seacology – ecotourism
- Kynder – eco-friendly hospitality
- Discover Corps – ecotourism
- ROW Adventures – adventure trips
- Kind Traveler – hotel booking
- Natural Habitat Adventures – nature travel
- Byway – “slow travel” adventures
- Cheeseman’s Ecological Safaris – adventure travel
- Quark Expeditions – polar adventure trips
- Lindbald Expeditions – ecotourism adventures
- Earthwatch Institute – ecotourism expeditions
Sustainable Travel Examples to Incorporate into Your Travel Plans
To travel more sustainably, knowing where to find eco-friendly travel products and the most environmentally friendly ways to travel overseas can make a huge difference when planning your family vacation, friends’ trip, or solo vacation. These sustainable travel examples are just what you need to have a memorable (yet sustainable) trip.
One of the best ways to get started is by using a green travel guide. This can help point you in the right direction while providing the tips and advice you’ll need.
Eco-Friendly Travel Products
Becoming a more sustainable traveler doesn’t just mean using more sustainable modes of transportation or staying at more eco-friendly accommodations. Here’s a list of eco-friendly travel products that can make your travel experience worthwhile:
- Reusable water bottle
- Solid toiletries like shampoo and conditioner bars, toothpaste, and perfume
- Packing cubes made from recycled materials
- Reusable makeup wipes
- Solar-powered lantern
- Travel towels made from organic and recycled materials
- Solar charger and speaker
- Refillable toiletry bottles
- Reusable straws
- Bamboo toothbrush
- Scrubba wash bag
- Eco-friendly detergent
- Soap nuts
- Water purification system
- Reusable razors
What are some good examples of practicing sustainability while traveling? Save tickets on your phone when flying, going to theaters, museums, etc. to save paper. Avoid purchasing souvenirs made from animals or endangered species. Carry your own reusable straw and take cloth or recyclable containers to avoid the use of plastic. Here are some other suggestions:
When in hotels:
- Take shorter showers.
- Don’t get your sheets and towels changed every day.
- Recycle when you can.
When planning your travel:
- Don’t fly with airlines that use biofuel.
- Book direct flights.
- Travel outside of the tourist season.
- Carpool or do a rideshare.
- Take public transportation.
- Walk or bike.
- Rent an electric car.
- Pack light.
- Get locally sourced food.
- Go to a restaurant with sustainable policies.
- Eat at vegan restaurants.
- Try organic food restaurants.
- Dine in instead of getting takeout to avoid throw-away packaging.
Sustainable Business Travel
Many businesses are getting behind the sustainable business travel push to help in reducing business travel emissions. Reducing business travel emissions is just one way businesses are trying to be more sustainable and lessen their carbon footprint.
Microsoft was one of the first major companies to shift toward sustainable business travel practices back in 2012. Additionally, they partnered with Dutch airline KLM in 2019 to support sustainable aviation fuel products. They also signed on with Alaska Airlines for a similar initiative. Since that time, other companies have created or joined similar programs.
Taking heed to business travel climate change, the Environmental Defense Fund and nonprofit organization RMI created the Sustainable Aviation Fuel Alliance. Founding members include Boeing, BCG, Deloitte, JPMorgan Chase, Microsoft, Netflix, and Salesforce.
How are businesses reducing their impact beyond flying?
- Travel reductions
- Booking behavior modifications
- Sustainability-oriented supplier partnership
- Carbon offset provider partnerships
- Carbon budgets for business units or individual travelers
- Emission data on current travel activity
- Recommendations for alternative fuel programs
The changes to the office experience since the pandemic have, in many ways, made it easier to reduce the need for travel and excessive carbon emissions by hosting virtual conferences and meetings. But there are many more ways a business can modify their travel practices to be more sustainable.
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