8 Things You Can Do to Travel More Responsibly
Inevitably, the way we travel will never be the same again. Following the current crisis, companies within the tourism industry, as well as keen travellers, have already started to speculate as to how the landscape of travel will look in the future, as countries begin to re-open their borders to visitors and tourists. But despite the hardship and struggle the pandemic has brought to many people around the world, perhaps this change will be welcome.
Although one of life's greatest joys, travel is arguably one of the least sustainable pastimes. Overtourism seems to be sweeping the planet, with over 1.4 billion international tourists a year seemingly flocking to a select few monuments, locations and cultural sites. Places such as Venice - one of the world's most unique and beautiful cities - are suffering greatly from this wave of overtourism, which damages their delicate infrastructure and threatens to sink the city entirely if no precautionary measures are taken.
So how can those with itchy feet like myself ensure that they leave the places they visit untarnished, or even better off than when they first arrived? Here are 8 small ways in which you can travel mindfully and responsibly.
1. Bring a reusable water bottle
Seemingly such a simple solution, bringing a reusable water bottle on your travels is beneficial for a number of reasons. Firstly, they greatly reduce your plastic consumption - a problem which prevails in many countries, wherein most plastic produced is simply discarded. Although not all tap water is drinkable, many hostels and hotels will offer a water station from which you can fill up your bottle! Secondly, carrying a reusable water bottle will encourage you to drink more and stay hydrated: this is particularly imporant in hot countries.
2. Give back to the local community
Many cultures around the world thrive on the income they generate from tourism; on the Indonesian island of Bali, for example, the tourism industry makes up 80% of the economy. When visiting a country, try to spend most of your money with small, local businesses, instead of larger corporate chains. Not only will this introduce you to unique customs and traditions, allowing you to sample local foods and traditional experiences, but it will give you the opportunity to give back to the community and support smaller busineses.
3. Don't litter
There are few things in life that can beat enjoying a cold beer on the beach, or a picnic in the mountains. Just remember, when you leave, to take your rubbish with you. Casting your litter on the ground could harm the local wildlife - sadly, more than 100,000 marine creatures die each year from ingesting or getting caught in plastic waste - as well as degrade the beauty of the place.
4. Use reef-safe sun cream
Protecting your skin from sun damage is important: but some sun creams or sun blocks may contain chemicals which can damage marine life and pollute seawater. If you're a self-confessed beach lover, then try to find reef-safe sun cream for a guilt-free dip in the ocean. Check out a list of some of the best eco-friendly sun cream brands here.
5. Try to avoid all-inclusive holidays
An all-inclusive holiday can sound almost too good to be true. The ultimate way to relax, all-inclusive resorts ensure that you never have to set foot outside your hotel, offering three meals a day, a bottomless bar, and a range of activities to keep you entertained - but this, sadly, can sometimes negatively impact the local community. Often, visitors are encouraged not to leave the resort, meaning that local businesses such as restaurants, tour guides, and heritage sites are left with very little income: the money stays, therefore, with the larger corporate chains which run the resorts and hotels. If you crave the luxurious lifestyle which comes with an all-inclusive holiday, then make sure to try and leave the resort, interacting with members of the local community, at least a few times during your stay. You never know what you may discover!
6. Walk or cycle
Particularly in Europe, many cities and towns offer well-connected bicycle routes and paths which run alongside the roads, making it safe and easy to get around quickly. By walking or cycling when you're exploring a new place, you see much more of the culture, and are able to weave your own way through the city, discovering hidden streets and squares you may otherwise have missed. While this is sometimes not possible in larger, busier cities, exploring on foot is much more rewarding than gazing through the window of a bus or subway. It also reduces your carbon emissions!
Europe's best cities to see by bike are listed here.
7. Shop at local markets
For me, visiting a local market and browsing their range of unusual wares is a highlight of travelling. By shopping for food or goods at a traditional market, instead of a supermarket chain, you will help to support the local community, and will come across a much more unique range of produce.
8. Take buses or trains where possible
Air travel's damaging effect on the environment has recently become a hot topic. Although aviation only contributes to roughly 3% of the world's climate crisis, the chemicals emitted when flying a plane can cause a rise in temperature, contributing therefore to global warming. By travelling by train or bus whenever possible, you can greatly reduce your carbon emissions, as well as experience more of the stunning scenery between locations. It may take a little longer, but you'll learn to appreciate the journey as well as the destination.