We all need to get away once in a while. It’s so important for our mental health and wellbeing that we break the habits and routines we’ve built up over months of working and living in the same places. That said, many people are very unaware of the impact their travels are having on the planet and the importance of moderating it and making ethical choices where possible.
Although the global pandemic is in full swing, it is still possible to travel to many places and enjoy a holiday within the boundaries of official protocol. While tricky and potentially dangerous, it is understandable why some people might want to getaway. If you do choose to go keep these five tips in mind, travel safely, and enjoy an ethical vacation.
Find Eco-Friendly Accommodation
Eco-Friendly accommodation could be hotels and b&bs that embrace the need for ecological responsibility at a local level. As a hotel, they will entertain guests from around the world, meaning that local to them is also global. Good eco-friendly accommodation should be considerate of the local climate, recycle and reuse as much as possible, and actively take measures to inform guests.
Unfortunately, eco-accommodation can be hard to find. Popular booking website Booking.com is yet to employ a green filter allowing travelers to find and support the greenest hotels efficiently. This must happen in the near future to ensure that the green economy grows stronger and to put pressure on less green options. Until then, however, it’s up to travelers to pursue their own green avenues, learn more about your financial avenues at the blue link.
Gain as much information as you can from the internet. Use different search engines to increase the scope of your search and options. In the absence of a green hotel, choose the greenest one, and make sure to tell them that’s the reason you chose their hotel. Give them a good review on Trip Advisor also, and support their efforts, even if the efforts. However, be discerning and critical where necessary.
Carefully Consider Tours
Vacation tours are a normal and appealing aspect of traveling abroad. It’s a chance to visit the local environment and see some of the animals you came to see. Many hotels and local companies offer this as part of the standard package, but be aware of what you’re signing up to. Often these tours can have a severe impact on the planet over time and in some cases will support animal cruelty.
Activities such as snorkeling might seem harmless on the face of it, all you’re doing is ducking under to view some fish in the coral. However, continued and sustained use of underwater trails can damage the coral over time and cause certain species of fish to avoid the area. Hiking is similar. It might seem harmless, but with many tourists coming through the area regularly the trails become unnatural habitats.
Animal sanctuaries can be even worse and should be approached with great caution. The word sanctuary is misleading. It suggests a safe haven of some kind. The reality is that many of the animals kept in sanctuaries are mistreated, poorly fed, and overworked. If you plan to visit an animal sanctuary on your travels, bear this in mind and do extensive research before supporting it with your dollars.
Where Possible, Use Sustainable Transport
Traveling abroad, in general, is not the most environmental thing to do. The carbon footprint generated by a single traveler can be huge when you consider the high-octane jet fuel released high in the atmosphere, the exhaust emissions from taxis to and from the airports, then the other traveling – boats, trains, buses, etc. Most people don’t even think of these impacts, but ethical travelers do.
Of course, the fact that traveling creates a carbon footprint isn’t a reason not to go, but being aware of the impact and making choices to reflect that awareness is the best way of changing the world as a conscious consumer. The more that travelers can make these ethical choices and publicize them, on the internet or in reviews, the more commercial operators will take notice and begin to promote the more ethical options.
Fly if you must but travel light and consider offsetting your carbon footprint. You can take buses, trains, and local travel arrangements in your destination of choice which not only improves your carbon footprint but gives you an experience of the local area you would not otherwise have had. If you see any green or earth-friendly options at your destination, take further advantage.
Try to Shop Locally
Due to the nature of capitalism, traveling the world has become not only easy and convenient but also predictable. We expect to see the same shops and food outlets on every corner of the planet, and there’s something comforting about it. We can say ‘look’ they have that here too, but at what cost, both to the environment and to the local economy.
Shopping with the familiar multi-national brands while abroad – as at home – not only supports big businesses responsible for huge carbon emissions, deforestation, tax evasion, and global warming; it also denies local businesses the chance to benefit from your tourism. Most of the local shops, cafes, and restaurants, rely on the tourist money to survive. Again, shopping ethically in this way also gives you better travel experience.
Volunteer If You Can
More travelers are beginning to realize that the take-take attitude of the past is unfulfilling and doesn’t feel quite right. After all, traveling is a privilege, and it’s good to acknowledge this in some way. One way to acknowledge it is through volunteering, in part, or as a complete volunteering vacation.
There are many travel companies online who now offer dedicated volunteering options for vacations. You can go as a solo traveler or a family group to teach children English in disadvantaged communities or look after exotic animals in East Asia. If you only want to volunteer a little, those options exist too. You could, for instance, give a little back by collecting trash on the beach.