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10 Tips For Sustainable Travel

Posted: June 14, 2012

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Mindful travelling can greatly reduce the strain on our natural resources. 10 tips to help you become a responsible traveller!

By Shalini Subbiah

This article was originally published at The Alternative – an online publication on social change and sustainable living.

Nearly one fifth of the planet’s population goes on vacation every year. Some of us crisscross the globe, spend millions on hotels. All our actions have an impact on the fragile natural and cultural treasures that the earth shelters. It is important for every one of us to take measures to minimise the damage we wreak as we pass through these fragile ecosystems. Here are some flash facts and tips:

1. Think about your mode of transport

Try to reduce flight travel. Travel by bus or better yet, if you can, take the train. The rule of thumb is – the more number of people a vehicle can transport, the better it is.

On a daily basis, over 85,000 flights take off from airports around the world, burning 130 million tonnes of fuel annually, a figure that is projected to rise to 300 million tonnes by 2015. (IPCC)

A single transatlantic return flight emits almost half the CO2 emissions produced by all other sources (lighting, heating, car use, etc.) consumed by an average person yearly.

A tourist in 1 day uses the same amount of water as a villager in a developing country would use to produce rice over a period of 100 days.

2. Avoid disposable water bottles

Cheap plastic bottles are hard on the environment and they can leach chemicals that are bad for your health. Invest in a reusable water bottle. Many tourist facilities, like resorts, offer purified water you can refill your bottles with. A tourist in 1 day uses the same amount of water as a villager in a developing country would use to produce rice over a period of 100 days.

3. Treat Animals well

Keep your hands to yourself. Don’t touch animals, their nests, babies, etc. Don’t feed the animals. This can lead to health problems for the animals as well as dependencies. Use binoculars or a telephoto lens. Learn about the habitat and the creatures you’re watching before you set out. This will not only give you greater appreciation for them but you will also learn nuances that will allow you to be more respectful.

4. Clean up after yourself

Pick up your garbage. And avoid leaving behind plastics and other non bio-degradable waste.

5. Be sensitive to the culture of the place

Think about what sort of clothing behaviour is appropriate for both men and women, especially when you are visiting places that are of importance to the community. You may unwittingly hurt the sentiments of the locals. You may find some things to be bizarre but they may be part of life to the community. Ask before you click pictures of people and their children.

6. Be fair, go local

Try to put money into local hands. If you haggle for the lowest price, your bargain may be at the seller’s expense.

7. Be adventurous, close that guide book

>Use your guidebook or hotel as a starting point, not the only source of information. Find out what’s going on by talking to locals.

8. Ask questions and insist on better practices

Write an email/letter to your tour operator about their responsible tourism policy. As the demand for more sustainable methods increase, the tour operators will see value in it and convert. While there, insist on things being done right. Don’t be discourteous but ask.

Travelling with respect earns respect.

9. Travel in smaller groups

Meet some local people as well as fellow travellers rather than be surrounded by thousands of people from back home. Why be herded about in a large crowd with little access to local flavours? At the same time understand that some cultural experiences are best kept private, and that your visit would be an intrusion. Travelling with respect earns respect.

10. Go the extra mile

While it is not the best solution, offset your emission. There are plenty of emission calculators available on the internet. It is a simple concept – the planting of a tree that will recycle all the gases emitted will bring down the damage you cause. But remember that reduction of emission is what is called for, and offsetting should be for the incidentals you can’t avoid and not the other way round.

*Photo credit: indi.ca (Used under the Creative Commons Attribution License.)

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