Getting to know unknown places and communities widens our horizons and helps us forget the chores of daily life.
But our happiness comes at a high cost: it could harm local landscapes and communities, as we discussed last week.
So, is there anything we can do to minimize the negative impacts?
The pillars of sustainable tourism
The term sustainable tourism refers to eco-friendly practices, as well as taking social and environmental responsibility.
More specifically, the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) defines sustainable tourism in the following way:
“Tourism that takes full account of its current and future economic, social and environmental impacts, addressing the needs of visitors, the industry, the environment and host communities.”
To put it simply, sustainable tourism should be based on three main pillars:
1) Environmentally friendly practices – reduce, reuse, protect and care for natural heritage and biodiversity.
2) Positive socio-cultural impacts – consideration of host communities, their cultural heritage, and traditional values.
3) Socio-economic benefits – using our money to contribute to the local economy and support the fair wages for local employees.
How to travel more sustainably (3 tips)?
Here`re some practical things you can do to enjoy your trip while reducing your impact on the planet:
1. Join the slow travel movement
Ever happened to you to come back from a trip exhausted rather than recharged? Wonder if there`s another way to do it?
It`s an emerging travel trend that involves visiting fewer places at a slower pace. Imagine living in an Italian village cottage for a week, eating locally produced food, sipping wine on the balcony, and taking leisurely strolls in the region.
Sounds good? It will work wonders for your psychological well-being. But there`s more: slow travel can decrease our carbon footprint (as it usually involves train rides) and support family-run guest houses and local producers.
2. Use less plastic
When traveling we tend to use a lot of plastic – from water bottles and coffee cups to shopping bags that will take hundreds of years to degrade. If you take a closer look at the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, you`ll see why this is a serious environmental issue.
You might be wondering: how to avoid being part of the problem? Take with you tote bags and a reusable cup, if you have some space left in your luggage.
3. Think when you shop
Go off the beaten track, avoiding the overcrowded touristy spots. When buying presents and souvenirs, opt for authentic products that`re locally produced and support smaller local producers.
Also, bear in mind that by buying wildlife goods, you`re unconsciously supporting the illegal trafficking of endangered species.
For instance, turtles in China are kept in captivity and illegally traded as food and medicine products. Research published in 2008 found that a total of >300 million turtles are sold per year and are worth about 759 million USD. So, whenever you feel like buying a turtle, a tiger claw, a horn or any other (part) of a wild animal, think about how this might affect the biodiversity in the region.
Over to you
Can`t live without traveling? You don`t need to leave your passion behind. But you can enjoy your trips in a more sustainable way. Thus, your adventures will turn into something more than a feel-good memory. They`ll also contribute to preserving the unique local regions and communities for the generations to come.