More and more tourists worldwide are looking for trips that, in addition to satisfying their needs, are more respectful of the environment, local culture and the quality of life of the host communities.
Almost everyone, if you ask them, will tell you that when they travel they want to be more environmentally friendly. But very few will know how to make their trip more sustainable, and fewer will be willing to pay extra to ensure they use more sustainable transport or choose eco-friendly accommodation.
Tourism will ultimately be sustainable if tourists start demanding that it be sustainable and act much more responsibly when they travel.
That is why I have decided to write this article where I
analyze how we tourists can be more responsible travelers, helping our impact
to be as little as possible during our trips.
To contribute to a more sustainable development, every tourist must be aware of the impact it generates and reduce as much as possible the environmental footprint it causes when visiting the territory.
Next, I detail a series of recommendations to be a more responsible tourist:
1.- Use more sustainable means of transport
As tourists, we have to try to generate the smallest carbon footprint possible.
The entire tourism industry is estimated to contribute 5% of all CO 2 emissions in the world. Within tourism, transport represents 90% of all emissions from the tourism sector.
For this it is important to reduce the use of the plane whenever possible. For nearby trips, avoid flying, trying to use other less polluting forms of transport.
From having to use the plane, direct flights are less polluting than having to take several flights with different stopovers. You also have to look for those airlines that have the best environmental policies.
The " slow travel " encourages use alternative transport that are less polluting and to the same time allow you to have a more authentic experience of the journey itself.
Another sustainable measure if traveling by plane is to choose to use digital boarding passes, which we can carry on our mobile and thus avoid the consumption of paper to print them.
Bicycles should be used at the destination so as not to generate impact.
2.- Find out better
Thanks to the Internet we can find a large amount of information about the destination to which we want to travel.
The more we learn about the culture and traditions of the place, the more we can take advantage of the trip and the easier it will be to understand and respect the way of life and customs of the local population.
Another recommendation is to plan your trip outside of high season - Find out what the tourist seasons of the destination are and try to travel in low season. You'll meet fewer people, have a more authentic experience, and help host communities in times when they don't have as much income from tourism.
Learning a few words of the local language can help to establish a closer and trusting relationship with the local population. Learning expressions like Thank You and Please is basic. Local people appreciate that effort and they sure treat you better.
3.- Travel light
When packing, take little luggage and pack only the essentials, but be smart about your needs and carry few containers.
If you carry a transparent toiletry bag you will not need the plastic bags that they give you at the airport, to pass liquids and gels through the security control.
If you travel by car, the more you charge it, the more gasoline you will have to use and the higher your CO 2 emissions.
Wear clothes that are easy to wash and dry quickly. Wear clothes that are made from lightweight materials that are not harmful to the environment.
Find alternative utensils to plastic or metal. Today you can include bamboo cutlery and plates.
Don't carry a bunch of mobile devices. Enjoy the trip and not be connected all day to the mobile or the Tablet. Also, your energy consumption will decrease.
4.- Use public transport
Renting a car may be the easiest option to get to or move around the destination you are visiting. But the impact you generate is very big (unless it is electrical). It is more recommended that you use public transport such as trains, buses or metro (if available).
The train is one of the means of transport that least pollutes (if it is based on electricity).
And once at the destination, the best thing is to move on foot or by bicycle. Today there are electric bikes whose environmental impact is low and help to travel the destination without great physical effort.
5.- Respect the environment and local culture
We must reduce our impact on local ecosystems and local culture.
Follow the basic principles:
- Reduces the use of certain scarce resources (such as water and energy)
- Reuse certain materials to give them a second life
- Recycle the ones you can't reuse
- Manages well waste with high environmental impact (such as plastic or technological elements)
- Do not buy products made with plants and animals, especially if they are in danger of extinction (coral, ivory, etc.)
- Choose tourism providers that promote dignified and fair working conditions, that respect workers' rights
In natural resources such as nature reserves, national parks and other protected areas
- Find out how to reduce the environmental impact you generate during your visit
- Orient yourself well to avoid losing yourself
- Follow the marked trails
- Don't feed the wildlife
- Respect the indications of the guards or conservators of the natural area
- Do not take anything from archaeological sites or other historical and artistic resources
- You should not hunt animals or take plants or vegetation from the place
- Take a container with you to store the garbage you generate during the visit
- Use sunscreens and anti-mosquitoes that are ecological or that do not harm the environment
- Do not make noise so as not to disturb the animals and thus be able to see them better
- Avoid activities that put you in direct contact with animals and whose sole purpose is to entertain tourists
- Contributes to the conservation, protection and regeneration of the aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems of the destination
- Visit only sanctuaries where nature is preserved, not those places that make it an entertainment for tourists
6.- Experience the local
Mix with the local population and learn about their customs and traditions. A trip offers you the unique opportunity to explore a new culture and see the world from a different perspective. Seize it!
Taste the local gastronomy, buy products made by local artisans and attend cultural events.
Look for different routes to those that all tourists do and discover lost corners (always taking care of safety, of course).
7.- Look for ethical and green suppliers and destinations
Before traveling, you must analyze the environmental policy of the destination (on issues such as the conservation of its natural resources and respect for human rights).
Bet on accommodation in eco-hotels or eco-resorts, which take care of the natural environment in which they are located. Most take care of the construction materials they use and what their furniture is made of, they use renewable energy, offer an ecological food offer and take care of the materials they use, prioritizing glass over plastic and using natural fibers for towels and sheets.
On the other hand, it is also necessary to demand ethical conduct from local suppliers (such as hotels, receptive agencies, guides ...) in matters related to policies to reduce their use of energy, the use of cleaner energy alternatives and their effort to eradicate problems social such as labor exploitation, child exploitation or sexual exploitation.