Planning your next holiday? Here’s the ultimate checklist to ensure that your trip is as kind to the planet, the people and the animals as possible.
In my opinion, there’s no other option but to travel ethically, and I hope that one day we won’t even need to use these terms and responsible tourism will just be the norm. But hey, that’s exactly why this post is here! If this is a new concept for you, these are the questions you should ask yourself in the planning process of your vacay.
It’s the very first step to having a sustainable holiday, so make sure you start off on the right foot:
Are you taking the most direct route?
This is particularly important if you’re flying as takeoff and landing are when the most fuel is used. Opting for the most direct route is a great way to instantly lower your emissions and make your flight more sustainable!
Can you take a greener mode of transport?
Thinking about booking a small internal flight? Perhaps you can use a flight-less method instead! Buses, trains and other modes of public transport are undoubtedly much kinder to the environment, and if you have the opportunity to travel without jetting off into the air, by all means, do it!
It’s important to note that for a number of reasons this isn’t always possible (cost, time, access etc.) so please don’t beat yourself up if that’s the case. As much as flying is a privilege, in many cases, it’s also a privilege to choose not to fly.
If you can, have you offset your carbon footprint?
As the name suggests, carbon offsetting is a way to neutralise your carbon footprint. For every tonne of CO2 that you produce on your journey, you can compensate that by preventing or removing a tonne of CO2 from the atmosphere. It’s not a perfect solution by any means, but if you can afford it then I believe it should be a necessity!
Are you booking locally owned accommodation?
Local, local, local, ALWAYS!
Make sure that your accommodation is locally owned and not an international chain. Supporting the local community and ensuring that your dollar stays within the borders is an absolute must. Depending on your travelling style, you can opt for homestays, house sitting, couch surfing or staying directly with locals. But if you prefer to stay in hotels/hostels, that’s totally ok, just make sure they are small, locally owned businesses instead.
Is it in an area that isn’t overrun by tourism?
Consider your surroundings… Many of the popular destinations are overrun by tourism and locals are suffering from noise pollution, overconsumption, overpriced housing/living, congested streets, loss of culture and the like. Perhaps you could stay in a less popular area and avoid contributing the damages of mass tourism.
Can you find one that is eco-conscious AND locally run?
Making sure that your accommodation is locally run is, of course, the number one priority… But it may also be possible to find a place to stay that is environmentally conscious too. If you can find one, it’s a win-win!
Are you participating in ethical animal tourism?
I’m just going to cut to the chase… Read this post to learn how you can be an animal-friendly traveller!
Are you respecting local culture?
Just because something is available to tourism doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s encouraged nor respectful to local culture. Do your research and ensure that all of your plans are respectful to the locals, their culture and the indigenous land.
Are you visiting attractions suffering from mass tourism?
Social media has caused the impacts of mass tourism to be incredibly rife. Environmental degradation, loss of culture, businesses being forced to shut down etc. Although some of the major attractions around the world are popular for good reason, it’s not sustainable to keep visiting if it’s causing a world of harm.
If you really want to visit, that’s ok, but make sure you’re doing it for the right reasons… Not because social media made you feel like you should.
Is your tour company ethical?
If you prefer to travel with a tour company, it’s vital that you ensure the operator you choose is responsible and conscious. Some important things to look out for are a minimal environmental footprint, ethical animal tourism, giving back to the local community, employing local people, supporting locally owned businesses and having ethical practices/written standards in place.
Ask questions and be aware of greenwashing!
Do not overpack!
The lighter the plane, the less fuel it uses. Travel as light as you possibly can. Remember, no one truly cares about the clothes you wear (as long as it’s respectful of course)! Be a proud outfit repeater and pack light.
Is your clothing culturally appropriate?
Don’t pack short-shorts and bikinis in areas where it’s not appropriate. Researching local customs and dress codes is vital in being an ethical traveller. If it’s respectful to cover up, make sure you pack accordingly!
Can you pack any items that will help you reduce your waste?
Reusable bottles, water filters, tote bags, bamboo cutlery, a reusable straw, plastic-free toiletries etc. When travelling to destinations where there is a lack of infrastructure and waste disposal is less than desirable, it’s incredibly important that you do your best to not contribute any further. A few added products to your packing list will help you travel with minimal waste!
Is your travel insurance booked through a “green” company?
Travel insurance is an important aspect of holiday planning, but did you know that like a lot of banks, many insurance companies also invest in earth-damaging practices such as coal mines and fossil fuel production? Make sure that the insurance company you choose is eco-conscious and has divested in such shares.
Do you have enough money to pay locals fairly?
No matter whether you’re a budget backpacker, a luxury traveller or somewhere in the middle… You should always make sure that you have enough money to pay locals fairly – common sense I know. Please don’t rip people off because you didn’t budget correctly. Research the tipping customs and make sure you’re well prepared to avoid any mishaps or causing disrespect.
Have you learnt a few basic phrases?
You don’t need to be fluent in the local language, but knowing a few basic phrases makes interacting with locals much more respectful. For the most part, locals really appreciate it when you take the time to learn rather than expecting everyone to speak your language.
Start with phrases such as hello, goodbye, please, thank you etc. and then branch out from there. It’s really the least we can do!
HAVE YOU DONE YOUR RESEARCH?
I know this might all be incredibly confusing and overwhelming, but just remember that the heart of ethical travel is being aware and conscious, putting yourself in other people’s shoes, and doing as much research as possible. Taking the time to think about your impact is really all there is to it… So start researching!