by Vincent I. Porter
How to Be a Responsible Traveller
The world is in crisis and humans are to blame. For decades we have been filling our air, soil, and water with toxins and it’s anyone’s guess whether or not we will be able to claw back the planet from the brink of destruction. This might sound melodramatic, but there is a reason why millions of school children went on strike recently to protest against climate change. It is real and it is happening, despite what certain world leaders might say.
Here’s the good news. You can travel and be and eco-warrior at the same time. They are not mutually exclusive. You just need to think a bit harder about the way in which you travel to ensure you travel practices are sustainable and responsible. If you want to adjust your habits to help save the planet, here are some suggestions.
Use Transport Wisely
Here are the facts: long-haul flights are really bad for the environment, but short-haul flights and passenger ferries are not quite as bad. Trains are generally quite eco-friendly, as are electric vehicles. Gasoline powered vehicles are highly polluting, especially over long distances. With this information, you should try and work out the most environmentally friendly ways to get from point A to B. Of course, walking and cycling are the cleanest way to travel so if you can use your own legs to get around, do it wherever possible.
Eat and Shop Locally
Eating in a small family-run restaurant or street shack not only gives you a more authentic experience of your destination, but it contributes to the local community. The same goes for souvenir shopping. Buying local, handmade goods is an excellent way to put your money into the right hands, rather than fuelling big, polluting industries. You should also bear in mind the importance of paying a fair price, rather than always going for the best deal.
Take Nothing but Memories and Leave No Trace
It might be tempting to pick flowers from the forest or pick up shells from the beach, but if everyone did this it would be an ecological disaster. If you want to take souvenirs home, buy them responsibly. Similarly, leave the animals alone as this can wreak havoc within the delicate eco-system.
What’s more, do not leave a trace of your visit by carving your name into a tree or dropping your litter on the ground (even if the locals do so). Recycle what you use whenever you can and avoid buying and using things with lots of unnecessary plastic packaging.
Look for Accommodation with Green Practices
There are plenty of eco-lodges out there that have sustainable practices. These are usually small, independent businesses that deserve your support a lot more than the Hilton and Holiday Inn. Look for hotels with solar panels, rainwater collection buckets, locally sourced ingredients in the restaurants, and sustainable tours, among other things. You can add to the sustainability of your accommodation by not leaving taps running and switching off your lights.
You don’t need to be a billionaire philanthropist to be generous whilst on vacation. Don’t haggle merchants in to the ground and be prepared to buy an extra coffee for someone less fortunate than you. However, you should not give money to beggars, especially child beggars. This is tough, but if you do you are perpetuating the abominable practice of child slavery. Buy them food, sweets, toys – whatever you want. Just don’t hand over cash. If you don’t have money to spare, consider volunteering an hour or two of your time to a local project.