Travelling the world has never been easier, but with great opportunity comes great responsibility. As more and more people travel to far reaching corners of the globe, responsible travel has never been more important. Here are 10 simple things you can incorporate into your travels to help the earth, local communities and the tourism industry.
You don’t have to empty your pockets, try donating your time to local charities. Whether your heartstrings are pulled by impoverished children, animals in need of love or displaced families, there’s bound to be a charity needing your help. Looking after the communities you visit is a rewarding way you can contribute to responsible travel.
MINIMISE YOUR WASTE
As you explore more of this earth, you’ll no doubt see plastic pollution up close and personal. It has devastating effects on the planet, which is why it’s so important for us as travellers to be mindful of this. A few small life changes can make a big impact, like switching to metal or wooden cutlery, saying no to straws or better yet purchasing bamboo straws from local vendors. Packing a reusable shopping bag is a great initiative as well as a collapsible travel mug for your takeaway beverage needs. Lastly, trade in your plastic bottled water for a filtered bottle and turn tap water into safe drinking water. Our favourite brand is LARQ which has seen us go from several plastic bottles a day to none at all.
CHOOSE ECO-CONSCIOUS TOUR OPERATORS
Do your research before choosing a tour operator to ensure you go with a company that respects the environment. Some companies only care about profit, to the detriment of nature. By booking a tour with these companies, you contribute to harmful practices, like damaging fragile reef ecosystems or feeding wildlife. So, the next time you book a scuba diving trip or a whale watching tour, consider your impact on responsible travel and do your research first.
PAY THE PRICE
Bargaining for a better price is a common practice in many countries, and is all part of the fun. However, bargaining too hard might mean the difference between someone having two or three meals that day. We understand better than most the injustice of getting ripped off on our travels, and we don’t stand for it. But if you’re fighting to save a dollar on a tuktuk ride or on a souvenir at a market, maybe take a moment to reevaluate what that dollar means for you versus what it could mean for them.
It’s as simple as it sounds and will usually save you money. Rather than buying produce at grocery stores or snacks at 7/11, try to find a local alternative. They often sell the exact same things for the same price, if not cheaper, and your money is going directly to people who need it, rather than big corporations who pay minimum wage.
STAY IN SUSTAINABLE ACCOMMODATION
We don’t expect budget backpackers to fork out a couple hundred bucks on a fancy hotel just because it has an organic garden on site. If you’ve got the money to do this, then by all means go ahead. However, a more affordable way to stay in sustainable digs is to sleep in local homestays. You’ll be directly contributing to a family’s source of income rather than padding the pockets of big corporations. Before choosing anywhere to stay though, make sure you do your research first. In this day and age, most places will outline their commitment to sustainable practices, whether that means hiring locals, recycling their waste or organising beach cleanups.
BE MINDFUL OF OVERTOURISM
A relatively new concept that only seems to be getting worse with the rise of #TravelGoals on Instagram, overtourism is exactly what it sounds like. An over populated tourist destination. Overtourism has seen entire islands shut down, like Boracay, in a response to the negative impact of too many tourists in one tiny place. To combat this, the first thing you can do is visit lesser known destinations, like East Java over Bali, but if you really want to visit a place that’s already bustling, try to do so during low season.
RESPECT THE LOCAL CULTURE & CUSTOMS
A big part of responsible travel means respecting the places you visit and the people who call it home. The most valuable lesson you can take away from travelling is the beauty of other cultures, but to do this you have to set your ego aside and accept that some places run differently. This means, if you’re visiting Hindu temples in Indonesia or Catholic cathedrals in the Philippines, you’re expected to adhere to local dress standards. You might not be Hindu or Catholic yourself, but you’re visiting their sacred space, so dress respectfully.
OFFSET YOUR CARBON FOOTPRINT
Flying around in big CO2 producing metal tubes is a necessary evil despite our commitment to responsible travel. It’s a sobering thought to think of our direct contribution to pollution when we work so hard on the little things to help. That’s why a lot of airlines have now implemented a way to offset your carbon footprint. By opting in to pay an additional fee when you book your flight, your estimated CO2 emissions are counteracted through tree planting efforts and other renewable energy projects. Until the day comes when planes can fly off biofuel or humans can teleport, it’s a great initiative.
KEEP THE SECRET
As travel bloggers, this one is tricky for us but we’ve never broken our promises yet. Sometimes, we’re privileged to have been shown places by locals that they don’t want exposed to the masses for fear of overtourism. We could just as easily post about these places and make a quick dime on website clicks, but there’s honour in keeping promises. Regardless of if you blog, vlog, gram or simply travel for fun, if you’ve been entrusted with a “secret spot”, don’t break your promise. You’ve been given a gift, leave it at that.
Being a responsible traveller isn’t hard, in fact, it’s the little things that can make the biggest difference when done by enough people. Keep these in mind on your next adventure, and be sure to check out The Post for other helpful tips and resources.