The United Nations World Tourism Organization defines sustainable tourism as “tourism that meets the needs of present tourists and host regions while protecting and enhancing opportunity for the future. Sustainable tourism, one that establishes a suitable balance between the environmental, economic and socio-cultural aspects of tourism development, plays an important role in conserving biodiversity.”
Responsible Travel – a necessary thing?
Many people travel nowadays and with traveling becoming always a more affordable experience, many more people engage in touristic activities every year. With mass tourism becoming an expandable phenomenon we can easily become a threat to nature, to the places that we visit, to local cultures and traditions and to ourselves when we ignore the rules of the places that we travel to. With more than 1.4 billion travelers in 2018 (source: United Nations World Tourism Organization) on the move across our planet, we should definitely ask ourselves some questions about the impact of such a mass of people.
Internet gives us the opportunity to be permanently informed, to book accommodation and transportation methods faster and to plan our trip easily, while social media platforms provide tons of inspiring stories and photographs that encourage people to leave their homes and explore the world.
Unfortunately, all of these generate mass tourism with an alarming impact on the environment.
When you travel, remember that many other people don’t have the opportunity to do it. Learn to appreciate what you experience and value your travel memories by leaving behind smiles on the faces of the people that you meet and only the trace of your footsteps in the places that you visit. The world is beautiful and it takes only a few disrespectful people to change beauty into something that might not be undone, leaving future generations with fewer chances to experience the world as it is today.
Minimize your negative social impact by respecting local customs and traditions. You will find out that every country that you travel to is different from yours. If it is perfectly normal at your home to wear inappropriate clothes, to engage in conversation in a loud voice, to listen to music without headphones or to pose in restricted areas for a perfect selfie, it might not be the case in other place. People could feel offended or insulted by your behavior. If you expect things to be the same everywhere, why choose to travel in the first place? Traveling is about new experiences, learning new things and understanding the differences between countries and cultures. Make your journey a life changing experience for yourself, not for the others.
Try to understand how people live and be respectful by not criticizing their beliefs. Traditions and religion are defining elements in people’s life and certain ideas shaped the history of many nations.
If you want to help the ones with material needs, try to do it by not encouraging begging, especially in the case of children. By doing otherwise, you are condemning those children to misery, lack of education and probably violence and poverty.
Buy more from local markets, book tours with local agents that respect the environment and add value to the local traditions and offer advantages to local communities.
Don’t expect everybody to speak English or your language just because you are a tourist. Not everybody benefits from tourism and your presence in a certain community is not necessarily welcomed just because you provide financial benefits. Instead, learn a few words in the language of the country that you travel to, learn the DOs and the DONTs and always act respectfully. Don’t be that ignorant guy!
Share your experience with friends and family, tell them what you’ve learned and make them understand that any small effort is important to make every single day on our planet a good one, for us and for future generations.
Climate changes have been constantly reported as a big threat to our planet and it is in everyone’s power to decide if this process will be accelerated or if there is still hope for a better tomorrow. What can you do in order to protect the environment when you travel? Well, there are things you should consider before even stepping out the door of your house. Switch off the lights and unplug everything that consumes unnecessary energy.
Consider recycling and reusing old stuff. While in some parts of the world recycling is a normal process, in others it is not. We’ve seen mountains of garbage in many cities and islands of plastic floating in the oceans during the time when we worked on board.
Carry with you a reusable bag when you go to the supermarket and reusable containers and bottles to store your takeaway food and drinks. You might not feel like achieving much by doing so, but if you consider the 1.4 billion people that travel every year accepting daily a single-use plastic bag at the supermarket and buying every time a plastic bottle of water, plus food and snacks that come wrapped in plastic than you can get a horrifying image of the impact of a day of travel around the world on the environment.
We always carry a reusable bag from Decathlon that we use for shopping and laundry. Our foldable bowls from Aladdin have been great companions during the 15 months that we spent traveling around the world for storing our lunch or dinner while being constantly on the move. A 1 liter thermos was also part of our kit, for tea, coffee or just water when we didn’t have access to drinkable water and had to boil it in order to minimize the need of buying plastic bottled water. In many countries it is free to refill purified water, so carrying with you a reusable bottle is a fantastic idea. It helps you save money and it is environmentally friendly.
Another major negative impact on the environment is being caused by the carbon emissions around the world, airplanes and cars being the major pollutants on the planet. The amount of carbon emission per individual is called carbon footprint, which is defined as “the total emissions caused by an individual, event, organization, or product, expressed as carbon dioxide equivalent”. (source: Wikipedia.com). You’re not sure what exactly carbon footprint is or you want to know what impact you have on the environment as an individual? Take the quiz on www.footprintcalculator.org.
Learn more about environmental impact and what you can do to help by visiting The World Wide Fund for Nature’s online page.
Air Travel and environmental responsibility
Most people that travel take flights. Is that bad? YES. Aircrafts are some of the biggest pollutants on the planet and every flight has a major impact on the quality of air and the environment due to pollution with CO2, nitrogen oxides, sulfate and soot aerosols, plus the formation of clouds due to water evaporation which causes changes of temperature at high altitudes where the air is thin and the chemistry of the atmosphere is fragile.
Any engine powered device is a source of pollution. Depending on the type of engine we can calculate the quantity of CO2 emissions in order to get a more clear picture of how much we harm the environment every time we drive our car or board an aircraft to get to our next destination.
In Europe, the average airline fuel consumption per passenger in 2017 was 3.4 L/100 km (69 mpg‑US), 24% less than in 2005, but as the traffic grew by 60% to 1,643 billion passenger kilometers, CO₂ emissions were up by 16% to 163 million tons for 99.8 g/km CO₂ per passenger. (source: Wikipedia).
Taking an A Boeing 737-400 jet as an example, which is typically used for short international flights, for a distance of 926 km it uses approximately 3.61 tons of fuel, including taxiing, take-off, cruising and landing. At a seating capacity of 164 and an average seat occupancy of 65%, the fuel use per passenger is 36.6 kg. (source: Wikipedia.com). If you are interested in these numbers we recommend visiting the website of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) to find out how much fuel your next flight will consume.
How can you become more environmentally friendly during your next holiday? You don’t need to ride a bicycle next time you are planning an escape to the other side of the world in order to avoid pollution… or maybe you can, depending on how much the previous statements motivated you to do so :D). You cannot take a bus or a train everywhere, but you could always consider it whenever you can choose more environmentally friendly transportation options. It is not necessary to fly everywhere but it is necessary to understand our responsibility for the environment and try to protect it. Still not convinced? Maybe the following image will give you a clear picture of what the environment is dealing with when speaking of daily international flights around the world!
Source: Kevin Reinhardt on http://kevish.github.io/
Remember simple things that will make you a better traveler:
- Travel more but be also more responsible.
- Fly less and only when necessary.
- Take local buses or trains instead of private transportation methods.
- Ride a bicycle when the distance and the weather allow you or walk, it is fun and healthy.
- When you travel, stay in eco-hostels, eco-hotels, homestays and eco-lodges. It is also a great chance to meet locals.
- Use environmental friendly travel agencies owned by the local communities.
- Don’t just take, also give back. Leave the places you visit as you found them… maybe better if you can.
- Use reusable containers, reusable organic bamboo or metal straws and avoid plastic when not needed.
- Stay and eat with the locals.
- Consider volunteering and work exchange.
- Plan your route in order to minimize pollution by transportation methods.
- Practice environmental friendly habits already at home by minimizing waste, reusing and recycling.
- Research information on local customs and habits in the places that you plan to travel to.
- Leave you obsessions and the things that you don’t really need behind.
- Keep your needs simple.