By Rajiv Joshi @wandererrj
The term sustainable tourism was first coined in the 1990s. We define travel in various ways like ecotourism, sustainable travel, green travel, responsible travel, ethical travel or culturally-socially aware travel which have lot of commonalities. Sustainable Travel is among the most talked, discussed, and defined terminology in tourism industry in recent years.
Whichever way we travel, travelling is always fun and there is no doubt it is good for body, mind and soul. Apart from the huge personal benefits it carries, does it benefit environment? Not always ! So, there comes the sustainable travel practices, which can be beneficial for both mankind and environment.
The United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) defines Sustainable Travel as ‘management of all resources in such a way that economic, social, and aesthetic needs can be fulfilled while maintaining cultural integrity, essential ecological processes, biological diversity, and life support systems’. The world tourism body also celebrated 2017 as International Year for Sustainable Tourism for Development to raise awareness about the contribution of sustainable tourism to development by mobilizing all the stakeholders to work together in making tourism a catalyst for positive change.
Sustainable travel doesn’t only preserve the pristine nature so that the future tourists can experience it, it also helps in environment preservation by fulfilling the need of the local community who depend on natural resources for their livelihood. Sustainable travel practices also helps in contributing to the local economies with the activities of tourists. Locals can benefit, and local businesses can also sustain properly through tourism. It can also help in preserving local culture and traditions.
Everyone wants to be a responsible traveller. But there is a need of travelers being more aware of the guidelines and better understand what sustainable travel means. Does only cooking in the solar powered lamp and sleeping in a tent make you an eco-friendly traveler? How do we adopt sustainable travel practices? There are various ways to practice sustainable travel. Following even a few steps can help in preserving the environment. Here are few to go by:
Air travel leaves an incredible amount of carbon footprint. But that doesn’t mean traveling by air should be stopped. It can be the only option at times or for long distance travel. For less distance or where it is possible, its best to take the ground transport. Travel by road can not only help in reducing carbon emission, but allows you to explore more on the way to the destination. For travel within cities and towns, it is better to take public vehicles or even environmental-friendly means of transportation like bicycles or the electric-powered vehicles. Avoid taking a taxi for a shorter distance and take a walk and enjoy the fresh air and the beauty of the surrounding areas. It can have a great health benefits too.
Try using reusable water bottle and use less water
It is better to bring your own water bottle that can be reused. You can refill the bottle whenever you get water that is safe to drink. The idea is simple and it will help to avoid use of water bottles and reduce the use of plastics. Carry along reusable water bottle and even a water filter. This way, the bottled water will not have to be transported for your consumption and it can also make a bigger difference in creating a more sustainable travel destination.
Limit your water use to the minimal. Never leave the taps open for a long period of time if you do not have to use it and help in reducing the wastage of water. When doing chores like brushing teeth or even washing face, try minimizing the use of water. Try to use a container rather than leaving the taps open.
Stay in local eco-friendly lodges or community home stays
Most of the hotels use huge resources and produce more waste in comparison to the local community-based accommodations or even eco-friendly lodges. Taking the local eco-friendly lodges or homestays also contributes to the economy of the local community. Staying at the homestays also gives immense opportunities to experience local culture and hospitality. Homestays provide very minimal amenities and lesser resources are used. Renewable energy sources have become popular among communities which are eco-friendly.
It’s better to cook for yourself
If you have a kitchen available and you are staying for a longer period in a place, it is better you cook your own food. When you shop for the grocery, try local shops. It can contribute to the community too. It doesn’t mean that you should not eat at the restaurants outside. They provide the experience of local foods too, but cooking for self is also a healthy way to eat and will produce less waste than in a restaurant. You can even invite someone over a meal and have a good time.
Mind your impact on local community
You need to do a little research about the community if you have any planned activities in any destination. Make sure not to leave negative impacts on the people or community with your behavior or interactions. Do not try to hurt religious sentiment of the locals and never interfere in any of their activities. Try to explore local culture without making any disturbance. It is absolutely perfect to get experience of the destination. Make sure your activities are more of local-centric than tourist-minded.
Learn the local language
When you travel to any places beyond your home country, it is better you learn to speak few words. As a tourist, speaking a native language is always appreciable. It’s also a great way to learn the culture of the place. Even though English is spoken far and wide, it’s always better to use some local dialects while interacting with locals. It may feel awkward but it can help in better understanding the place and the constructive criticism you get will be the best way to learn properly.
Volunteering is always fun. It helps on getting more experiences. It makes you more close to the local communities and even benefit them. Partnering with the locals on your volunteering project and interaction with them are the things to look for as a responsible traveler. Volunteering also helps in cultural exchange and extending support for the local communities. Before volunteering, you need to do some research about the destination, and it is also necessary to make sure that it will be benefiting the local communities.
Respect local cultures and values
It is more about the people and being more ethical traveler. Research more on local culture before you go. Never offend the locals with your activities or hurt their social values. Abide by the local dressing codes, customs and their cultures. Inappropriate dressing and behaviour should be avoided. While going to any religious or cultural sites or into the countryside, always respect their social norms and their restrictions on dress and photos. And always ask for permission while taking pictures of the people as it might offend them.
Leave no trace behind
It is the simple yet effective rule for not only the eco-travelers but for all types of traveler. Never leave your litter and take back what you brought with you. Leave the plants and flowers or any natural things untouched. Do not try to disturb the natural harmony. Being a responsible traveler is more about the environment. If you follow the ‘leave no trace’ principles, you can actually succeed on leaving only footprints and taking only memories.
Every year, billions of people travel to places and traveling has a big impact on the world. And the number of travelers is growing rapidly each year. It is always exciting to travel and learn about new places, new people, new culture and new language and the adventures awaiting. Traveling also helps in exploring diversities in human culture and way of living across the globe. It connects people, their culture and even result in exchanges in various aspects. It is better when we travel wholeheartedly and is even better when it’s done in a more sustainable way. So travel sustainably and be more responsible toward the environment.