The world is changing, and so are the needs of travellers. Sustainability has become a significant concern for many travellers, with some even going as far as to say that it's their number one priority when booking trips. But what does this mean? And how can you make sustainable travel choices?
So before you pack up your passport, weatherproof jacket and hiking boots and head off on your next adventure, take a look at these tips on incorporating sustainability into your next trip.
Eco-tourism is essential in the fight against climate change
The tourism industry is one of the most significant contributors to environmental degradation and climate change. The tourism sector is responsible for 8 per cent of all carbon emissions. That is before we even explore the impacts humans have on the environment through littering, vandalism and more.
Eco-tourism, or sustainable tourism, is a growing trend in the travel industry that seeks to minimise negative impacts on the environment while promoting positive social and economic benefits for local communities. Many tourism operators are offering eco-friendly alternatives, and there are many ways travellers can reduce their impact on the environment, including:
Get creative with your transport
Travelling by train can save up to 90 per cent of CO2 emissions in comparison with air travel - it is also a fantastic way to explore the countryside and get to know a country. Europe, North America and Australia are three places that offer extensive and often luxurious train travel packages that will enable you to be sustainable and get to know your destination far better than a flyover will offer.
You can also try to use the most sustainable forms of transport when you're at your destination. Explore on foot or go by bike if you can. Make use of public transport and minibuses and take the bus or join a ride-share for longer distances.
Don't use disposable items
Travel has long been associated with compact, disposable items that make it easier to pack. We churn through disposable razors, aerosols and various toiletries, which leads to huge volumes of plastic reaching landfill. This can even extend to items of clothing and entire tents being left behind as garbage, which is terrible for our planet.
Look for the Green Key
When it comes to accommodation, try to stay in places with awards or accreditation for their sustainability efforts. The Green Key award is one of the most recognised, and it recognises a hotel's commitment to environmental responsibility and sustainability. These hotels are designed to minimise their impact on the environment by using renewable energy sources like solar power, recycling materials, and minimising water consumption.
Don't touch the animals
This one might be a challenge for a lot of people. A long-held tradition of travelling to exotic locations has been getting up, close and personal with animals. Riding elephants in India, swimming with sea life in the Great Barrier Reef etc.
Any tourism operator spruiking experiences where you can touch the animals is usually a red flag for animal cruelty, though, and devastating impacts on the local environment. Look for experiences where you can get close to the local wildlife from a safe, respectable distance.
And remember the old saying when you travel, take only pictures and leave only footprints.