How to plan an eco-friendly holiday
There’s nothing more fun than grabbing a drink, sitting down with your laptop and starting to plan an exciting getaway. But with everything going on this year, holidays might not ever be quite the same again. Our lockdown momentarily did wonders for the planet - carbon emissions and environmental pollution have decreased while we’ve all been locked up in our homes. So when we’re allowed to freely venture to different countries again, should we be thinking about it differently?
In short: yes. We’ve all become much more aware of our impact on the planet, and we shouldn’t go back to burying our heads in the sand. Holidays can still be super exciting, life-changing experiences - but it’s our responsibility to travel sustainably. To help you plan your next trip, here are some top ecotourism tips to help you be a sustainable traveller.
Picking your destination
First thing’s first… what wonderful, exotic location are you travelling to?
Be mindful when you’re choosing your holiday location. Staying closer to home helps to lessen your carbon emissions and gives you the chance to use more eco-friendly transport options. If you don’t really need to fly abroad, opt for a staycation instead and explore all the beauty spots in your own backyard.
If you do want to immerse yourself in a new culture and travel a bit further afield, do some research into ecotourism destinations. Some tour operators and travel companies offer holidays that support the country’s sustainability and conservation efforts, and help local communities with financial support.
Booking your accommodation
Where will you be staying? There are some incredible eco stays and sustainable hotels around the globe.
Try to find a hotel that is conscious of its impact on the environmental and local community. A planet-friendly hotel may operate on renewable energy sources, have a solid recycling and waste management system in place, employ people from local areas and source fresh produce locally. Check out websites like Ecobnb, Host Unusual and Responsible Travel to find some incredible, unique eco stays.
If you’re opting for an Airbnb, remember to find one near local amenities so you can walk around the area rather than drive.
How are you getting there?
Now you’ve got your accommodation sorted, it’s time to plan your transportation. This is where things get a little tricky. Let’s get real - it’s simply impossible to travel around the globe in a quick, efficient way without hopping on a plane.
We have to be realistic. We all love a holiday, so we just need to look at ways we can minimise our environmental impact.
If possible, pick direct flights rather than splitting your journey up or destination-hopping. If you do fancy seeing more than one place, do only the longest leg of your journey via plane, and then travel by train or bus between locations.
If there are multiple airlines who can take you to your chosen destination, opt for the most sustainable airline. Some airlines rely on biofuels for certain routes, and some offer a carbon offset option when booking your seat.
As your holiday creeps closer, you might start to look at what fun excursions and activities you can do whilst you’re there.
Be conscious of what helps the local community and what harms them. Try to find activities that aid the local community financially, or ones that help towards conservation efforts. For example, you could choose a scenic nature tour or a wildlife tour that helps protect local endangered species.
If you’re planning lots of hiking, biking, swimming or other activities that aren’t run by a guide, make sure you do research into any protected areas you mustn't visit. Take any rubbish away with you, and try to leave nothing behind.
Let’s get packing
Now for the exciting part! You’ve booked your eco destination, you’ve chosen a sustainable airline, you’re offsetting your emissions… it’s time to pack your bags.
Rule number one when it comes to sustainable travel is pack light. You definitely don’t need 14 different bikinis or 5 pairs of shoes. Think through everything you’ll be doing and pack capsule mix-and-match outfits. Instagram won’t care if you repeat an outfit, we promise!
When it comes to toiletries, go for solid shampoos, conditioners, shower gels and soaps. They’ll last you longer, they don’t come with any plastic waste, and they won’t cause any problems getting your hand luggage through security. Win-win!
Make sure you’ve got all your sustainable travel essentials with you. A durable water bottle, insulated flask, reusable makeup pads, lunch box, beach towel, bamboo toothbrush… all the classics. Having these staples will help you reduce your waste when you arrive at your destination.
Leave no trace
You’ve made it! You’re chilling on holiday having the time of your life. But you’ve done so much hard work to make this an eco-friendly trip, so make sure it doesn’t go to waste while you’re there.
Feeling peckish? Be wise with your food choices. Support local family businesses, eat in independent restaurants rather than big chains, and only order what you need to avoid any unnecessary food waste. If you’re going on a day trip, buy fresh produce from a local market and make a packed lunch, rather than buying plastic-packed convenience food on-the-go.
Conserve water wherever possible, too. This means resisting the temptation to ask for fresh towels and linen when you don’t need them! If you’ve got a water purifier or steriliser (like water purification tablets or a filtration straw), use these to drink the tap water rather than buying plastic bottled water in bulk during your stay.
Don’t be lavish with your electricity and energy use during your holiday. Switch off anything you’re not using, and limit your use of your appliances and air con/heating if you can.
Finally, don’t leave a scrap of rubbish where it shouldn’t be. While you’re out, put your rubbish back in your backpack to dispose of properly. Make sure you dispose of any wipes, cotton buds and sanitary products correctly so as not to cause any blockages.
We hope our ecotourism tips help you to have an incredible eco-friendly holiday! Have a wonderful time immersing yourself in a new culture, supporting the local community and protecting their beautiful scenery.
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