Sustainable travel

By N. Lothungbeni Humtsoe

The lockdown has been hard in many ways with travellers itching to get out and explore again. This pause has led us to reflect on our impact on the environment and local communities for when we do start taking trips again. According to Booking.com’s 2021 Sustainable Travel Report, 88 percent of respondents revealed that it has encouraged them to travel more sustainably in the future and 75 percent of Indian travellers believe that people have to act now to save the planet for future generations.
Luckily, making sustainable choices has become easier and more affordable than one expects. There are many simple ways we can limit our environmental impact, and better support and engage with local communities during our upcoming trips. To help make it easier for everyone to travel more sustainably, Booking.com shares 7 handy tips to create a positive impact on your next trip, when it is safe to do so again.

Choose a sustainable accommodation option
Picking a more sustainable place to stay for your next trip is a great place to start — and it doesn’t necessarily mean spending a lot of money. There are plenty of sustainable options for every budget and taste. In fact, 98 per cent of Indian travellers from say that they want to stay in a sustainable accommodation in the upcoming year. One of the easiest ways to confidently book a more sustainable property is to check and see if it has an established eco-label or third-party sustainability certification. There are numerous, reputable third-party sustainability certifications that properties can work towards and achieve.

Get off the beaten track
The pandemic has influenced 72 per cent of Indian travellers to avoid popular destinations and attractions to ensure they aren’t contributing to overcrowding. Being mindful when choosing your next trip can help reduce over tourism, which can be a major issue for fragile environments, ecosystems and local communities. Consider travelling to lesser-known destinations or a location just outside a busy sightseeing area. Alternatively travel during off-peak seasons when there are fewer other visitors.

Bye Bye, plastic!
Limiting single-use plastic is arguably one of the greatest environmental challenges we face. With an estimated 91 percent of plastic not being recycled, most of it ends up either in the ocean or landfills. Many properties have taken numerous steps to either reduce or eliminate single-use plastics from their operations, but travellers can also take simple steps like using reusable water bottles instead of buying plastic bottles of water while on vacation or packing your own reusable toiletry bottles with your favourite products from home. An alternative to single-use plastic are steel water bottles which are more durable and can be used for years. This will not only reduce your consumption on holiday but you can also bring it home with you — helping you become more sustainable in your day-to-day life.

Give back to the community
When planning activities for your trip, look for tour companies that give back to and empower the local community, and also engage in ethical tourism practices. According to Booking.com’s recent report* respect for the local community is high on the list of Indian travellers with 74 percent wanting to have authentic experiences that are representative of the local culture when they travel, and 91 percent mentioning that increasing cultural understanding and preservation of cultural heritage is crucial. By supporting these companies, local communities can directly and equally benefit from the travel industry.

Pick up rubbish when you leave
A good rule of thumb for travelling more sustainably, is to try and leave the places you visit better than when you found them. A simple way to do this is to pick up a discarded item of rubbish that isn’t yours when you leave- a small but important step in taking care of our environment. And every action counts — just picking up one piece of plastic on a beach means one less piece ending up in the sea.

Buy locally
When you travel, one of the best ways to support the local economy and limit your carbon footprint is to shop locally and eat food from street vendors or restaurants that use sustainably sourced produce. Avoid eating at popular fast-food chains that usually import produce from all across the globe and eat in local restaurants that likely use local produce instead. And if you’re cooking for yourself, try to purchase from local markets, too. This is also in line with the Indian traveller sentiment where 74 percent of Indian travellers want to have authentic experiences that are representative of the local culture when they travel.

Bring good habits with you on vacation
Many are already conscious at home about turning off the lights when we are not using them, or being careful about when and how high we use the air-conditioning. However, 59 percent of Indian travellers believe it’s harder to make sustainable choices on vacation. A sustainable first step could be as simple as remembering to carry those mindful habits from home along when you travel. While switching over to LED light fixtures or having keycard controlled power in the room aren’t things you can control as a guest, travellers can ensure they switch off the lights when they step out of their room, reuse their towels or forego daily linen changes and being more mindful of the length of the showers they take.
No matter whether you’re already a superstar sustainable traveller or just looking for a few tips to be a little more mindful during your next trip, there is always a next step to take. This can ultimately make travel that’s truly beneficial to the planet, the places we love to visit and the people who live there, the norm. (IANSlife)

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