There’s no doubt that travel can be a wonderful thing, allowing us to broaden our horizons, meet new people, and experience corners of the world completely different from our own. But more and more people are starting to consider the negative impact that our travels might have on the people and world around us. Whether it’s airplane emissions or waste in our oceans, tourism can leave its mark on the planet.
Fortunately, there are many things that we can do to become more responsible travelers, from choosing a sustainable travel destination to booking an eco-friendly hotel to flying on a relatively eco-friendly airline. By working together and doing our bit, we can make sure that all our future travels are as ethical and sustainable as possible.
Here are 6 of my favorite eco friendly activities to do while traveling that will help to reduce your carbon footprint.
6 Amazing Eco Friendly Activities to do While Traveling
1. Visit An Animal Sanctuary
One of the key parts of sustainable tourism and ethical travel is avoiding animal encounters like elephant rides, swimming with dolphins or taking photos with tigers. These activities are exploitative by nature, and almost always involve some form of cruelty. But the good news is that animal-lovers can still enjoy seeing the resident wildlife on their travels. A visit to an animal sanctuary is a fantastic way to support animal welfare and contribute to important local projects.
However, it’s essential to do your research before you go. Some animal businesses have caught on to the fact that calling themselves a ‘sanctuary’ will attract more well-meaning travelers, using the greenwashed label to cover up their unethical practices.
But there are also plenty of sanctuaries out there doing incredible work, where you can observe the local animals at a safe and respectful distance. Keep your eyes peeled for any with extra eco-friendly initiatives, like the use of green energy or composting.
2. Shop From Local Artisans
For many people, souvenirs from their travels are some of their most treasured possessions. Rather than buying cheap, imported products, put your money towards the talents of local artisans. Not only will you take home a souvenir that is better quality and longer-lasting, but you’ll also be supporting the local community and maybe even gaining some cultural insight along the way. It’s these socially-minded purchases that you’ll likely treasure for years to come.
Where possible, purchase products directly from the maker, and don’t be afraid to ask questions about how the item is made and where the materials come from. That way, you’ll know if you are giving the artisan a fair price for their work. Some crafts take years of practice to master, with certain products taking weeks or even months to make.
3. Eat Locally-Sourced Foods
Sampling local delicacies plays a huge part in experiencing the culture of the area you are visiting. Traditional foods tend to be strongly rooted in a country’s heritage and have an important role in the lives and memories of the local people. And the good news is that eating locally sourced foods is one of the easiest eco-friendly activities to do while traveling.
Food flown in from other countries comes at a considerable cost to the environment and also directs money away from farmers and growers in the area. Buy produce from farmer’s markets or seek out restaurants that use only local, seasonal foods. Not only will eating locally sourced foods help to support the community and the economy, but you will also be able to enjoy much fresher, more authentic meals.
4. Outdoor Activities
Outdoor adventures like hiking and kayaking produce no emissions and have a tiny carbon footprint, making them great eco friendly activities to do while traveling. They also offer a unique opportunity to explore some of the unspoiled nature in your destination of choice, from hiking trails deep in the forest to kayaking tours around uninhabited islands.
You could even use outdoor activities as an alternative to fuel-dependent modes of transport, like biking between destinations instead of using a car. Along with some excellent health and environmental benefits, you’ll also experience far more of the country than you would have done sitting at the back of a bus.
5. Participate In The Community
Immersing yourself in the local community is a rewarding way to get an authentic glimpse of life in your travel destination. Whether it be through volunteering for a local charity or project, or even attending a community event, travel presents many once-in-a-lifetime opportunities to develop your knowledge and sensitivity of other cultures.
Many responsible tour operators will even offer initiatives that have a direct impact on the environment, from conservation projects to beach cleans. Getting involved can be a truly transformative experience, not only for you as a traveler but also for the community.
6. Slow Travel
Slow travel is eco-friendly at its heart. It’s both intentional and immersive, encouraging you to soak in your surroundings and enjoy the journey, not just the destination. There are also a few guiding principles of the movement that will help you travel more sustainably.
Staying at each leg of your trip longer than just one night can have a significant impact on the footprint you leave behind. It lessens the number of times your room needs to be cleaned, and your bedding and towels need to be washed. It also means that you can really take the time to get to know your destination, its people, and its culture.
Before you set off, you could see if there are any alternative routes that don’t involve flying and opt for a bike, train, or even boat instead. Yes, it will take longer and may be more expensive, but the environmental benefits are monumental, and you’ll feel a much greater connection to the landscapes around you.
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