How To Be a Conscious Traveller
by Mike-Dave Ayeni
Sustainable Fashion Writer
It has been two long years (too long if you ask me) dealing with the effects of the pandemic, especially lockdown restrictions, and border closures. It would be no surprise that at this point we are all looking forward to a well-deserved vacation.
With the surge of the new Covid variant however, we might have to make those trips less farther than might be desired, and as we plan these exciting, highly needed getaways, it is important that we keep ourselves conscious of the impact of our travel on the environment.
Travel and tourism have their own effect on wildlife, pollution, environmental health, and wellness. Being conscious travellers requires us to educate ourselves on what travel practices we might be required to change or adopt in order to be more considerate to our environment and its living constituents. In this article, we will be exploring helpful practices that will enable us to be more respectful to the planet while vacationing.
Tips on Becoming A Conscious Traveller in Australia
It is necessary to be educated about the locations you will be visiting on your trip, their culture, laws, customs, and generally what to expect. Beyond that, you must also be mindful of the impact of every stage of your travel as well and do your best to minimise the negative and maximise the positive.
- Try to avoid travelling locally by air
A better and more exotic option is to take the train when possible. Travelling by train cuts down on carbon emissions by at least 50% per passenger mile, and aviation is one of the world's biggest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions (2%-5% according to UN IPCC).
Another way to cut down on your transport carbon footprint is to cycle within your vacation destination. While it's not entirely possible to completely avoid other forms of transport, you can always cut them out if it's possible to walk or bike down to where you need to go. Apart from the carbon-neutral perk, you get to actively take in the scenery as well as get a little exercise.
- If you must fly, take a direct flight
Flying over a long distance releases less CO2 emissions when taken directly than when taken by connecting flight. Flying non-stop can cut the CO2 emissions by as much as half. Taking connecting flights is an unsustainable and environmentally harmful practice that potentially doubles the greenhouse gas emissions released per trip. Fewer flights mean fewer additions to your carbon footprint and that is good news for the planet.
- Pick the Carbon-Offset flight option
This is an innovative option made available by airlines that enables you to pay a small fee to the airline towards investing in carbon trapping initiatives which help reduce carbon emissions by donating towards afforestation programs, forest conservation projects, and clean, renewable energy.
You could also donate directly to a carbon-negative programme if you'd rather pick your offset project yourself. Actively investing in taking social responsibility for our personal carbon footprint is a practice that goes a long way to ensuring a sustainable planet. Australian airlines that offer carbon offsetting programs include Virgin Australia, Tiger Air, Australia Qantas, Jetstar.
- Book your trip with an Ecotourism Operator
Ecotourism guides are qualified to educate and assist you on practices to make your visit sustainable and respectful to the natural and historical environment of your destination. They are equipped to provide the necessary information to enable you to ethically learn about and interact with the environment you are visiting.
This is one of the best options to keep you educated and consciously informed on your travels.
- Avoid touching or feeding the native wildlife on your visit
They can be adorable, we know, and it can be highly tempting, we're aware, but unless so directed by a qualified tour guide or wildlife specialist, which may not happen, do not handle any of the animals on your trip by yourself, do not feed them treats, and avoid going unnecessarily close to them.
It is very important that the wildlife rules and regulations of that location are strictly adhered to and the animals are left as unbothered as can be. More often than not, untrained human interaction with these creatures has harmed them more than it has helped them. Avoid being noisy around native animals as unfamiliar sounds can and might stress them, and while it may be an exciting thought to get closer to them for a once-in-a-lifetime experience, don't. You may be risking getting harmed as well as them.
However, there are available tour options that include interacting with the local wildlife in exchange for supporting their conservation. Even on these tours, be mindful of following instructions and interacting thoughtfully and carefully with the animals even in your excitement. Try to have fun while respecting stated boundaries and keep to the directions provided by your guide.
- Donate to wildlife conservation programmes on your trip
You can donate towards supporting the native wildlife and the systems that help care for them on your visit. Help protect the adorable little creatures that constitute our planet's biodiversity and be a part of ensuring their continuity as part of the planetary ecosystem.
- Always carry a refillable water bottle on your trips
Tourists generate a lot of waste. What with trying out new things, and having to buy everything the best practice to combat it is by bringing your own reusable containers. Avoiding buying plastic bottled water cuts out both the shipping required to bring in more and the waste generated by drinking one. Take your bottle with you and refill it on the go.
- Properly dispose of whatever garbage you have
It is disrespectful in any culture to leave trash lying around. Other than keeping the streets clean, you should also carefully dispose of waste when spending time at the beach or other waterfronts. Polluting water bodies is not just unsightly, it is also harmful to the aquatic wildlife. Make sure that you leave absolutely nothing behind that can be considered waste.
More importantly, try to avoid generating waste in the first place. This can be done by avoiding purchasing packaged products unnecessarily. If you must, opt for reusable packaging options and cut down on excess plastic packaging.
- Book accommodation with sustainable organisations
When researching hotel and accommodation options, search for places with sustainable and eco-friendly practices.
Things you can look out for include using green energy, active recycling policies, sustainable business practices, and customer reviews.
- Act local and consider supporting local businesses
Consider this carefully because, again, you would want to make sure that the business you support does not carry out unsustainable practices. Check out local businesses that are consciously mindful of the planet in their processes and buy local to support them. Be a part of the community you're visiting, this will help you treat everything as well as if it were yours. Learn the local customs and practices and be intentional about respectfully carrying them out.
- Vacation Small
Check out smaller destinations on your travel instead of visiting huge, booming metropolitan cities.
You're more likely to have an interesting, rich, cultural experience going to smaller communities and exploring close-knit neighbourhoods. Spending your vacation money in these small communities will go a long way to support their local economy and sustain the way of life of the local citizens.
- Try out the local cuisine
Visit local restaurants and food places and spend time actively exploring the different menu options found there.
Be adventurous with food and try new things.
- Make sure to recycle your waste
Be that traveller who is always asking about recycling options and be sure to follow up on it. Beyond just making sure our trash is properly disposed of, eliminating the single-use of recyclable materials is a responsibility we all should take seriously.
- Travel as little as possible and stay as long as you can
Try to avoid travelling unnecessarily, and if you must travel, try to spend as much time in one place as possible. Travel is an important and interesting experience and Tourism is a major contributor to a lot of economies so they can not be done away with, however, they can be done reasonably and responsibly with as much consciousness to be as sustainable as possible.
- Make sure that your feet are the only things that leave footprints
Try as much as possible to make your trip as carbon-neutral as possible. Treat everything with respect and mindfulness, and enjoy being consciously aware of how much care you take to be a responsible inhabitant or visitor of wherever you go.
Vacations are made to be enjoyed and it is not our goal to bombard you with stiff rules, so if it helps, enjoy knowing that being a responsible traveller makes life easy for not just you but the residents of the location you are visiting and the planet at large.