10 WAYS TO INCREASE SUSTAINABILITY & ECO-TOURISM
It’s no surprise to regular readers of be-lavie, that I am very conscious of the fact that I’m a mindful traveller adopting to increase sustainability; be it to the environment, local community projects or initiatives, through animal experiences and especially when sourcing hotels.
A study published in the journal Nature Climate Change, in May 2018, suggest that gblobal tourism accounts for 8% of carbon emissions.
DEFINING SUSTAINABLE TRAVEL
Sustaining travel for the long-term is about reducing any negative effects of tourism in the long-term without causing harm to the environment, be that with flora, fauna or culture of a place. The aim is to preserve the natural environment and finite resources, as much as possible by somehow simultaneously also benefiting the local area with regards to wildlife, local communities and the social economic concerns.
Whilst researching sustainability and eco-torism, I came across the three pillars of sustainability:
1 THE ENVIRONMENTAL PILLAR
The focus is on reducing negative effects on the environment and wildlife. This covers keeping the Carbon footprint as low as possible from flying, using water sparely, not leaving plastic waste, not harming the flora and fauna and leaving it undisturbed.
As sustainable travellers, we can have a simple positive effect by carrying our own reusables. We can look for hotels and restaurants, which recycle and are built from sustainable materials. We can research wildlife tourism to seek out responsible tour operators.
2 THE SOCIAL PILLAR
This pillar concentrates on how sustainability impacts on local people and communities, supporting local businesses who employ local people. Additionally community projects that tourists can take part in and support non profit organisation that operates independently from government support (NGO’s).
Responsible travellers can look for opportunities to be involved in these types of projects and be aware of who businesses employ, whether they’re fairly paid and whether their work environment is safe.
3 THE ECONOMIC PILLAR
With regards to sustainable travel, we can most definitely choose to part with our money for positive contributions to the local economy, such as checking into a locally run hotel, restaurants and tour services.
SUSTAINABILITY & ECO-TOURISM
A MINDFUL TRAVELLER
Take Direct Flights
Where possible I tend to opt for direct flights, not just because it’s convenient but also because taking off and landing emits a large proportion of a planes carbon emissions.
Economy Class is Best
We all love the idea of spacious luxury in first/business class, however this extra space can lead to a five times more carbon footprint. Have a read of this article in The Guardian to find out why.
Walking Where Possible
I do enjoy private travel however to offset this as much as possible, I ensure we walk or take public transport along with the locals. This is of course better for carbon emissions.
Avoid Large Resorts & Choose Boutique Hotels
Whilst researching hotels, I will always choose where possible one that is locally owned and run including apartments and AirBnB’s. I personally prefer my money to go to the local economy rather than going to other foreign owned large hotel chains however sometimes this is not always an option.
Ask the Hotel/Abode for their Sustainability Policy
As most of you know I love a remote eco-lodge and some of my favourites have been in Costa Rica, Thailand and Guatemala. These all had a well-established sustainability initiative, which was predominantly based on employing local staff, use of solar panels, food grown on site and recycling to mention but a few.
Additionally when researching abodes, I always make it a point to ask the management to share their sustainability policy and usually ask if I can meet with the sustainability representative and see first hand what they are doing.
Sourcing Wildlife Experiences Responsibly
This one is very close to my heart and I cannot stress the importance of researching animal experiences enough. Elephant rides are a big NO, posing with tigers for drugged selfies is NOT OK and neither is swimming with dolphins, watching killer whales or monkeys do tricks.
The two animal experiences below are carefully sourced in case you are looking for examples.
Partake in Volunteering with Community Projects
I tend to ask my abodes if they work with or support local NGOS that I can spend some time volunteering with and giving back. Additionally I do my own research for volunteering opportunities just so I know my time, money and resources are actually going to a good cause/charity that will see positive results from my work. Last Christmas, I worked with the Evason Hua Hin in supporting a local school and was able to go and see their rural location and donate arts and crafts material to them.
Support Local Eateries
I’m very keen to spend a lot of my time in local hidden gems, which are run by locals and support their small businesses as opposed to have multiple meals at my hotel. This is one of the reasons why I choose never to go All Inclusive. Apart from the crazy food wastage, supporting the local restaurants usually means locally sourced ingredients as well as sampling more traditional authentic dishes. Additionally I know many people have misconceptions about eating street food, but it is worth giving local markets a go with raw produce as well as cooked.
Buy Souvenirs from Local Artisans & Use Local Guides
I must admit I rarely purchase souvenirs, however when I do I like to buy them from authentic artisans and purchase unique hand crafted items produced in the country you’re visiting. Be wary of imported imitations mass produced in a factory.
Additionally one of my stand out experiences in Costa Rica’s Gulfo Dolce on the Osa Peninsula was spending the day with a local fisherman, Ronnie. His family had fished through the generations and we really felt like we were having a day out fishing, scoping out dolphins and he also showed us where they filmed Jurassic park! The interaction with a local was invaluable and we were actually contributing directly to Ronnie and his family. The El Remanso Lodge where we were staying organised this for us. Read more about this Eco friendly abode below,
Eco-friendly Packing Policy
When packing your case, remember laundry is available all over the world, you don’t NEED to pack everything but the kitchen sink!! The more you pack, the more you’re contributing to the carbon emissions as the plane requires more fuel to carry heavier loads.
Instead of taking plastic bags and bottles, take a reusable water bottle that you can fill up at your resort and carry canvas/linen bags. Many of the eco-lodges I’ve stayed in; Guatemala, Belize, Costa Rica and Thailand provide water fill up stations as well as canvas/woven bags in your room for re-use.
Thoughts on Sustainable Travel
In my opinion, as a frequent traveller, I see it my responsibility to take control and promote sustainable travel and eco-tourism. I have therefore made a conscious effort to incorporate the above ten ways into my travel plans for all destinations I visit. I believe that we as the global travel community can change the way we travel and help preserve a lot of the worlds resources, species and fisheries if we join together and take small positive steps. Let us allow our future generations the experiences that we have been so fortunate to see.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on Sustainability and Eco-tourism? What do you do in support of reducing carbon emissions?