Search­ing far and wide for sus­tain­abil­ity

How to prac­tice sus­tain­able trav­el­ing


See­ing the world comes at a cost, of­ten at the ex­pense of the places we visit, the peo­ple we meet, and the cul­tures we en­gage in. These ex­penses come in the form of car­bon foot­prints, com­mu­nity con­flicts, and desta­bi­lized economies.

It’s a good thing there’s an in­creased col­lec­tive con­scious­ness of how these neg­a­tive ef­fects can be re­duced through sus­tain­able trav­el­ing. But what is it re­ally?

The Na­tional Geo­graphic de­scribes it as trav­el­ing that (1) em­ploys en­vi­ron­men­tally friendly places where the re­duc­tion, re­use, and re­cy­cling of waste prod­ucts are ob­served; (2) pro­tects cul­tural and nat­u­ral her­itage; (3) and pro­vides tan­gi­ble so­cial and eco­nomic ben­e­fits for lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties.

Sus­tain­able trav­el­ing may sound in­tim­i­dat­ing, but it’s re­ally just about mak­ing mind­ful choices about the modes of trans­porta­tion, cho­sen ac­com­mo­da­tions, and pur­chas­ing prac­tices when go­ing to a for­eign place. Here are some con­crete ways of do­ing it the next time you go on an ex­plo­ration.

Travel slow by land and fast by air

The slower your travel time, the bet­ter. If you’re trav­el­ing by land, us­ing pub­lic trans­porta­tion—ships, buses, trains, or jeep­neys—is al­ways bet­ter than rid­ing solo in a pri­vate car. If you have no choice but to travel by air, opt for faster, non-stop flights to help lessen your car­bon foot­print since air­planes pro­duce most of their car­bon emis­sions dur­ing take­off and land­ing.

Make sure you’re buy­ing lo­cal le­git­i­mately

When you’re on the hunt for sou­venirs, avoid cheap touristy shops. These stores of­ten sell items that are mass pro­duced in fac­to­ries lo­cated some­where else and most prob­a­bly don’t em­ploy lo­cals. Buy­ing from them would be coun­ter­in­tu­itive and prof­its only the sup­pli­ers.

In­stead, go out of your way and look for ar­ti­sans. This way, you can be as­sured that the cul­ture be­hind your cho­sen sou­venir item is re­spected and that you’re giv­ing back to the lo­cal com­mu­nity di­rectly. A hand­made weave, for ex­am­ple, would cost more be­cause it means more.

And don’t even think about buy­ing wildlife prod­ucts.

Don’t use plas­tic

Speak­ing of shop­ping, al­ways bring a tote bag when ex­plor­ing the lo­cal mar­ket or when drop­ping by a con­ve­nience store for ne­ces­si­ties. One less item packed in plas­tic goes a long way.

In­stead of buy­ing bot­tles of wa­ter, bring a wa­ter jug and re­fill it at wa­ter sta­tions. Have your take­out or­ders packed in your own non-dis­pos­able con­tain­ers. Use reusable uten­sils when din­ing. These lit­tle things will help lessen plas­tic use and save some money, too.

Take short show­ers, not baths

Aside from the fact that tak­ing a bath means ba­si­cally stew­ing in your own filth, it also wastes about 265 liters of wa­ter. In com­par­i­son, tak­ing a shower uses only about 38 to 95 liters. Go the ex­tra mile and turn off the show­er­head when lath­er­ing up your soap or sham­poo to save even more wa­ter.

Chan­nel char­ity through or­ga­ni­za­tions

While giv­ing away cloth­ing, food, or money to lo­cals is well-mean­ing, it can have neg­a­tive side ef­fects on the com­mu­nity. Un­planned dis­plays of char­ity can cause ten­sion and con­flict among lo­cals, who might fight over who’d get more or bet­ter do­na­tions; it can also de­velop a cul­ture of depen­dency or men­di­cancy. If you re­ally want to give back to a com­mu­nity, it’s bet­ter to col­lab­o­rate with trusted or­ga­ni­za­tions that work with them di­rectly.

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