What is Sustainable Travel and How to Be a Sustainable Traveller?

Written by Unset Studio

Sustainable travel should be the only way we travel. From excessive air travel that causes harmful CO2 emissions to package holiday resorts that are built on natural areas, international travel and tourism are far from sustainable.

Our world has finite resources. There are only so many beautiful, natural, untouched places on our planet and mass tourism threatens their existence. Nature, culture and history should be preserved, not commodified.

Unfortunately, many travellers and travel industry operators remain in denial about how limited our world’s resources are and how tourism is negatively affecting the environment, local cultures and communities. That’s where sustainable travel comes in.

Sustainable travel means finding a way that tourism can be maintained long-term without harming natural and cultural environments. Sustainable travel should minimise the negative impacts of tourism and ideally be beneficial to the area in which it takes place.

The World Tourism Organization defines sustainable tourism as “development [which] meets the needs of present tourists and host regions while protecting and enhancing opportunity for the future. It is envisaged as leading to management of all resources in such a way that economic, social, and aesthetic needs can be fulfilled while maintaining cultural integrity, essential ecological processes, biological diversity, and life support system.”

Sustainable travel is about valuing the environment and looking after our natural resources. Travellers need to be more aware of pollution levels caused by travel and how that affects the environment and local wildlife. They also need to be aware of how tourism affects local people, businesses and native cultures.

The Environmental Pillar

The environmental pillar focuses on reducing negative impacts on the environment and wildlife from travelling. This includes minimising our carbon footprint, especially from air travel, water usage, packaging and plastic waste, and not disturbing wildlife. 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.

The Social Pillar

The social pillar is about our impact on local people and communities. This includes supporting businesses that are run by, employ and support local people, as well as community tourism projects, NGOs, social enterprises and charities. 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.

The Economic Pillar

Traditionally, the economic pillar refers to businesses being profitable in order to be sustainable. However, when it comes to sustainable travel, we can apply the economic pillar to using our money to positively contribute to the local economy. As tourists, we can give our tourist pound to locally-run hotels, restaurants and tour guides to support the local economy.

  • Traditionally, the economic pillar refers to businesses being profitable in order to be sustainable.
  • However, when it comes to sustainable travel, we can apply the economic pillar
  • Traditionally, the economic pillar refers to businesses being profitable in order to be sustainable.
  • However, when it comes to sustainable travel, we can apply the economic pillar
The environmental pillar focuses on reducing negative impacts on the environment and wildlife from travelling. This includes minimising our carbon footprint, especially from air travel, water usage, packaging and plastic waste, and not disturbing wildlife.
Joana Marques
CEO Airbnb

10 Ways to be a Sustainable Traveller

  • Consider the most sustainable form of transport to get to your destination

    As with accommodation, spend your tourist euro in restaurants and cafes run by locals. In our experience, this is a great way to meet locals who are enthusiastic about you trying their traditional food. Not to mention that home-cooking is the best, so if you can find small hole in the wall places or join sharing economy apps like EatWith where you can have dinner with a local family, you’ll most likely be eating more delicious food too. Avoid international food chains like McDonald’s where your money doesn’t enter the local economy.

  • Use the most sustainable form of transport when you’re at your destination

    As with accommodation, spend your tourist euro in restaurants and cafes run by locals. In our experience, this is a great way to meet locals who are enthusiastic about you trying their traditional food. Not to mention that home-cooking is the best, so if you can find small hole in the wall places or join sharing economy apps like EatWith where you can have dinner with a local family, you’ll most likely be eating more delicious food too. Avoid international food chains like McDonald’s where your money doesn’t enter the local economy.

  • Avoid large resorts

    As with accommodation, spend your tourist euro in restaurants and cafes run by locals. In our experience, this is a great way to meet locals who are enthusiastic about you trying their traditional food. Not to mention that home-cooking is the best, so if you can find small hole in the wall places or join sharing economy apps like EatWith where you can have dinner with a local family, you’ll most likely be eating more delicious food too. Avoid international food chains like McDonald’s where your money doesn’t enter the local economy.

  • Avoid all-inclusives

    As with accommodation, spend your tourist euro in restaurants and cafes run by locals. In our experience, this is a great way to meet locals who are enthusiastic about you trying their traditional food. Not to mention that home-cooking is the best, so if you can find small hole in the wall places or join sharing economy apps like EatWith where you can have dinner with a local family, you’ll most likely be eating more delicious food too. Avoid international food chains like McDonald’s where your money doesn’t enter the local economy.

  • Only participate in responsible wildlife tourism

    As with accommodation, spend your tourist euro in restaurants and cafes run by locals. In our experience, this is a great way to meet locals who are enthusiastic about you trying their traditional food. Not to mention that home-cooking is the best, so if you can find small hole in the wall places or join sharing economy apps like EatWith where you can have dinner with a local family, you’ll most likely be eating more delicious food too. Avoid international food chains like McDonald’s where your money doesn’t enter the local economy.

  • Eat in restaurants and cafes owned by locals

    As with accommodation, spend your tourist euro in restaurants and cafes run by locals. In our experience, this is a great way to meet locals who are enthusiastic about you trying their traditional food. Not to mention that home-cooking is the best, so if you can find small hole in the wall places or join sharing economy apps like EatWith where you can have dinner with a local family, you’ll most likely be eating more delicious food too. Avoid international food chains like McDonald’s where your money doesn’t enter the local economy.

  • Pack eco-friendly essentials

    As with accommodation, spend your tourist euro in restaurants and cafes run by locals. In our experience, this is a great way to meet locals who are enthusiastic about you trying their traditional food. Not to mention that home-cooking is the best, so if you can find small hole in the wall places or join sharing economy apps like EatWith where you can have dinner with a local family, you’ll most likely be eating more delicious food too. Avoid international food chains like McDonald’s where your money doesn’t enter the local economy.

  • Buy locally grown food and shop in local markets

    As with accommodation, spend your tourist euro in restaurants and cafes run by locals. In our experience, this is a great way to meet locals who are enthusiastic about you trying their traditional food. Not to mention that home-cooking is the best, so if you can find small hole in the wall places or join sharing economy apps like EatWith where you can have dinner with a local family, you’ll most likely be eating more delicious food too. Avoid international food chains like McDonald’s where your money doesn’t enter the local economy.

  • Share your sustainable travel experiences

    As with accommodation, spend your tourist euro in restaurants and cafes run by locals. In our experience, this is a great way to meet locals who are enthusiastic about you trying their traditional food. Not to mention that home-cooking is the best, so if you can find small hole in the wall places or join sharing economy apps like EatWith where you can have dinner with a local family, you’ll most likely be eating more delicious food too. Avoid international food chains like McDonald’s where your money doesn’t enter the local economy.

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