While the United Nations declared 2017 as the International Year of Sustainable Tourism For Development, the projects will not stop in 2017. In fact, just a few days into January, ETNOS Global is planning to meet in Germany to discuss eco-friendly tourism and cultural values as the industry continues to grow.
Following along with their momentum, my goal in 2018 is to turn my blog into a platform for good. I want to use my influence not only to keep inspiring you all, but also to spread the word about the things I am most passionate about – smart travel.
While there are some slight variations between “smart travel,” eco-friendly travel, “green travel” “responsible travel,” I am going to envelope them all under the phrase “sustainable travel.”
So… What is Sustainable Travel?
The World Tourism Organization defines sustainable tourism as “development [that] 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.”
This may sound like a bunch of gobbledygook to you right now, but I’ll simplify it. The core focus is to reduce the problems associated with tourism, while also fulfilling your bucket list dreams. Sustainable travel means leaving a destination the way you found it so tourism can be maintained in the long-term.
Let’s face it. The sad truth is that travel is not always good. Take a look at Venice, Italy. Many people arrive by cruise ship, which the city cannot handle. The economy largely depends on tourism, and prices are so inflated that locals cannot afford to live there anymore. Lots of people will have a 15 euro Bellini at the Hard Rock Cafe, buy a souvenir that says “Venezia” on one side and “Made in China” on the other, feed some pigeons, and leave.
Sustainable travel can minimize this downfall and loss of authenticity. It can even provide benefits.
Okay, Cassidy, that’s great. But… how do we do that?!
Maybe you are only one person, and in the end, you don’t have much of an impact. But if all tourists had just a tiny bit more awareness, there could be some massive positive changes!
Sustainable Travel Tips
Below, I have divided the tips into three sections – tips to help protect the environment, tips to spend money, and tips that are centered more on the local people’s well-being.
Don’t take what isn’t yours
This means respecting the places you see. It isn’t okay to take sand from that beach, or leave your lover’s initials on the Colosseum. Sure that flower looks lovely, but its seeds could spread an invasive species.
Bring a Reusable Water Bottle
I’ll admit, I haven’t always been so good about this in the past, buying any ol’ bottle of water during scorching hot Italian summers. These days, I carry around a reusable water bottle. This one from BYO is affordable and BPA free.
Avoid imported foods, international food chains, and souvenirs shipped from an assembly line. All the extra shipping results in excessive carbon emission.
The heavier your bag, the more fuel goes into your mode of transportation. Plus, it’s really hard on your back to lug around a heavy bag!
Don’t Wash the Towels
Unless they are truly dirty, make sure the room service maid knows that they do not need to be washed daily. In most places, hanging the towels is a universal sign that they are clean. In the US, it can perhaps be better just to leave the “Do Not Disturb” sign on the door!
Avoid Maps and Brochures
If you must have one, take a photo of the page with your cellphone, or make sure to return them when you’re done.
Book Non-Stop Flights
Takeoffs and landings create the majority of an airplane’s carbon emissions.
Support Local Businesses
Spend your money at the family run cafe instead of the Starbucks across the street. It’s usually cheaper too!
The Human Aspect
Ask for permission before taking a photo of someone.
We all warrant respect. In some cultures, taking a person’s picture is like stealing something from them. If they don’t want a photo, then move along.
Immerse yourself in local culture.
For me, the most exciting and invigorating part of travel is being able to step outside my comfort zone. Talk to different people and learn new things! Do your research beforehand, too. After all, what is the point of going to Japan, just to complain about how things are so different than the US?!
To give or not to give?
On my way to work in Rome, I often see beggars, standing with their hand out. I want to help, but I’m not sure that giving money is the best answer. Giving a warm meal is perhaps more beneficial but the best suggestion I have is to look into local NGO’s and see if you have time to volunteer a bit on your trip.
In the long run, the most beneficial thing we can do is to support NGO’s. No, not charities who simply give food and clothes. This also creates the wrong mindset. I’m talking about supporting NGO’s that teach useful and lifelong skills – farming, knitting, canning, etc.
Our awareness towards helping the local economy and respecting the culture can really make a huge difference. I’ll be the first to admit – I’m not perfect, but I’m working to improve in 2018!
Now, let’s all spread the word, and strive for sustainable travel in 2018. Cheers!