What is Sustainable & Responsible Tourism? Part 2: Environmentally-Conscious Travel
Updated: May 7
This is part 2 in a multi-part series. To start with part 1, click here.
We talk a lot about sustainable travel here at GlobeSage but what exactly does that mean and what does it look like to become a more sustainable traveler? Actually, we like the terms responsible travel and thoughtful travel because they feel more comprehensive and capture our heart for the way we want to love and care for those we encounter in addition to lessening our impact on the globe. For us, when we talk about sustainable or responsible travel, we are using this as an umbrella term that focuses on tourism that is:
In this series, we are exploring each element of responsible, sustainable tourism and how they contribute to more engaging travel experiences.
Let’s dive deeper into a very practical form of sustainable and responsible tourism: environmentally-conscious travel, also known as eco-tourism. It is practical because eco-tourism calls for all of us to make some small changes in the way we travel. That’s good news! Many times there is no need to sacrifice any joy or meaning from our travel experiences on the altar of a healthier planet.
What is it?
So what exactly is environmentally-conscious travel? Simply put, it is traveling while staying mindful of minimizing our impact on the environment, stewarding natural resources with care, and even being conscious of the welfare of creation and creatures as we interact with nature. Traveling this way is done more easily than ever thanks to the many green initiatives in place all over the world. In recent years, it’s become very apparent that the earth needs our help, and if we don’t make some changes soon, we will continue to negatively impact our beloved planet. But we do not despair. We truly believe that as everyone begins to make small changes, we will see a revitalization of our environment.
There is evidence that things are shifting. For instance, there are travel brands already in existence that base their entire business models around sustainability and educating people on how to become more environmentally conscious. We love using G Adventures and Intrepid Travel for our clients’ travel for that very reason. We also have the ability to carbon offset any trip clients take with the help of companies like Sustainable Travel International and other reputable businesses. (If you are interested in finding more third-party verified carbon-offsetting companies, don’t hesitate to reach out!) Even when it comes to lodging, there are places that are accredited by the Global Sustainable Tourism Council, which helps us ensure that we are finding places to stay that eliminate excess waste of food and energy while emitting the smallest carbon footprint possible! There are tools like Green Key to assist in finding environmentally conscious hotels in up to 65 countries.
So what does this mean for your future travel practices? What if you aren’t looking to book a trip with a tour operator or stay at a “green” hotel? How can you still be part of the solution if you are taking an independent trip backpacking through Europe, for instance? Well, if comfort is not as big of a deal for you, a hostel is certainly a more efficient place to spend the night than a large hotel. If you are planning a simple vacay for you and your family, you can limit your environmental impact by choosing a direct flight rather than one with layovers. Takeoffs and landings use massive amounts of fuel, so by flying nonstop, you eliminate the release of a large amount of harmful emissions into the atmosphere. You could also pack as light as possible. The more weight you bring with you, the more energy the plane needs to carry it all. If you are a frequent flier, consider donating to causes that offset the environmental impact. Sustainable Travel International has made this easy with their verified offset projects portfolio!
Let’s talk about ground transportation. Once you get to where you are going, consider taking public transportation when it’s a viable option, rather than renting your own car. Many hotels provide shuttles to and from the airport as well as to popular destinations you may be visiting. Another fun way to limit your environmental impact is to utilize loaner bicycles offered at your hotel or in some big-city downtown areas. This is such a lovely way to explore a new place! Not only can you get up close and personal with the streets, architecture, and the people, but it also gives you easy access to any shops or markets you may stumble upon. Just pull over (no need to find a parking spot!) and wander on in. Plus, it’s amazing exercise. (Lord knows we need it after trying all of the local restaurants and taking that cooking class with the amazingly rich, yummy food that we seem to find in nearly every country!)
In addition to the suggestions we’ve already mentioned above, making a shift can be as simple as using a reusable water bottle rather than a disposable one and recycling as frequently as possible. You can also encourage your favorite brands to care about their sustainability practices with more than just lip service or a single paragraph on their website. Your voice is so important, and as more people demand sustainable practices, companies will be more inclined to change their ways.
We know that it can feel like a daunting task to steward the environment and care about the natural resources we have all around us when we travel. With so many articles, news stories, and panicked people trying to impress upon us the importance of “making a change,” it can feel more overwhelming than exciting. But in our humble opinion, it’s more important that we understand how motivating and beautiful it can be to make small adjustments to your normal day-to-day life and travel. We are each a small part of a very big world, but that doesn’t mean that our actions cannot affect things positively. If we all start to make small changes, the impact will be much bigger than we could ever imagine.
Find out if you already practice sustainable, responsible tourism by taking our fun, 3-minute quiz HERE.