Heads-up, there’s a good chance you won’t finish reading this blog post. The harm we put on our planet while traveling isn’t a pleasant, easy-to-digest topic. And sustainable travel isn’t the coolest topic either. So I understand you might already feel the urge to hit that ‘X’ button on your browser. But please, before you leave, just check out the X easy-cheesy things you can do to reduce your footprint while enjoying all the fun that traveling the world brings! If you wanna skip all the bla and jump right to the end, click here: 10 tips to reduce your footprint
Oh wow, you actually want to keep reading? Thank you so much, this really means a lot to us. In just a few minutes, you’ll see the benefits of sustainable travel as well. But for now, let’s start with some basics.
So what exactly is sustainability?
Put simply, sustainability is the ability to maintain a certain rate or level. Originally, it was a purely biological concept; but nowadays it has a much broader meaning associated with it. Sustainability overall is about meeting our own needs without compromising future generations, our children, and children’s children. To be truly sustainable, it’s not only important to try and keep our planet’s ecological systems in balance, but also our social and economic structure.
However, over the past few decades, we lived in a unique time in history. A time of almost unrestrained consumerism. Especially in western countries, it’s been a period of purchasing products and services in ever-greater amounts. Consumerism is a social and economic situation in which consumption dominates our way of life. Not too long ago, social and cultural activities were the primary source of pleasure for society. But today, consumption is one of the most popular sources of pleasure.
Happiness doesn’t lie in conspicuous consumption and the relentless amassing of useless crap. Happiness lies in the person sitting beside you and your ability to talk to them.
― Dennis Lehane
And all this consumption has put a lot of stress on our planet–ecologically and socially. But fortunately, over the past few years ever-new, bottom-up movements are emerging all around the globe. Frugality, minimalism, and vegan lifestyles are on the uprise. They all promote the idea of sustainable consumption. The ultimate goal of all these trends is to improve our quality of life while minimizing the negative impact on our planet and future generations. If that’s not a win-win for everyone, I don’t know what is.
What does this have to do with travel?
While nobody doubts that travel improves our quality of life, there’re serious downsides associated with it. Tourism has done a lot of harm to our planet and us–the people living on it. It has destroyed many habitats–of animals and humans alike–, exploited our natural resources, led to the displacement of many communities, and priced out local residents. Put simply, travel hasn’t been done right over the past few decades. It needs a refurbishment–tourism 2.0 so to say. And sustainable travel is what we envision this tourism 2.0 to be like.
So what is sustainable travel about?
Today, there’re many, many different concepts out there that basically refer to the same thing. Green travel, ecotourism, responsible travel, slow travel, and so on. One could continue this list for a while. You could think of “sustainable travel” as an umbrella term for all these (slightly) different ideas. All of these have the goal in common to reduce our ecological and cultural footprint while traveling around the world and enjoying different places.
So like sustainability in general, sustainable travel’s goal is to preserve the environment and culture of the places you visit and our planet as a whole. The one key thing about sustainable travel is to be aware that your actions and interactions with the environment and communities can influence them for the better or worse. And by planning your trip more carefully, you can make sure to change it for the better. I know this sounds like one of these sayings that parents tell their children, but by being a conscious tourist, you can actually make a difference and change the world.
What you can do
By now we know what kind of stress traveling puts on our planet and its people and why sustainable travel matters, but you might still be wondering what you can do about it. And the good news is: lots of stuff! You don’t need to change the way you travel by 360 degrees. There’s so much extremism out there in this world today, so we don’t think you need to turn around and become a vegan, backpacking, solar-powered hitchhiker right away (or ever!). For some people, this just naturally happens over time.
So like us, you can start slow. Often you’ll realize that this new style of traveling takes you to places you wouldn’t be seeing otherwise. And these memories will sooner or later make you fall in love with traveling simply, with much better experiences and adventures. And maybe one day, just like us, you decide to leave everything behind and travel the world on a bike.
I have learned to seek my happiness by limiting my desires, rather than in attempting to satisfy them.
― John Stuart Mill
But for now, let’s pick some easy things everyone can do any time. And as always, the smallest things in life often have the greatest impact. So let’s have a look!
10 easy travel tips to reduce your footprint
- Research your destination to learn about local traditions and culture
- Learn to speak a few words in the local language (Babbel.com?)
- Don’t litter, avoid plastics and excessive waste
- Reduce your water and energy consumption whenever possible
- Buy locally-made crafts and products, not the ones from your home country
- Choose tourism operators with environmental policies and community projects in place. Mind greenwashing!
- Refrain from giving money to begging children and support community projects instead
- Always ask before taking photographs of other people as their privacy matters as much as yours
- Take public transport
- Support a local non-profit or charity project
Also: Smiling and spreading the idea always helps. Feel free to share our project and support our mission!