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10 Easy Ways to Travel with a Conscience
Travelling with a conscience is key if we’re to protect the beautiful landscapes we’re so keen to see.
Everybody loves to travel — but if we want to see the world and leave its beauty unspoilt, it’s time we started thinking about how we travel in order to protect our environment, landscapes and communities. Here are Travideo’s top tips for travelling with a conscience.
1. Keep it short haul
It’s a big old world out there, and there’s a lot to see. But the carbon footprint we create each time we take a long haul flight is huge. On a return trip from London to Sydney, a mammoth 2.93 tonnes of carbon dioxide are released into the atmosphere when you fly. A return from London to Berlin, by comparison, sees only 0.29 tonnes of CO2 released. Keep an eye on your air miles and keep it short haul if you can — the planet will thank you.
2. Do one or two longer breaks, rather than lots of short ones
Even if you’re travelling short haul, it’s far better for the environment if you can do one or two longer trips, rather than multiple short ones. An added benefit of this is that spending one or two weeks in a place means you’ll get to know it far better than if you’re only there for the weekend! If you do really fancy a weekend away, why not travel somewhere a little closer to home that you can reach by train?
3. Offset your environmental impact
To combat feelings of guilt when booking a flight, use a carbon calculator to tot up your emissions, and pay a company (like MyClimate) to compensate for your carbon footprint. The money you give organisations like these goes directly to educational and sustainability projects, which focus on climate protection around the world.
4. Be respectful when abroad
Travelling with a conscience is about more than just sustainability. It’s also about respecting the people, cultures and traditions you encounter on your travels. Especially if you’re visiting a different continent and have never been before, do your research before you go to ensure you’re aware of your destination’s cultural values, i.e. should you have your shoulders covered? Do you need to wear long trousers if visiting a religious site? Is there a curfew? Don’t get caught out.
5. Think about where you spend your money
The tourism trade is big money in most countries around the world — and because of this, lots of (less reputable) industries have cropped up to make the most of it. Therefore, think about what you’re funding when you sign up to trips and tours, and who your money is going to. Rather than riding an elephant or having your photo taken with drugged lions and tigers, why not spend your money on tours and companies set up by local people, buy food and other goods from local producers, and consider staying in independent hotels and hostels, or hotel chains that you know are working to improve their ethical standards? (See this video for a great example of eco-tourism). You’ll be making a genuine and positive difference to the local people when you use your wealth to support their livelihoods.
6. Avoid areas suffering from overtourism
Over-tourism is becoming a bit of an epidemic, particularly in popular European cities like Barcelona, Venice and Lisbon. Residents are angry, Airbnbs are putting people out of homes, and key tourist spots are being cordoned off to minimise the flow of people-traffic. So when you’re planning your next break, take into consideration the impact over-tourism is having on lots of popular destinations, and maybe have a bit of a rethink. Is there somewhere else you could go, where tourism is valued rather than (justifiably) resented?
7. Holiday out of season
Leading on from my last point: if Barcelona, Venice or Lisbon really are your dream destinations, why not try visiting a little out of season? You’ll have a better time because you’ll beat the crowds, and you might be met with a friendlier face. Your trip will no doubt be far cheaper when avoiding peak times, too.
8. Use public transport where possible
When both getting to your destination and getting around when you’re there, minimise your carbon footprint by using public transport whenever you can. You can travel to lots of countries from the UK via coach and train, and most major cities have great transport links. Research your options and think about the environment when getting from A to B.
9. Don’t litter
This seems like a really obvious one, but you’d be surprised. When going abroad, take extra care not to leave litter, rubbish, or plastic anywhere — and look out for recycling points wherever you can. Different places have different recycling systems in place, so ask your hotel or host how they work it and what to do with your rubbish. Also, take note of your destination’s rules regarding flushing toilet paper. Are you supposed to putting it down the toilet or leaving it in the bin provided? It’s a small thing that makes a huge difference to people’s lives and ecosystems.
10. Follow the ‘leave no trace’ rule
Wherever you go in the world and wherever you’re staying, do your utmost to leave no trace when you get on your plane or train to come home. Don’t leave your hotel or hostel room in a mess, don’t leave possessions behind, don’t leave having offended a local with inappropriate or antisocial behaviour. Leave your destination as you found it, and be grateful that you’re able to visit. If you take care to do this, you can’t go too far wrong.