Sustainability, eco friendly, natural, organic, ethical, responsible, conscious. These words, all powerful in their own meaning, have been regaining quite some popularity over the last couple of years. And with good reason, I mean in the end there is no Planet B. And while these terms are used freely by companies, organizations, individuals, we as travelers should know the real importance of these words. There is a reason why we travel; to explore, to learn and to seek adventure. I might be wrong, but I believe must of us go out there for these reasons, we travel to the corners of the world to see the most beautiful natural landscapes and to dive into cultures that are so different from our own, it allows us to witness beauty all over the world.
Just imagine that all of this would change, culture becomes one big melting pot and paradise beaches are filled with plastic and other trash. Would we still want to travel to the other side of the world for that? And this is why sustainability and all those other terms matter. Yes, we may recycle at home, but on the road things work different. Sustainable travel might not be that easy you think, but I believe that together we can do it. Not sure where to start? Keep on reading for a more in depth explanation on sustainable travel or check out these tips on sustainable travel.
What is Sustainable Travel?
Sustainable travel comes in many names; some call it responsible travel, some call it ethical travel but it all has the same key foundations. Some people immediately will think about being environmental friendly, but this is not all that is sustainable travel about. There is more to it, much more, just hang in there a little bit longer and I will explain! Sustainable travel means leaving a small to non existent footprint. This footprint is based on three pillars, environment, society, economy.
Sustainable Travel – Environment
The easiest pillar of them all. Or well easy, maybe the most well known. Environment might be something you focus on at home as well, you recycle, turn the lights of etc. etc. Environmental friendly travel can be as easy as respecting wildlife, don’t litter, turn of the lights (and air-conditioning) in your room when you leave. I am not asking for big steps, just to be more conscious about what you do! We’ll dive into this deeper, and how to be a better environmental traveler, in future posts!
So why does environmental friendly travel matter? As I said before, we love visiting forests, climb mountains, lay on the most beautiful beaches. I don’t think anyone would like to lay between trash on the beach or climb mountains of trash instead. Besides that, due to global warming many beautiful places (such as the great barrier reef), are already getting destroyed. Let’s try to save the ones that are still out there!
Sustainable Travel – Society
The pillar of society is all about culture. This is something that will ask a little bit more of your involvement once traveling. Culture friendly travel means you strive to preserve local culture and heritage. These can be the easiest steps from respecting local culture and following the rules, to diving into the culture, learning about the culture and to build bridges between their culture and yours. Still not sure what I am talking about?
Respecting local culture could mean following dress codes at temples in South East Asia, respecting local spiritual sights such as not climbing Ayers Rock/Uluru, in Australia. These rules are often unspoken, not enforced, and therefore ask for a higher level of participation. But culture friendly travel, and respecting local cultures matter because it is a big reason for many of us for travel. We want to see the monks praying in the temples of Myanmar, hear the prayers of the mosque in Iran, and the cows walking around the streets of India. It might not be your culture, but learn and respect instead of trying to change it.
Sustainable Travel – Economy
Economy? What has economy to do with sustainable travel? Yes, that might be something you had not thought about. When talking about economy I am not referring to being a budget traveler, or how you should save your money. While both important to the most of us, this has nothing to do with sustainable travel. With economy we refer to putting your money in the right places. Instead of choosing for the big corporations, try to invest in local economy.
But why does this matter you might wonder. Big corporations often profit from the situation of the poor. Complete areas where thousands of people live are destroyed so big corporations can build hotels with waterparks. So no, I am not telling you to go and stay in a slum (which might even be a bit dangerous), just to support local communities instead. Opt for homestays, buy souvenirs and products from small local businesses and show that a rise in tourism can mean empowering local communities instead of international corporations. Focusing on the economy pillar of travel might not be something that benefits you directly, but it helps the people whose country you are visiting instead.
A Sustainable Traveler
So there you have it, the three pillars of sustainable, ethical and responsible travel. Some things might seem obvious to you, some might be new. This blogpost is the beginning of a new series of blogposts around sustainable travel and only puts down the foundation of why it actually matters. I’ve put down some small steps and advise on how to be a more sustainable traveler and why all of the pillars of sustainable travel actually matter. However, in the next couple of posts we will get deeper into the subject, and both you and me will learn more along the way. I would like to call myself a sustainable traveler, but I am not there yet, even though it is something I completely support and believe in. I’ve made mistakes… lots of them. But let’s be real, we all make mistakes and try to do the best that we can, so let’s all learn to grow from these mistakes together.