Got the travel bug? We’re with you! As the summer months approach, many of us are dreaming of that ultimate vacation. Extravagant, international vacations sound enticing, but they come at a high cost. Did you know that a 2019 global report from the United Nation’s World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) stated that tourism-related transport alone was a significant contributor to climate change, with five percent of global carbon dioxide emissions contributing to the change?
Although COVID-19 has had devastating impacts on most communities and individuals across the globe, it has granted us the opportunity to redefine and reimagine how we live, and, namely, how we travel. Two years of reduced travel has prompted the question: How can we travel more ethically and sustainably?
Luckily, you don’t have to sacrifice that dream vacation to travel in a more ethical and sustainable way. All it takes is a little research, creativity, and a willingness to change habits to be an ethical traveler. At Makeena, we believe it’s our responsibility to leave places better than we found them. Today, we’re sharing our ultimate guide on more ethical and sustainable travel.
Rethink your Travel Itinerary
Planes and cars are large contributors to increasing carbon emissions. In fact, flygskam — “flight shame” in English — has taken off in Sweden, and it’s an anti-flying social movement. We recommend minimizing air travel when possible, but sometimes it’s impossible to get to where you need to go without it.
But, don’t worry! Did you know that it’s simple and easy to carbon offset your trip? Simply use an online carbon calculator to estimate your carbon footprint for the trip. Next, you can purchase offsets equivalent to the amount of CO2 that you produced. These purchases are simply investments in special projects and conservation efforts, like saving trees from being destroyed or building wind farms. Check out resources like Carbonfund.org and Tomorrow’s Air — organizations on a mission to unite conscious travelers and remove carbon dioxide from the air.
And, when you arrive at your destination, don’t forget to use public transportation methods like trains and buses to continue to minimize your carbon footprint. And it’s a great way to embrace and experience the local culture of your trip as well!
Think about it. A heavier plane generates more carbon emissions into the air, so don’t underestimate the power of packing light!
For help, check the weather forecast of your destination to pack appropriately. Utilize reusable packing cubes to save space. And, check out this guide to packing light for inspiration and advice.
In addition, packing light saves you money and having a lighter load makes it easier to navigate public transportation when you arrive. This further reduces your environmental impact!
Great! You’ve arrived at your destination! What’s next? Keep reading for more best practices to become a more ethical and sustainable traveler once you’ve reached your destination.
Support Local Economies
From lodging to dining to outings, do your research and focus on the local economy in your destination. For lodging, check out this resource called SmarterTravel, which connects travelers to locally owned B&Bs, hotels, cottages, condos, and hostels. It’s one way to save money, support the local economy, and embrace the location.
A simple Google search can help locate locally owned and operated restaurants and excursions, but don’t hesitate to let the locals be your guide. By supporting local economies when you travel, you’re ensuring that the destination directly benefits from tourism, instead of contributing to exploitation.
Think about all aspects of your day-to-day itinerary and find opportunities to go local — think taxis, souvenir shops, boat tours, and more!
Commit to Conservation, No Matter the Location
Vacation is the perfect opportunity to take a break from school, work, a strict diet — you name it — but it isn’t a time to press the pause button on sustainability and conservation efforts. It’s easy to overlook best practices when your mind is on vacation mode, however it’s super important to remember to implement the same eco-friendly practices you use at home. After all, we all breathe the same air!
If you’re staying at a hotel, remember to reuse your towels and indicate that you are reusing them by hanging them up after each use, rather than leaving them on the floor. When you leave your room, remember to turn off lights, heat, air conditioning, and television to conserve energy — just like you would at home. And say goodbye to single-use plastics, no matter where you are. Check out this collapsible and reusable water bottle perfectly fit for your travel needs. Remember to pack reef-safe sunscreen, which is also better for your skin. And you’re in luck, because Makeena brand Fresh Monster provides reef-safe sunscreen! Consistency is key when it comes to a sustainable lifestyle.
Before booking your trip, plan your next vacation through a more equitable, ethical, and sustainable lens. Each year, Ethical Traveler publishes a list of the “Top 10 Most Ethical Travel Destinations” where developing countries are typically on the list because their travel and tourism trade is significant to their economy and is likely linked to the government, which can be a meaningful force for positive change and impact.
We’re still waiting on the 2022 list — which will be critical, as we transition into a post-COVID world. The 2021 edition highlighted Belize, Benin, Cabo Verde, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Jamaica, Mongolia, Nepal, The Gambia, and Uruguay.
Consider a “Vacation with Purpose”
Volunteer trips call for tons of research and planning. However, when they’re done correctly, they can be a transformative experience for everyone. While voluntourism has received negative press, it can certainly be done ethically and responsibly.
An idea for a purposeful vacation is a South African safari, where you can volunteer to work with and support local wildlife. Check out these projects in South Africa, where you can select a certain species to work with, gain insight into the issues threatening them, and learn how to help.
It’s clear that not all of us travel ethically and responsibly. If it were easy, we’d all be doing it! But ethical and sustainable travel is more accessible and simple than you might think. By changing your habits, reimagining your dream vacation, and honoring local customs, you can join a coalition of ethical travelers who are committed to leaving our planet even better than we found it!