There are of course the "obvious" things you can do to minimize your footprint when traveling, such as offset your air travel emissions by donating to forest plantation programmes (most airlines these days offer this option when you buy your ticket). Another thing to keep in mind, that we don't often think about, is that a modern airplane fleet is much more energy efficient than one of older models. A big, modern airline will likely have the most efficient fleet in the sky, while the low budget alternatives are often using older aircrafts. Something to keep in mind. Some airlines, such as Virgin Australia and Air New Zealand are looking into using biofuels, although this initiative is still in research phase.
But your journey starts already before you hit the airport. Take the train or bus to the airport instead of your own car or taxi, and thereby lower the emissions per person. Not only that, by not taking your car, you will save the (sometimes hefty) parking fee!
At your destination, try to use public transport (or walk!) as much as possible. My mother always said that nothing beats taking the bus when it comes to getting a feeling for a place, and seeing people in their every day lives.
Eat Locally! Choose restaurants for your meals that source their products from local farms and producers. Doing so will most likely also mean that you will eat what is seasonally produced there and then, and it will give you a better feel and understanding for the local cuisine and culture.
Visit the local markets. Buy fresh produce for a picnic (don't forget to bring your own bag and utensils so you don't have to use plastic). Often this produce is organically grown, and you will get a chance to talk to the maker directly, further getting insight into the local area. And what better way to spend your day than a long lazy picnic somewhere in the green? A park, the beach, or why not head out to a forest or lake? The choice is yours!
Going Sightseeing? Try some eco activities! What better way to explore a city or countryside than on a bicycle or your own two feet! Hire a local guide who can tell you about the history of a place and its sights. Often, listening to the locals can give you ideas of different ways of solving ecological challenges. There are numerous tour companies that take you bicycling in the country side, or cooking classes that first bring you to the local market, and then teaches you how to cook local delicacies. If you are heading to Rotorua in New Zealand, check out some of the excellent eco activities the town has to offer here. This includes ziplining through a native forest, mountain biking in a redwood forest, and taking the healing waters of the Priest's Spring.
Bringing something home? Try to buy souvenirs that are locally made, by local creatives and with locally sourced materials. You will support a real person, performing a real craft, and bring not only the product, but its story home with you. The above mentioned markets are often great places to source these gifts.
Staying in an eco resort or glamping can be a highlight on any trip, there is no doubt about it. But you don't have to go that far, to travel more sustainably.
Just because a hotel is a luxury or a boutique hotel doesn't mean its management is not thinking about the environment. On our visit to Rotorua in New Zealand, we stayed at Regent of Rotorua, an exquisitely designed, award-winning luxury boutique hotel where a clear effort has been made to support the environment without compromising the standard of the hotel.
Regent of Rotorua ticks almost every box of our list below and is able to take advantage of the unique local environment to go further by using renewable thermal energy for heating, bathing and water heating. They also hang washed robes to dry in thermal heated dry rooms, instead of using dryers.
Below we have listed things to look out for that help the environment, and that you can use as your own personal check list when looking for your next stay (and add your own favourites):
You might have some additional items that are important to you - if so just add them! Some of these items are not necessarily listed on a hotels website, but why not making the extra effort and call or email them and ask?
Traveling sustainably doesn't have to be more expensive, but sometimes it will be. Why not let your own apartment or house while you are away, to fill up the vacation cash chest? You'll probably get your plants watered as an extra benefit!
Please let us know in the comments below what you think of our list, if you have additional items you would like to add, or tips to give your fellow sustainable travellers!
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