Six Sustainable Travel Tips you can IGNORE
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Sustainable travel is becoming a major focal point in the travel industry. Even if you’re not part of the travel industry, I can guarantee you’ve seen people post online about saying NO to plastic straws & bring your own reusable bags to the store with you. The ideas are becoming more & more prevalent in mainstream society – yay!
But what I often find is that people who preach the sustainable travel lifestyle end up listing out what reads like a catalog of R-U-L-E-S. And let’s be honest, we all left school & many of ridiculous rules behind us now that we’re “adults”.
Let’s start by adjusting our mindsets about sustainable travel to one of abundance! Because it’s damn near impossible for any one of us to expect millions of people to suddenly 180 their entire travel lifestyle.
We gotta take those baby steps, because the little baby steps DO add up. And instead of seeing them as ‘rules’, lets see sustainable travel tactics as swaps or replacements. Like when you swap out sour cream for plain greek yogurt – tastes the same, but much healthier for you (*side note- vegan sour cream is so yummy, go try it out!).
Now, I’ve traveled quite a bit and I’ve done the ‘preach sustainable travel’ bit too, and here’s the conclusion I’ve come to… it IS possible to make a change (in fact multiple changes!) and no, you don’t have to go as far as taking a sailboat across the Atlantic to get to London.
So, here is a list of six ‘sustainable tactics’ that you can ignore if you want to.
The moral of this post is that you don’t need to become a 100% sustainable traveler or lifestylist overnight. You decide the lifestyle that you want to lead based on all of the information that you can research.
Sustainable ‘Tips’ or ‘Hacks’ that you can ignore
Sustainable ‘Tip’ #1 – DON’T FLY FIRST CLASS
The idea that flying first class is horrible for the environment is neither here, nor there. Because guess what? First class in a plane isn’t going anywhere, and that plane is taking off with the same amount of fuel & plastic waste regardless if you’re sitting in economy or a roomy first class seat.
And oftentime those who pay for the expensive first class are actually offsetting the economy class seats, which is what makes those seats cheaper.
I’ve flown first class and have LOVED IT. Loved it. It’s incredible. Now, do I fly first every time I travel somewhere? No. Frankly, it’s expensive and unnecessary for short haul flights under eight hours.
Should you avoid it all together? No. If you want to treat yourself to a relaxing travel experience or have earned up airline miles and want to use them for a first class trip – go for it!
*What you can do instead : avoid waste & plastic use on your flight. Do this by packing your own foods, bringing a small bag to hold your recyclables (if the airline doesn’t recycle & dispose of them at your arrival.
Sustainable ‘Tip’ #2 – FLY WITH BUDGET AIRLINES INSTEAD OF WASTEFUL NAME BRANDS
We have to understand the idea that these planes are going to take off regardless of which ones we choose to fly with. And while we may be drawn to cheaper flight options, you saving some money may actually be worse for the environment.
Budget airlines work on much tighter budgets (duh Laura). Meaning, I can leave a review or email their customer support and they most likely won’t or can’t do anything about my constructive feedback-
- please use less plastic → plastic is cheaper for us
- please fly less or use sustainable fuel→ how else we are going to pay the bills?
- …And so and so forth.
*What you can do instead : when you fly a larger name brand airline, like United or JetBlue, email them after your flight and ask what they’re doing to be more sustainable? I’ve received responses from a few that will send me links to what they’re focusing on because enough customers reached out to them about it! And you can select an airline that is dedicated to lowering their carbon footprint, like United & Alaska Airlines
Sustainable ‘Tip’ #3 – STAY IN A MULTI-PERSON DORM ROOM/HOSTEL
Unless you’re traveling on a budget, you do not need to stay in a multi-person dorm room in order to be a sustainable traveler.
If your travels are your escape from the 9-5 and you really want to enjoy your vacation, then treat yourself to your own hotel room. Wanting your own space to sleep, shower & use the restroom does not make you a selfish or non-sustainable traveler. It means you value your own self care.
Plus many hostels will cut corners in sustainable tactics to be able to charge for cheaper rooms.
*What to do instead– research & stay at lodgings that focus on sustainable matters. They avoid plastic, have a food waste program in place, were built out of sustainable materials, etc.
Sustainable ‘Tip’ #4 – AVOID HIGHLY POPULAR DESTINATIONS TO PREVENT OVERTOURISM
If you’ve always dreamt of visiting the beaches of Barcelona, Spain or tossing a coin into the Trevi Fountain in Rome, Italy then girl (or guy!) go do it!
Yes, overtourism is very real. And yes, you will experience it like ‘woah’ at those popular destinations, but it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go.
While visiting less popular destinations helps to distribute the wealth of tourism, it shouldn’t mean you sacrificing the dream trip you’ve envisioned for yourself.
*What to do instead of avoiding these dreamy destinations : proactively be a better traveler when you are there. Wake up early for smaller crowds, be mindful of how you treat people, your trash and respecting the places you visit. And set an example for those around you.
Interested in sustainable travel? Learn about how you can help prevent Overtourism
Sustainable ‘Tip’ #5 – VOLUNTEER ON YOUR TRAVELS
Volunteering can be a wonderful thing to do on a trip. However, sacrificing your time for the greater good may not be all that it seems.
Unfortunately, impoverished areas can now take advantage of your goodwill. There is information coming out of ‘volunteer’ organizations that are complete hoaxes; often times involving kidnapping, false community work and abuse.
For example, a volunteer organization where travelers paint a neighborhood to cover up the graffiti. When after they leave, those same volunteer leaders go back to vandalize for the next tour group to come in & paint over. OR! Volunteering with orphanages. These orphanages will be children who were kidnapped from their home to fill up the space so that unsuspecting tourists will pay to help the organization. Sad but true.
You can still & should volunteer on your travels, but doing so while not automatically make you a sustainable traveler.
*What to do instead : really research the organization that you want to volunteer for. Ask them questions & if they have nothing to hide then they will be open & honest with you. You could even go a step further by asking them if the materials they use are sustainably made and recyclable.
Sustainable ‘Tip’ #6 – DON’T TRAVEL ANYWHERE AT ALL(OR DON’T GO IN THE FIRST PLACE)
I honestly shake my head when I see this advice given online. Where sustainable travelers suggest that you don’t travel at all (what?!) We only have one life to live, and part of living a full life will often include experiencing other cultures and destinations.
Not traveling somewhere isn’t the solution to our environmental problems. So many destinations rely on tourism, and not visiting only hurts them.
*What to do instead : Be a slow traveler, meaning spend more than one day at any destination. You should also travel smarter, travel sustainably, and most importantly travel with respect. And keep in mind that there may be places you can travel to that are more local to your hometown.
The goal with these sustainable tips that you can ignore is to show you that being a sustainable traveler doesn’t require a 180 flip in your travel choices. You can be a sustainable traveler and still enjoy everything you did before. In fact, I bet you’ll enjoy your travels even more when you stop to focus on your impact and how you view the world.
Let me know if you agree or disagree in the comments – I’m always up for educated discussions and to learn more.
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I totally agree with these, especially the first two! That plane will be taking off no matter where you’re seated. There are much more important things that people could be worrying about and doing to help.
Yes girl! And if you want to treat yourself to a relaxing flight in first class, I say go for it. If you’re well rested then you’ll be able to make more rational & sustainable decisions at your destination.
A great post, I love that you have suggestions of what to do instead. It is so important to make people aware that we all can’t do everything, but we can all do something. By adopting small changes, we can all improve:)
I love & agree Linn!Even superheros can’t do it all, but if we focus on what we can do, that’s when the difference is seen 🙂
Absolutely spot on with these tips! Thanks for an insightful read!
Really interesting angle on this topic. Good read!
This is a great roundup of points. I’ve also noticed how there’s a “preachy” vibe to the sustainable travel movement, and I think it can cause divisiveness. I love how you’ve debunked some of the sustainable travel myths AND offered actual solutions. So I’m the host of a podcast called Alpaca My Bags – we focus on travel through a critical lens. We just put out two episodes on sustainable travel and I think you’d really dig them! Would love for you to check them out: http://www.alpacamybags.ca
Great read! Very thought provoking and eye opening! It’s great that you are being practical and giving readers alternatives!