By Kimberley Graham
Feel like you have to choose between travel and ethics? Perhaps that’s not true…
Travel is nourishing for the mind and spirit. Meeting new people, discovering different ways of living, tasting exotic food and experiencing the beauty of nature can inspire new ways of thinking about life and the world. Taking time away from normal life can be inspiring, refreshing and rejuvenating.
But what about the social and environmental impact of travel?
Many people would like to travel ethically and responsibly to minimise their environmental and social impact.
The travel and transport sector globally is not showing a general decline in greenhouse gas emissions, compared to other sectors. It is estimated that globally that passenger transport will more than double by 2050. Furthermore, it is the transport sector that is the main cause of pollution in cities.
Ethical travel also includes the social impact of travel activities on local communities. This may include consciously considering your personal impact on a range of locally relevant parameters like water (is the destination a water scarce region?); waste (can you minimise your single use plastic consumption and disposal?); protecting local wildlife (are you supporting animals to live in the wild, or helping to rescue abandoned animals?); and supporting local industries (can you hire a local tour guide or buy products directly from local farmers or craftsmen?) Some of these topics are contextually nuanced and complex. However, with a little research on your local destination, you can avoid contributing negatively to your travel destination. There are also more general steps you can take to travel more consciously.
Here are 10 tips for ethical travel to get you started:
A young boy plays on a paddleboard on a small island in Indonesia. (Image: Fran Cresswell )
#1 – Ask the local people the best way to support their community
Seeking advice from the locals as to the best way to support the community through tourism is a good starting point for ethical travel.
#2 – Carry your own water bottle
Where possible, carry your own reusable water bottle to avoid buying single use plastic bottles. If you need to buy bottled water at your destination, buy large containers of water to refill your reusable bottle.
#3 – Take short showers
Many travel destinations face great pressure on their local water supply and infrastructure from tourism. Consider the local community by keeping your shower time short.
#4 – Buy from local markets
Visit the local markets to support locally grown food and handmade products from the region. This is not only good for the local economy but will give you a more authentic travel experience.
A quick Facebook search while travelling can usually find you clean up events to join – like this one in Bali, Indonesia. (Image: Fran Cresswell )
#5 – Leave nothing behind
Take all of your rubbish with you and dispose of it appropriately.
#6 – Do your research on wildlife and animal centres
Not all animal centres or wildlife refuges have the animals best interest at heart. Do your research before supporting a project with your dollars.
#7 – Travel by foot or bicycle
Where safe to do so, why not walk or ride your bike? Slow travel can give you deeper insights into local culture and are also carbon neutral per kilometre.
Two children ride the Yangon Circle Line train with traditional thanaka paint on their faces. (Image: Fran Cresswell )
#8 – Share transport where possible
Take the local bus, car pool, or take the train. All transport sharing options minimise the overall environmental impact of travel.
#9 – Consider your impact on natural areas
When walking or camping in natural areas, keep to designated pathways and of course, take your rubbish with you.
#10 – Hire a local tour guide
Local people, particularly indigenous people, know their city, village or natural surroundings the best. Supporting them directly can help the community to flourish and also supports keeping traditional knowledge alive.
Travel is part of life for many people, even if only for a few weeks every year. It can be easy to travel in a way that is good for people and the planet with a few simple steps.