Is It Actually Possible to Travel In a Sustainable Way? 

Travelling might seem like the least sustainable activity because of high carbon emissions, potential degradation of natural habitats, and excess waste. Not travelling is in theory more sustainable than travelling. However, this is not a binary concept that can only be seen in black and white. When looking through the lens of sustainability in travel, it is more useful to look at the whys and hows than the dos and don’ts.

We share three ways you can realign your love for travel so that it is better for the planet and for you too: 

Start With Your Why

Aussies love travelling. 1 in 3 Aussies is said to spend more money on travelling than shopping or dining. This national pastime has amounted to more than eight million trips in the years prior to the pandemic. As a nation so far away from the rest of the world, it’s common to hop on a plane to travel for close to 14 hours.

However, the global health scare has made us all reassess our inclinations and interests. Why are we, actually, travelling and what would we like out of it? A recent Booking.com survey reveals that post-pandemic travellers want to have a positive impact on the destination they visit. Most Aussies have family in the UK, Greece, or Italy and are often visiting family and friends on vacation, and then extending their trip after. If you’re not visiting family, ask yourself what would compel you to visit a country?

Related: What Is Eco-Tourism and Why Is It Important for Our Planet’s Future? We Explain

Related: Yes, It Is Possible to Travel Sustainably and on a Budget — Here’s How

Related: The Way We Travel Is Changing — Here’s What Travel Looks Like in a Post-Pandemic World

Asking this question as you go along every step of your planning and purchasing process helps you to be more accountable to yourself. One clear lesson from the pandemic is that travelling is fun not only exciting in far-off, exotic places but also in your own backyard in Australia.

Understanding our impetus towards travel helps us to travel slowly and more mindfully, versus travelling on impulse just to ‘get away’ or ‘escape’ from reality. 

Get Curious — Vote With Your Money 

Getting ready for a trip requires some level of homework on the places you will see, flights you will take, and places you will stay. Award-winning photographer, and sustainability leader, Rob Holmes suggests, channeling the same energy found in “searching for the lowest airfare or ‘best hiking trails’ in sustainability research as an essential part of your travel due diligence.” 

Image: Getty

Some people love to plan while others are spontaneous decision makers. Regardless of the camp you are in, Holmes explains there are plenty of reputable sustainable certifications for everything from hotels, to local tour operators, to locally owned and operated businesses. Look out for information in tabs like about us, our vision, sustainability, or perhaps any commitment towards charities or environmental causes within these company webpages. This can help you to investigate where your money is going.

Start Small and Be Consistent 

Let’s be honest. It might seem impossible to have a trip that is completely sustainable in every single aspect. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try. Perhaps, you could think about your sustainable travel journey in three facets — planet, people, and profits. 

You could try to address one or more of the facets during each of your trips. For example, if you have opted to do a long-haul trip, you could consider offsetting the carbon emissions for your flight through the airlines or donating to a cause that supports the plantation of trees, mangroves, or clean, renewable energy that would benefit people.  

If you would like to think about supporting the people, consider booking a cooking class with an indigenous community so you could form a deeper connection with the people of the land and their interaction with its produce and climate. 

Mountain Gorillas in Rwanda
Image: Getty

Profitability is often a tricky concept to understand, as profit is important in keeping a business afloat, but yet should not be at the expense of the people or the planet. A good case study on profit would be the wildlife permits needed for gorilla trekking in Rwanda. The activity requires pre-booking at least a year in advance and costs US $1,500. Visit Rwanda, the national tourism board states that 10% of the revenue from the permits is channeled towards local communities, to build schools and health centres, as well as roads. Additionally, there is a compensation fund for local farmers should any gorillas damage their crops, which helps to ensure peaceful co-existence. 

Addressing all three aspects of sustainable travel is ideal. However, every action, no matter how small, is as important as the other in building your foundation for sustainable travel. So yes, it is actually possible to travel sustainably, one step at a time. 

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Any representations, views or opinions contained in this article are those of The Latch and do not reflect those of and are not endorsed by Suncorp Bank.