Two years into the pandemic, we’re now — finally, finally — able to travel a bit more freely. Though with that newfound freedom also comes more awareness of our impact on the planet. While sustainable or, even better, regenerative, travel was becoming more popular pre-COVID, it’s now well and truly at the forefront of many travellers’ minds.
We want to keep exploring the world, but we know that unless we do so consciously, there won’t be much of it left — or at least, the way we know it now — for future generations to see, too. Fortunately, many of us also know that doing every little bit for the environment we can, no matter how insignificant it may seem, does in fact help to make a difference.
“I’ve always loved the saying about visiting the beach ‘Take only photos, leave only footprints’, and I believe this can be expanded to encapsulate eco-conscious travel, too,” says Emily Fletcher, sustainability advocate and founder of the Clean + Conscious Awards.
Ahead, she shares four key things to keep in mind if you’re looking to travel more sustainably this year.
“A large amount of our travel carbon footprint is generated when we are moving from one location to another,” says Fletcher. “If you did have a choice, taking a long-distance train or bus is a more planet-friendly option as compared to a private car or plane.”
In saying that, however, in the enormous continent that is Australia, depending on your travel destination, choosing an eco-friendlier mode of transport may be harder. If that’s the case, Fletcher suggests opting to offset your carbon emissions instead.
“There are many large certifiers who offer this or you can use an online calculator and donate to an organisation of your choice, which is working to capture carbon or generate renewable energy,” she says.
Choosing to stay in sustainable accommodation has an impact on both the environment and also the local community. These days, there are sustainable stays available for all budgets – from camping to hostels to luxurious resorts — but you will need to do your research to make sure you aren’t being greenwashed, warns Fletcher.
To make an informed choice, check out the accommodation’s website to see if they have a ‘Sustainability’ page. Or call them and ask them — do they use local staff and products? What kind of energy do they use and if they have a waste and water recycling system? What do they do to invest and support the surrounding community?
At your destination, walk or take public transport to get around. Also, don’t forget to pack your reusables. Bring your keep cup, water bottle, reusable cutlery and tote bag to keep your plastic usage low. Fletcher suggests using the Clean + Conscious Directory to find the best zero-waste products.
Have a Positive Impact
The way we interact with the local community dictates the impact of our stay, says Fletcher. To have a positive impact on a local community, she suggests:
Supporting Local Businesses
“This can include going to the local farmers market, buying in independent shops and having meals in local cafes,” she says.
“Choose tours that are environmentally sustainable, and preferably employ local guides. Support First Nations-run tour experiences — through supporting these businesses, you’ll be contributing to the conservation of a culture which prioritises living in harmony with the land.”
Visiting Wildlife Sanctuaries
“Australia has many wildlife sanctuaries focused on conservation and carbon footprint reduction. Visiting fees support the many initiatives which are being run from these locations.”