It is us, as individuals, that instigate and lead change. If we want a cleaner, more sustainable planet, it is up to us, for it is our habits that drive governments and industries to change their policies and practices.
Like many industries, travel is in the middle of an overhaul, from airlines using biofuels and resorts going eco-friendly to the (more) ethical treatment of animals. Change, albeit slow, is already taking place. So, where do you as a responsible traveller fit in?
If you’re keen to do your part, here are five practical tips to help you be a more responsible traveller.
As witnessed in Cape Town earlier this year, water can just run out. Clean fresh water isn’t limitless and much of the world suffers from a shortage of it. While they may seem small, actions like reusing hotel towels, taking short showers and turning off the tap while brushing your teeth do make a difference. When travelling to countries where tap water is drinkable, forego buying plastic bottles and drink the tap, refilling a reusable container.
Reduce Your Waste
Take your green habits on vacation! As many of us choose to refuse straws, plastic bags and unnecessary packaging at home, applying these practices while travelling should be easy. Most countries recycle, some better than Canada, so being mindful and recycling our waste on holiday should be a no-brainer. Not littering and disposing garbage responsibly is easy and is key to preserving a pristine environment, and that goes for cigarette butts, too!
Most of the world’s biggest polluters and exploiters of workers are big corporations. Supporting local businesses instead sends them a message while awarding companies that promote sustainable living and better treatment of employees. Pass on the fast food chains and enjoy locally owned and operated restaurants and bars. Shop in local markets and stores. Help the local economy and utilize the expertise of local guides when booking tours or activities. Go local at home and abroad – it’s better for you, too!
Care About Wildlife
Public opinion can have a massive effect as evidenced by Marineland ending its killer whale program after years of public outcry. The exploitation of animals for profit still runs rampant and public support is the only culprit. Choose to avoid any attractions that involve animal ‘performance’, the riding of animals or closely engaging with wild animals. Avoid any activity that an animal wouldn’t naturally do in the wild. Don’t ever buy souvenirs made from endangered species and don’t touch or step on coral. Take the ‘look but don’t touch’ approach instead and help end animal exploitation.
Respect Local Culture
Tying everything together is an overall respect for local people and their culture. Along with obeying local laws, it is important to listen to and learn from those you meet abroad. Learning about another’s way of life helps us to relate, empathize and better understand our world. Dress and behave in an appropriate manner. Always act with courtesy and respect for everyone, including children. In short, be the very best ambassador and global citizen you can be.
There is nothing that prompts a change in an industry faster than the will and action of individuals – its customers. Be the change you want to see, at home and abroad, to ensure future generations can enjoy our beautiful planet as much as we do.