Sustainable business travel has never been more pressing. However, it’s one thing to recognize the importance of eco-friendly tourism; it’s another to put principles into practice.
Nobody doubts that the travel industry has played a big part in creating economic stability and driving positive growth in locations across the globe, but there is also a downside in this process. Overcrowding, environmental damage and a strain on resources are just a few ways an increase in tourism can have a harmful impact on a destination.
That’s why, many destinations are taking significant steps to reverse course in order to save their fragile ecosystems before it’s too late.
Choose the itinerary wisely
It all starts when you choose the destination and the activities you would like to practice. Opting for a crowded destination is not the same as opting for one that no one has heard of.
And then, the country’s policies also count. For example, Puerto Rico fosters ethical tourist consumption. By embracing sustainable farming techniques and highlighting local businesses and tour operators after Hurricane Maria’s impact, the country has emerged as a top spot for sustainability.
On the other hand, the type of activities you practice have a very different impact on the environment. Ideally, you should opt for experiences that have a low environmental footprint, such as kayaking instead of Jet Skiing.
We reduce or increase our carbon footprint with every decision we make.
Reduce your carbon footprint
The airline industry is responsible for roughly 3% of global industry emissions, according to the World Economic Forum. However, its convenience makes it a transportation option that won’t fall out of favor any time soon. So, to reduce the environmental harm flights cause, experts are increasingly encouraging travelers to offset their carbon footprint.
There are not many tools that can be used to calculate the carbon footprint of travel and flights. However, companies like TROOP offer planners full visibility when planning trips, so that decisions are informed.
Remember, too, that traveling in premium cabins (like business or first class) will increase your carbon footprint.
The importance of the local community
Around 80% of low-income countries rely on tourism revenue, yet 90% of tourism dollars earned are pocketed by foreign-owned businesses, according to a Brookings Institute report.
That is why it is so important to make an effort and try to consume locally. Not only are you consuming more authentic products or services, but the local population and culture are being supported.
In addition, wherever you travel, look for opportunities to make a difference through volunteering, wildlife rescue programs and beach cleanup events. It’s these small actions that make a big difference, and they don’t cost us much.
Check the accommodations environmental credentials
In recent years, there’s been a spike in interest for quality eco-friendly lodging that marries environmental consciousness with style and comfort.
In fact, 81% of travelers plan on looking for sustainable accommodations in the next year (up from 62% in 2016), according to Booking.com’s 2021 Sustainable Travel Report.
And if we all intend to take these aspects into account, accommodations are forced to improve, and to include new policies. That is if they want to remain competitive.
No more single-use plastics
Billions of tonnes of plastics made from 1950 to 2017 are discarded, and of that waste, roughly 75% ends up in landfills or ecosystems like rivers, forests and oceans, according to reporting by The Guardian
Have you ever traveled to the desert? If so, you’ve seen the amount of plastics the place gathers. Not to mention the plastic islands in the sea, an unfortunate example of the magnitude of the problem we have. Or the images we have recorded in our retina of the Himalayas, the summit of the world, and global dump.
Whenever possible, try to refill and bring along your own travel-size containers. If you must use small containers provided by the hotel, always save what’s left for your next trip.
As travelers, we need to find a balance between reducing our carbon footprint and supporting destinations that rely on tourism. And by committing to being more mindful of how we travel and visiting places where fragile ecosystems are cared for and local communities are supported, we can all help preserve our beautiful planet.