Going on holiday? Sometimes the fun and games of vacation can be less-than-friendly to the environment, but it doesn’t have to be the case. If you’d like to travel in a more eco-friendly way, we have some tips to help keep your holiday nice to nature.
1. Respect animals and their environments
Exploring native flora and fauna is one of the best parts of travel. Seeing lions in Africa, elephants in Thailand, kangaroos in Australia… it’s all part of the fun and on the bucket list of most travellers. But unfortunately, a lot of native animal encounters can come at the expense of the animal’s welfare. To travel sustainably, animal encounters have to be ethical and responsible.
Try to avoid tourist operators that keep animals captive. These could be zoos, sea parks, elephant or tiger sanctuaries, and even some hotels. Do your research beforehand on ethical animal enclosures and try to find animal sanctuaries and conservation parks that don’t keep animals caged up and treated poorly. Thanks to Google, it’s easy to find which places are ethical and which are not.
Where you can, get up close and personal with animals in their native environment. This is a much better experience for both you and the animals. You can do this by snorkelling or visiting national parks or protected wildlife conservations.
When snorkelling, make sure you respect the animal by not touching them, maintaining a distance when swimming near them, and avoiding sudden movements. Remember, corals are animals too and it’s important that you leave them untouched. If you really want a special moment with sea life, take your GoPro underwater and capture unforgettable moments with a photograph. Make sure your snorkel mask has a GoPro mount so you don’t accidentally drop and lose your camera underwater! (No GoPro? Get a waterproof phone case and take your phone with you for underwater snaps!)
2. Protect oceans and nature from harmful chemicals
People flock towards coastal areas for tropical holidays, but the world’s beaches can’t always handle the swarms of tourists who come for vacations. Overtourism and a lack of understanding how to travel sustainably can pollute waters and damage sea and coral life over time. We already see this happening in many places around the world, and some of the most stunning reefs can easily be ruined by overtourism. Don’t let this discourage you! There’s plenty you can do while travelling to protect oceans and nature from being spoilt by tourism:
Go for a sunscreen that's free of oxybenzone, the most damaging chemical for our oceans. Instead, choose one that is mineral-based and uses zinc oxide or titanium dioxide.
Avoid aerosol sprays as much as possible. We’re talking deodorant and insect repellant, as well as sunscreen. This is especially important if you're spraying on the beach as the particles can easily spray onto the sand and wash into the ocean.
Keep yourself shaded while out and about in nature, take along a beach umbrella, sit under a tree, or pack a small beach tent. These are all options that will reduce your need for lathering on sunscreen.
3. Sustainable transportation
If you’re flying a long distance to arrive to your travel destination, don’t fret. Airplanes may not necessarily be the most sustainable mode of transport, but there’s plenty you can do on the ground to offset those carbon emissions.
Where possible, walk, walk, walk. There’s no better mode of transport out there than walking, and honestly, no better way to explore your holiday destination. It may take time to arrive to where you’re going, but where’s the rush? You’re on holiday!
If the option is there, rent a bicycle. Bikes are another sustainable mode of transport, and you’ll still be able to explore your destination in a much more enjoyable way than if you were driving.
If you’re travelling between towns or cities, try to opt for public transport or carpooling rather than renting a car and driving. Not all countries will have reliable public transport, but if the option exists to hop on a bus or a train, do so! A lot of interstate travel is comfy these days, with onboard WiFi, snacks, and all you need for a comfy ride.
4. Avoid plastic where you can
You’ll hopefully already be doing this at home, but since vacations are all about taking a break, try not to take a break from this good habit. Here’s how you can reduce plastic use when travelling, for a more sustainable holiday:
Take a reusable water bottle with you so that you don’t need to buy plastic water bottles. If you're travelling to a country with undrinkable water, consider purchasing a water filter instead of consuming bottled water.
Bring your own reusable shopping bags, especially if you're the type to splurge on gifts. Every night, you can empty your purchases in your suitcase and take your reusable bag out with you the next day. If you end up with a plastic bag for some reason, keep it and reuse it instead of throwing it in the bin.
Carry reusable cutlery if possible. This will help prevent you from using plastic cutlery and plates from takeaway restaurants.
Don't purchase travel-sized items. It may be nice to have our tiny travel-sized shampoo, conditioner, soap, etc. but this just encourages more plastic waste. If you can't fit full-sized items in your luggage then buy them when you land. Every country has shampoo, conditioner, and toothpaste.
Say no to plastic straws, and if you really need to drink with one, bring your own reusable straw.
If you’re the type to carry wet wipes with you on holiday, opt for a brand that’s biodegradable to reduce the amount of waste you create while on holiday.
5. Less buying, more quality
Shopping for an upcoming holiday can be one of the most fun parts of travel prep. But when buying items, try not to skimp out on quality in favour of something more affordable. Avoid buying cheap quality plastic products that won’t last long, and try to splurge on higher quality gear that will be with you year after year. This will reduce the amount of waste you accumulate over your lifetime.
When buying sunglasses, try to avoid cheap plastic sunglasses that will easily break in your bag. These kinds of glasses may be cheap, but they won’t last long, and they won’t do much good in protecting your eyes from UV damage, either.
If you’re purchasing snorkelling equipment for a beach holiday, consider spending a bit more on high quality items that are made from sustainable materials rather than cheap plastics. Again, these will last you year after year (and maybe even a lifetime), so you won’t have to buy another pair next time you go on vacation. Higher quality gear will be more resilient to natural wear and tear, so it’s better for you as well as the environment.
If you need headphones or earbuds, try to go for a well known brand and buy a pair that will last you a long time. If you can, also avoid using airplane earbuds that are made from cheap plastic and only last a short while.
You feel good, Earth feels good
So there you go, travelling sustainably doesn’t have to mean missing out on fun! There are plenty of small things you can do to make your snorkelling holidays and tropical getaways easy on mother nature. If we can all travel sustainably, then the planet will keep on letting us enjoy its pristine beauty for centuries to come!
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