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Sustainable travel: 6 ways to make a positive impact on your next trip

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You may live sustainably at home but what about when you travel? What does that even mean? Does green travel begin when you reach your destination or does it start when you’re sitting in work on a rainy Tuesday, desperately plotting your next escape? Is it about keeping your carbon footprint light or should you also be conscious about giving back to local communities?

To break it down, sustainable travel is about being a responsible traveller and making smarter choices in every aspect of your trip. That doesn’t mean you need to totally overhaul your vacation though. We’ve put together a list of practical tips that will help you along the way, even if you’re just getting started on your sustainable travel journey.

Go by road or rail

Trains, planes and automobiles. Which one is best? Air travel is the natural enemy of sustainable travel because it wreaks havoc on the environment. The Swedes have even coined a new phrase, ‘flygskam’ or ‘flight shame,’ referring to the feeling of environmental guilt travellers have over flying. Unfortunately though, sometimes flying is non-negotiable. If you live in New Delhi and need to visit Tokyo, you’re not going to take the slow boat. So the best solution is to fly less.

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Spend your money locally

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If you choose locally-owned accommodation, eat at independent restaurants, buy locally made products and choose local experiences you can make a positive impact.

Choose your animal experiences carefully

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Animals shouldn’t be used for human entertainment and they need to live as free from human interference as possible. If you are keen to see wild animals in their natural habitat, choose places that offer ethical and sustainable animal interactions such as elephant sanctuaries and marine conservation volunteer projects. Elephant rides should always be given a miss and avoid all experiences where animals are behaving unnaturally.

Pack reusable items

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The best way to reduce your waste output is to produce less. Experts suggest, sticking to the basics and taking reusable items like a water bottle, coffee cup, steel or bamboo straw, food container (collapsible ones are great for travelling), and bamboo cutlery or a spork so you can avoid single-use plastics. Travellers can also opt carrying a reusable shopping bag for plastic-free shopping.

Travel off-peak or off-beat

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In cities like Venice, Barcelona and Dubrovnik, overtourism is straining infrastructure and pricing locals out of communities, because of which beaches in Thailand and the Philippines have been destroyed, and natural wonders in the US, Iceland and Japan are being degraded, prompting restrictions. This global phenomenon isn’t going anywhere, so when planning your next trip its worth considering the road less travelled. You may consider replacing a holiday to Zurich with Gulmarg and so on. Or even just moving slightly beyond the tourist hotspots.

Opt for eco-conscious accommodation

Eco-conscious accommodation has come on leaps and bounds in recent years thanks to changing attitudes among consumers. Now the industry knows what’s good for the planet is good for profit and hotels are starting to rack up serious eco credentials. There are CO2-neutral stays on offer in places like The Brando in Tahiti, the Olakira Camp in the Serengeti, Vienna’s Hotel Stadthalle and Kong Arthur in Copenhagen, part of Arthur Hotels, which was the world’s first carbon-neutral hotel group. You can even try Zero Island, a tourist-friendly island in Sweden that managed to go carbon neutral in one year.

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