ARE YOU A SUSTAINABLE TRAVELLER?
Tourism undoubtedly brings changes to a place. It can be for better or worse, but it brings change nonetheless.
As more and more people visit a destination, the demand for fancy hotels and restaurants increases. Local restaurants find it tuff to compete with KFC and Mc Donalds like brands. Tourism can dilute the essence of a charming village, increase pollution, destroy environments, if not managed correctly.
But tourism can bring good changes too. It can create jobs, increase economy, improve infrastructures and be a catalyst to preserve a culture.
Sustainable travel is ensuring that tourism brings more positive change to a place than negative change.
Here are a list of things you and I can do to make our travels more respectable and sustainable:
1. Do your Research
We all plan our itinerary, transport, where to stay and things to do at a destination. But do you really spend time to research about the choices you have made?
For instance, rather than staying at a houseboat in Kerala backwaters why not choose Canoeing or Kayaking? Kerala backwaters are high in demand amongst the tourists. But did you know these houseboats are diesel powered and the fuel often leaks into the waters? They have no sewage disposals or waste disposals and most waste goes straight into the waters. Similar issues are also present in other costal regions of India like Goa. So as far as possible avoid Diesel powered water sports activities.
Research hotels and lodges to find out if they adhere to eco-friendly practices. For example our stay in Maldives that had no vehicles allowed on the island, offered more natural lights that we utilised less of electricity and banned tourist from carrying any seashells from the beaches.
2. Pack Right
What does your hotel do with those half-empty bottles of shampoo, body wash, mouthwash and the barely-used bars of soap that housekeeping staff routinely collect every day? If it’s anything like a typical hotel, they toss them into the garbage bins. These tiny plastic bottles are disaster for the environment. Hence it is best to avoid using them and pack your own toiletries from home in glass bottles. Fabric napkins are also best for zero waste alternative compared to paper napkins. You can easily wash them at your hotel or home once you are back from holidays. Bamboo toothbrush sold at amazon are also my favourite product and using plastic toothbrush at hotels is a big NO from my side.
3. Use Reusable Bags
Now this is an obvious one cause Plastic bags are the devil!
But somehow, many people have not adopted this practise in day to day life. When I reject plastic bags at local stores, the shopkeepers look at me in surprise. They insist on taking their plastic bags claiming they are free of cost or less harmful. And I always respond in saying ‘then do not give them away for free, charge them. Make it so expensive that people will stop buying them!’ My mother in law has also showed me creative ways of how you can convert your old clothings into amazing little store bags and in turn generate income to the local tailors and have zero waste.
4. Reusable Water Bottles and Cutleries
I always pack a refillable water bottle, plastic water bottles are my biggest enemies. Water can be easily refilled at restaurants, airport, railway stations. So why waste money and increase waste using those plastic bottles?
Reusable cutleries including bamboo straws are products that I would highly recommend during your next travel trips. Shop them here. Avoid places that serve fresh juices, tea, coffee in plastic glasses with a plastic straw. Ever wondered how much your five minutes drink can affect our environment? They say it takes about 500 years to decompose just a plastic straw. So next time, have your drinks directly from a glass. I usually carry my own reusable glass when I stop over at juice stalls at the streets. I can get so irritating at times that when my friends post their holiday pictures with straws in their glass – I DM to educate them!
Tender coconut is one thing that can get messy to have without a straw. So bamboo straws or pouring the drink in a glass is a better solution. Soft drinks are available in glass bottles and pet bottles, so next time you order a drink THINK of the best option.
5. Use Public Transport
Using local transport is the most eco-friendly ways of traveling and getting to know your city. This usually depends on the time you have as sometimes traveling in a bus in India is more tiring and time consuming than to have your own vehicle. But many tourist destinations have shared cabs that can save time, be cost effective and eco-friendly than having an entire car to yourself. Traveling by trains in India is also a good alternative than traveling by flights. Most foreign tourists like to experience Indian railways and help in reducing carbon footprints.
6. Stay in vacation rentals
Ditch those expensive hotels and stay at airbnb or homestays. I had my entire Kerala trip booked with Homestays at various locations for 7 days. They are clean, friendly and much high standards than you would expect. This also helps in dispersing your income to the local residents.
7. Shop local
Local businesses often buy from local service providers, farms and companies. Shopping locally helps in keeping the money spend within the community. Collecting souvenirs and gifting some to your family is a great way to source local markets. Most places have very colourful markets like Wednesday markets in Goa. Shopping local also encourages local artisans.
8. Do not litter
Take only memories, leave only footprints – Chief Seattle
I have seen tourists coming with their own chefs to Goa and preparing food wherever they find a little space while their employers are site-seeing. Certainly, this is a great option to save money but it is also important to clean the mess before you leave.
With a mass amount of people comes a mass amount of rubbish. If you do not find a dustbin, carry your waste till your hotel or home. Make sure you do not leave anything behind whether you are in the city or on a trail. Leave it just as it was when you arrived. If you find someone else throw waste, pick it up yourself while he/she is watching you – this way they would learn too. It is at times very disturbing when people throw waste from their moving car. Arguing too much with locals never works in your favour. But politely dealing with the situation is a must.
9. Support Organic food
When you feel hungry during your trips, why choose wafers and chips that are sold in plastic. How about picking up fruits from local vendors. Similarly when you are thirsty try replacing the pet bottles with fresh lime juice. Think green. Think organic.
10.Respecting other cultures
India is a very ethnically and culturally diverse country. It is home to multiple languages, religions and communities, all in one place. The subcontinent is huge, and the differences between each state are just as big. If you respect cultural practices, such as taking off your shoes before going into a temple or covering your head at Amritsar Golden Temple shows respect to local culture.