How to Plan a Sustainable Getaway

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There are a number of benefits in planning a sustainable vacation. First and foremost, sustainable travel allows individuals to experience the natural beauty and cultural heritage of the world. By choosing sustainable activities, travellers can have a deeper understanding and a more authentic and personal experience of the local nature, wildlife, and culture. Secondly, sustainable travel creates a good tourism reputation of the travellers’ preferred destinations. Tourists who respect and protect the environment and culture can help to maintain these places for local people and for future travelers, which will contribute to the tourism industry. Thirdly, sustainable getaways help people to reduce their carbon footprints and make positive influences on the environments and societies. It can also improve the health and well-being of tourists by appreciating the local nature and culture. Last but not least, sustainable travel is an educational opportunity for travelers to learn about the conservation of the environments, the respect of different cultures, and the practices of sustainable travel. By applying these lessons in the future, everyone can continue to benefit from sustainable travel.

Sustainable travel refers to the concept of making positive impacts on the environments, societies, and economies of tourism destinations. These impacts should be maintained over the long term, without compromising the future well-being of these destinations. According to the World Tourism Organization, sustainable travel should minimize the negative impacts of tourism and maximize the positive impacts of tourism. Sustainable travel is not only important to protect the nature and culture of the destinations, but it is also beneficial to the personal enjoyment of the travelers and the financial prosperity of the tourism industry.

Importance of Sustainable Travel

When most people think about the kind of impact they make in the world, their minds don’t naturally leap to the topic of traveling. We all engage in different activities in our daily lives and these are the habits and behaviors that we’d typically think about when considering what kinds of footprint we’re leaving on our planet. However, the real truth is that the impact of the travel industry, from the commute that you make to and from work each day, to the global flights that you might like to take for vacations, can potentially pose serious environmental risks. Each year, air travel alone contributes to around five per cent of climate change, and travel as a wider industry that includes food, accommodation, infrastructure and more, is thought to be responsible for something like eight per cent of global emissions. Lifestyles in developed countries are increasingly marked by a culture of everyday independence, with many people choosing to drive their own personal cars to work, on a day out or to the shopping center; or perhaps to forego public transport and take a taxi. What we might think of as everyday choices and basic needs are ultimately contributing to the continued use of petrol and diesel, as well as a culture of pollution. However, a growing increase in awareness about environmental issues, helped along by frequent news coverage and high-profile campaigns by activists such as Greta Thunberg, means that individuals and industries are beginning to take sustainability more seriously. With respect to the travel industry, with the rise of digital platforms that allow for research into sustainable options and the communication of better practices, there’s a growing movement to decrease the carbon footprint of how we explore the world. This includes encouraging a focus on mindfully deciding whether travel is necessary, and how best to minimize the impact of the journeys chosen. We’re also seeing the sustainable move towards public transport, cycling and demanding more eco-friendly options from travel companies. Also an increased interest in ‘local travel’, such as staycations, which allows the money spent to go directly into the traveler’s home economy and local businesses to thrive. All of these changes are being underpinned by the increasing drive to make environmentally-friendly choices suitable and accessible to everyone, regardless of background or circumstances, and it’s our responsibility, will only continue to grow in importance.

Benefits of Planning a Sustainable Getaway

Environmental benefits – The fundamental aim of sustainable tourism is to ensure that development is a positive experience for local people, tourism companies, and most importantly, tourists themselves. Not only should there be enjoyment for those who visit these special places in the world, but the protection of the natural environment and local cultures should be actively supported. This can be achieved through minimizing negative impacts on the environment and the local culture while providing tangible benefits to the local society and maximizing the enjoyment and satisfaction of the tourist experience. In the long run, tourists will experience a natural clean environment when visiting. This means that there will be plants and animals for future generations to learn and admire.

Short-term benefits – Unlike many types of mass tourism, sustainable tourism is able to strike the perfect balance between an attractive tourist destination and a place that local residents can also enjoy living in. This is seen in the short-term benefits. At the community level, short-term benefits include the preservation and celebration of local culture, tradition, and history; resources are managed and utilized more effectively, as it is often the case that local residents have a greater incentive to preserve the environment and local spaces; and the sharing of benefits. Employment can be provided for local residents through sustainable tourism. However, the most important at the community level is benefits are shared amongst all sectors of society – for example, revenues are often used to train and employ the local youth.

Long term benefits – Sustainable tourism provides the opportunity for individuals to receive substantial benefits, which can be categorized as both long-term and short-term. The main long-term economic benefit is the sustainability of the economic activities. Unlike mass tourism, sustainable tourism is able to generate economic activities which will continue to provide benefits for the future. Not only will the host country continue to benefit from sustainable tourism, but it will also allow future generations to still enjoy those benefits. By achieving economic benefits, host countries are also able to elevate the standard of living for its residents and employees. Sustainable tourism is also a means to preserve cultures. When economic activities are developed for the leisure of tourists, local cultures can be more easily preserved and nurtured. In fact, the diverse natural and cultural heritage of many destinations is a main attraction point for tourists to visit. Mass tourism may lead to the destruction of the environment and the disturbance of the social and cultural fabric of the host community.

Research and Destination Selection

After understanding the key concepts of sustainable travel, it is time to do some research. Different destinations in the world have varying initiatives and infrastructures for sustainable travel. For example, a country or a city with a large area of national parks might have more policies on conservation of natural resources. On the other hand, a small island might be focusing on innovations for sustainable energy. Therefore, it is vital to understand what each destination could offer. The United Nations has a Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for 2030, in which Goal 14 and Goal 15 emphasise the conservation of life below water and on land. From the World Tourism Organisation’s publication, key towards responsible tourism includes minimizing impact on the environment and local culture, and to support local economy. Such practices will help to create better place for people to live and for travellers to visit. Local attractions and excursions that are eco-friendly and small-sized are generally more sustainable. For example, a study on tourism management in Kuranda, Australia suggests that staying small is the solution for sustainable tour businesses. It is because small-sized tours have lesser visitors which reduce the human impact on the wildlife and the environment, and it gives a better land and sea experience for travelers. Last but not least, travelers could go for sustainable travel certified accommodations, such as EarthCheck, Green Globe and Travelife. These international certification and consultancy organisations provide certification for travel companies and accommodations that are operating in a more sustainable pattern. By staying in those accommodations, travellers could contribute to the environment through revenue and also to minimize the environmental, social and cultural impact generated from the hospitality industry.

Identifying Sustainable Travel Destinations

With the goal of identifying sustainable travel destinations, the first step is to understand what sustainable travel is and why it is important. Sustainable tourism has been defined in numerous ways. For example, the World Conservation Union (IUCN) has defined sustainable tourism as “visitation that has a neutral impact on local environments” and “such that the local ecology and species are not altered.” UNESCO has defined sustainable tourism as “tourism that respects both local people and the traveler, cultural heritage and the environment.” The United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) has defined sustainable tourism as “tourism that takes full account of its current and future economic, social and environmental impacts, addressing the needs of visitors, the industry, the environment and host communities.” These various definitions all have some key points in common. Sustainable travel aims to minimize tourism’s negative impacts on the environment and maximize the positive impact on local culture and economies. It encompasses a wide range of topics including reducing one’s carbon footprint, responsible waste management, water usage, encouraging guests to engage with local communities and embracing local cultures. However, the first step is to stop and question the common assumption that more choices and freedom in our travel and tourism is good. In fact, an overwhelming amount of research suggests that too many choices can be detrimental to our well-being. So, when choosing your next vacation destination, consider spending your leisure in a small, rural, or even less-visited town or village. What you will find may surprise you. By slowing down in our travel and exploring the local businesses, cultural heritage, and natural scenery around us, we may find the local lifestyle and community values. This is the first step to sustainable travel; to break away from the passive consumption and to be mindful of our choices because that will translate into respecting and honoring the places we will come to love. The International Ecotourism Society has suggested the following criteria for identifying which travel destinations are sustainable: maintaining a clean environment, preserving local ecosystems, respecting indigenous cultures, supporting local economies, conducting low impact activities and providing environmental education to travelers. While planning a sustainable vacation, consider consulting the Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC) website for a list of destinations or certified hotels and tour operators. The council sets global standard of excellence in sustainable tourism and its website provides information about what to look for when planning a sustainable vacation and various worldwide sustainable travel destinations and services. Be mindful that even in sustainable destinations and businesses, there can be incidents or potential risks of exploitation of the environment or the workers. Always look for third-party certified labels or ask questions with the service providers about their legitimacy of being sustainable. It may be helpful to consult a travel agency; however, be sure the agency demonstrates commitment and corporate responsibility in choosing sustainable travel options. Some well-established agencies have a separate sustainability-focused team or department that specializes in customizing tours and trips that revolve around “green” themes and sustainable experiences. This helps to ensure that the trips offered are tailored to match your personal sustainability goals and interests. At the end of the day, maybe give yourself more reasons to travel: enjoy the friendship, the scenery, and the planet we live in. Give it a chance and enjoy the slow adventure.

Considering Eco-Friendly Accommodations

By choosing the right eco accommodations, your sustainable getaway will be filled with amazing experiences and memories, while making sure our planet stays beautiful and welcoming for generations to come.

The International Eco-Tourism Society (TIES) is a great place to learn more about eco-friendly destinations and accommodations throughout the world. The organization provides a wide variety of resources for travelers, including a tool to search for eco accommodations by destination. TIES also offers valuable information on different types of eco lodging, such as eco-lodges, green hotels, and ecolabels. Most importantly, TIES reminds travelers to verify the environmental commitment and responsible business practices of the accommodations. It is always a good idea to check whether the accommodations are certified or recommended by a credible third party, and what kind of sustainable amenities and facilities they provide. As the society says, “The ultimate goal of eco-tourism is to protect nature’s miracle and treasures for future generations, while offering wonderful experiences for current tourists, and supporting local communities in the meantime”.

Nowadays, more and more booking websites have started to incorporate eco labels into their search options. For example, when using, besides selecting only facilities with, for instance, a swimming pool or air conditioning, travelers can also choose to look for accommodations that are engaged with sustainable practices. In addition, instead of browsing through hundreds of potential places to stay, simply opening an eco-friendly tab will allow users to compare a range of eco accommodations at a glance.

When planning a sustainable getaway, choosing the right eco-friendly accommodations is crucial. Thanks to increasing interest and demand for eco-tourism, there are a lot of options to consider. One popular choice is to stay at eco-lodges, which are often situated in the heart of natural areas and focus on providing nature experiences and activities while minimizing impact on the environment. Another choice is to stay at certified green hotels and resorts. These accommodations have been independently verified to meet a set of environmental and social responsibility standards. They often use energy efficient lighting, low-flow toilets and showers, and solar power, and provide guests with the option to reuse towels and linens to conserve water.

Exploring Local Sustainable Activities

There are many different options for sustainable activities that are enjoyable and sustainable on your trip. Why not use a city bike to explore or walk a nature trail as part of your sightseeing? You could also check out some local art and crafts – many different places will have artisan communities, art shows or galleries showcasing fascinating and unique pieces that would make the perfect gift or a lovely reminder of your trip. If you want to learn more about the area’s culture and history, look for excursions and trails led by local experts that could give you a fascinating insight you would not find in a guidebook. Alternatively, you could volunteer to take part in a local environmental project, like tree planting or a beach clean-up, which can be a really rewarding way to help give back to the places and communities that you visit. By choosing activities that are also enjoyed by local people, you are likely to discover somewhere a bit different and away from the main tourist crowds. Plus you’ll be contributing to the economy and you’re likely to find that the experience also has a positive impact on the area and the people you visit, allowing for sustainable and responsible travel. By picking out the activities that are important to you and that are sustainable, you’ll be able to construct the perfect trip that is kind to the environment and provides you with amazing experiences and memories that will last a lifetime.

Transportation and Carbon Footprint

Therefore, it is important to consider the carbon emissions and environmental impacts of different modes of transportation and choose the most sustainable option available. Air travel has the largest carbon footprint per passenger compared to any other mode of transportation, and the environmental impact is particularly significant for long-haul international flights. In fact, aviation is one of the fastest-growing sources of global carbon dioxide emissions. As a result, taking a flight can significantly increase the carbon footprint of your trip. Therefore, it’s worth exploring alternative modes of transportation in order to reduce the environmental impact of your journey. For example, travelling by bus can produce lower carbon emissions compared to flying, and using trains instead of cars can be another way to reduce the carbon footprint of your journey, especially if the train is powered by electricity. When walking, cycling or using public transport such as trams and subways, which are powered by electricity and have low emissions, can all be very sustainable ways to travel. It’s also exciting to plan for sustainable transportation methods within the destination itself, such as using a bike-sharing program, exploring the city on foot, taking a bus or a water taxi or planning day trips using eco-friendly travel operators. All these alternative options can help to minimize the carbon footprint of your travel and make more meaningful, sustainable connections with the local culture, community and environment.

Choosing Environmentally Friendly Modes of Transportation

One of the easiest ways to lower the carbon footprint of your travel is to choose the most environmentally friendly mode of transportation that can get you to your destination. The overwhelming choice for travellers who are looking to reduce their carbon footprint is to take a long-distance train instead of flying. This is because trains are significantly more energy-efficient than aeroplanes, and they also have lower greenhouse gas emissions per passenger kilometre. Many travellers might consider renting an electric or hybrid car, as this seems a more sustainable option compared to taking a flight. However, in reality the production of these cars is incredibly emission-intensive and involves mining a large amount of rare earth minerals which can be damaging to the local environment and to the people involved in mining them. In contrast, if you usually drive a petrol or diesel car, but you are able to car share as part of your holiday planning, it could actually be a more sustainable option compared to hiring a car or taking a flight. Obviously, if the journey is short enough to be made by cycling or walking then these should be the first choice since they do not release any emissions at all. However, selecting a mode of transportation over a long distance is often not that simple, especially if that destination is also across water. In that case, ferry travel might be the best of the bunch, as short sea shipping has a lower carbon footprint compared to other forms of freight and passenger transport. When it comes to choosing your mode of transport, some simple online research can make the decision a lot easier. Look for travel comparison websites that include information on the emissions per passenger kilometre for each mode of transport. If taking a train is a viable option for your journey, then the independently produced “European Rail Timetable” might be a good investment for your sustainable travel planning. It is available as both a printed and online publication and includes a huge amount of detailed information on international and local train services. By choosing the most environmentally friendly mode of transportation, you will be able to have a relaxing and guilt-free holiday knowing that you have made a positive step for the health of the planet.

Offsetting Carbon Emissions

For many people, this kind of lifestyle change just isn’t realistic. In this context, carbon offsetting is a useful option for those who want to take practical action on the environmental impacts of their flights while larger systemic changes – such as greater investment in green technology, alternative fuel sources and sustainable travel infrastructure – continue to be worked on.

It’s worth noting that the idea of carbon offsetting is not without its critics. There have been concerns about the credibility of certain offset programs, with some experts arguing that not all projects deliver the promised carbon savings. There’s also the political issue of whether carbon offsetting is getting in the way of the wider systemic changes that are needed in order to tackle climate change effectively. Despite these criticisms, carbon offsetting can be a helpful tool in our wider efforts to reduce and mitigate the impacts of climate change. However, it shouldn’t be viewed as a ‘get out of jail free’ card – the most sustainable way to travel is simply to avoid flying altogether.

Offsetting carbon emissions is an increasingly popular way for travellers to mitigate the environmental impact of their flights. Carbon offsets are essentially a form of trade. When you purchase an offset, you fund projects that reduce greenhouse gas emissions. These projects might include wind farms, solar installations or reforestation initiatives – anything that helps to reduce the overall amount of greenhouse gases in the air. In theory, the net result is a compensatory effect whereby your purchase helps to balance out the emissions created through your own travel. Effectively, you have neutralised the environmental impact of your journey.

Planning Sustainable Transportation within the Destination

When you arrive at your sustainable travel destination, it is time to figure out how to get around without relying on fossil fuel-powered means. Fortunately, most sustainable travel enthusiasts find that many popular eco-tourism destinations already provide a variety of public and environmentally friendly transportation options, such as bus systems, bicycle initiatives, and even electric car recharging stations. These eco-friendly alternatives not only reduce the air pollution and diseases caused by vehicle emissions but also minimize the carbon footprint of your travel while allowing you to see the sights that cannot be reached by cars. If you are worried about getting lost when using public transportation, don’t be! Planning responsible tourism often involves not only understanding the environmental and cultural impacts of your travel but also enjoying the fun of exploring new places. As a greener alternative to personal cars, try taking a bus or a metro – it’s much cheaper than driving and is likely to be a much more memorable experience. For example, in a city with an efficient metro system, travelers are suggested to park their cars near a metro station and utilize the metro to get around. Also, riding a bicycle is another great option for sustainable travel adventurers, especially when they need to travel a short distance within the city. Many cities around the world have already implemented bicycle initiatives that offer bike hiring services for citizens and tourists to explore the city in an eco-friendly and flexible way. Plus, cycling is a fantastic way to exercise and stay healthy during vacation – just remember that for those who like to explore using this mode of transport, putting on a helmet is an important step to ensure safety as accidents can always happen.

Responsible Practices during the Getaway

Start by trying to minimize your waste and watching your purchases: look for places that recycle and separate your cans, bottles, and newspapers at the hotel. Try to make purchases that have less packaging, and carry a reusable shopping bag for souvenirs. These are simple things that make a big difference. If there’s no recycling where you are, hold on to cans, bottles, and paper and get rid of them in a place where you can recycle them. Use a water filter about the work “How to Plan a Sustainable Getaway” so you can refill a reusable bottle with clean water whenever you want. If you are going to a remote location where clean water is an issue, carry a SteriPEN to sterilize water—it’s a small, handheld UV water purifier that’s easy to use. Remember, it is best not to attempt to trek deep into natural park lands where you are unsure of the cleanliness of water. It’s important that you support initiatives by the local areas to be as green and sustainable as they can be. Check schedules for farmer’s markets, and look into getting to and from them using public transport or other eco-friendly methods. Through buying things locally, you will help to support the economies of the area and reduce your carbon footprint in terms of what you purchase and consume.

During your trip, putting effort into minimizing waste and making good choices is just as important as when you’re at home. Many eco-friendly practices are things we should all be doing all the time—like recycling and reducing our use of electricity. You can put these habits into practice while you’re traveling, and the good habits you pick up on vacation will continue when you return home.

Minimizing Waste and Plastic Usage

During your trip, there are many ways to reduce waste and plastic usage, perhaps the most important tenet of a sustainable getaway. One simple way is to make sure that you pack your items in reusables such as toiletries. You can bring your soap, lotion, safety razors, and other reusables, thus opting out of hotel-provided single-use items. If you have to use single-use items, make sure they are disposed of at the right place and if they are still good to be used again, you can save them for the next trip. Next, it’s always a good practice to purchase food and drinks that are not or less wrapped in plastic. Bring your tumbler with you for coffee or soft drinks and your own containers; some places even sell products in glass! Also, at the end of your trip, if you find that you have been collecting lots of little pieces of plastic or things made of plastic, have your own luggage or backpack for the collection. When you sort and clean at the end of your trip, you can make sure all small pieces are collected and properly disposed of. Remember never flush away plastics down the drainage because it heads straight for our oceans. Have the mentality that every single piece of trash that is being taken care of properly is part of protecting the ocean and nature.

Supporting Local Communities and Businesses

“Supporting local communities and businesses” is the focal point of this section. Unlike large international chains, small local businesses are more likely to invest their earnings into the betterment of the local area. Not only does supporting local businesses and economies help to make the region a more pleasant place for the community, it also reduces environmental impact. Instead of shipping in goods and services from other places, locally owned stores, hotels, and tour operators work to provide sustainable employment and training. This is beneficial both for the local people and for the environment. On the whole, using local services and facilities – such as eating at a family-run restaurant, choosing a locally owned activity company, or buying souvenirs from a small shop – will help to ensure that economic growth within the area remains sustainable. It may also give you valuable opportunities to connect with the local people and contribute to their community, cultural, and social programs. I think this point fits in really well with the proposed idea of supporting local communities and businesses. It suggests that choosing to patronize smaller, local businesses – rather than well-established international chains – is one of the best ways to help the people and businesses in the area where we spend our holiday. By doing so, the sustainable development of the local economy. It may also give you valuable opportunities to connect with the local people and contribute to their community, cultural, and social programs. I think this point fits in really well with the proposed idea of supporting local communities and businesses.

Respecting the Natural Environment

We should never put nature in danger when we go into the wild, and sustainable tourism activities always respect the local natural and cultural environment. So, when on a getaway, it is important to respect the natural environment that we are visiting. This concept is central to sustainable travel, as promoting the longevity of the places we visit and minimizing negative impacts on the environment are key goals. There are a number of ways we can respect the natural environment on a getaway: we should dispose of our litter thoughtfully and recycle, and organics should be separated where the facilities exist. We can take care to minimize pollution, for example by following designated walking routes and not damaging any vegetation. We should also ensure that any wildlife remains undisturbed – for example, by not feeding animals or disrupting their natural habitat. When staying at accommodation, such as a hotel or campsite, energy and water should be conserved where possible, and cleaners and other staff should be treated with respect. These practices form the basis of eco-friendly holidays, allowing us to continue appreciating beautiful parts of the world for years to come. So, respecting the natural environment is an important aspect of sustainable tourism – and good for the planet.

Engaging in Sustainable Activities and Tours

Last but not least, make use of local knowledge and go for something off the beaten path; having a personalized and immersive experience could make your holiday more memorable and meaningful. By doing the right research and choosing the right activities and tours, you could have a fulfilling and sustainable travel experience that benefits both you and the local communities.

Second, once you arrive at the destination and start visiting local tour companies, make sure to inquire about their commitment to sustainability. Reputable sustainable tour providers would always be happy to share their vision and what they do for sustainable tourism with the clients. Such providers tend to put education as a main focus of the tour experience and usually have a smaller group size during the tour in order to minimize the negative impact on the environment and to ensure the quality of the experience. Also, do not underestimate the possible positive impact that your choice will bring to the community as well. When you are making your holiday more sustainable and meaningful, local people and places that you visit will definitely benefit from it.

First of all, do some online research about local sustainable tours and activities partners; such type of information could also be available from the official local tourism board or the accommodation that you are staying. Look for keywords such as “eco-friendly,” “sustainable,” “responsible,” and “off the beaten path.”

After making such an effort to plan an environmentally friendly vacation, why not try to have some positive impact on the visited destination as well? Engaging in sustainable activities and tours during your getaway is a great way to support local communities and preserve the natural environment. Here are a few tips on finding and choosing sustainable activities and tours.