sustainable travel

How to make travel sustainable

In my lifetime, I have seen the annual family holiday go from a week in a seaside town – usually in a tent – to a week at a five star resort somewhere in the Asia-Pacific region. Travel used to be sustainable by virtue of the fact that no-one could afford the alternative.

I have also seen the regularity of trips go from being an occasional luxury to something that happens multiple times throughout the year. Japan or Thredbo for skiing, Fiji or Bali for beaches, Melbourne or Brisbane for work.

People are abandoning the humble family road trip, the daggy camping trip and the ramshackle holiday house in favour of something vastly more glamorous.

The problem with that is all that luxury comes at a cost.

An environmental cost. A social cost. A cultural cost.

We’re destroying the very thing we’re so keen to see.

As an avid traveller, and a committed member of the Australian travel industry, I am conflicted. I desperately want to travel. Nothing can replace the joy of discovery I feel in a new place. It makes all the hours I spend working feel completely worthwhile. I need to do that, in order to see this. Fair deal.

But is it fair? Is my desire for exploration more important than my stewardship of the environment?

The uncomfortable answer is no. The environment is a constant. It is our home, but it also their home; they being the millions of creatures who have no control over my behaviour.

So I have to step up and travel sustainably. And this is how I’m going to do it:

Go camping
I have been squirrelling away camping gear for over a year now. We have yet to use it (my husband is still coming around to this concept) but I am excited to revisit my canvas-covered childhood. Goodbye 5-star. Hello 5,000 stars.

Stay local
It’s absurd that we will spend a motser going to Italy to eat pizza, all the while ignoring the authentic pizza restaurant in our home town. Seek out experiences in your local area that take you on a little adventure. I love Taste Tours for this. You feel like you’ve spent a few hours in an exotic foreign place without leaving Sydney.

Buy carbon offsets
No longer a ‘nice to have’. I am going to offset my flights from now on to make my own travel more sustainable.

Use public transport
Why not catch the train? Or a bus? A lot of travellers use public transport when they’re overseas but drive when they’re in Australia. Before you go somewhere on holidays, look into the public transport options to get you there.

Support travel businesses with a sustainability ethos
As the co-founder of Intrepid famously said, “If we keep going that way we’re going, we’re all f*cked.” Intrepid has worked hard to become a registered B Corp and will soon become carbon positive. By booking travel with a company like this, you’re minimising the harm you are doing by travelling.

Spend money responsibly
Seek out activities and restaurants that have a higher motive. A lot of hospitality operators support schools and hospitals, work to keep indigenous cultures alive, employ homeless or youth at risk, and run specialty training programs.

Avoid single use plastics
This is a no-brainer. Just because you’re on holidays, doesn’t mean you can abandon your environmental ethics. Pack a Keep Cup, a refillable water bottle and a reusable shopping bag. Simple.

Think about what you eat
Eat what’s on your plate, and don’t eat more than you normally would just because you’re at a buffet (big challenge for a garbage guts like me!). Also, think about what you’re eating and where it’s coming from. Try to choose food and beverages that are grown and produced locally, rather than the imported French cheese, the Dutch beer and the Belgian chocolate. Food is a huge part of a holiday experience for me so this will require some significant reprogramming.

Include cultural activities
Look for activities that employ local or indigenous guides and offer experiences that keep local arts and crafts, heritage, cultural storytelling or – critically – wildlife alive.

Travel less
This is the easiest thing to do. Instead of going overseas once a year, go once every five years. Go for longer and see more places. Instead of driving to Queensland, drive to the South Coast (or wherever is closer to home). Choose to travel in Australia, rather than internationally. When you do travel overseas, choose places with solid environmental credentials like New Zealand and The Hawaiian Islands.

Do you have any sustainable travel tips?

Looking for places to go camping? Check out this link.

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