The tourism industry is on an all-time high, booming every day. Let it be a peak season or off one, nothing is stopping the tourists these days. Traveling in either of the seasons has its pros and cons. In some countries, tourism drives the economy and supports the locals. But the impact does tourism is leaving on the environment is huge. Use of plastic, or overcrowding some places, and the signs like carbon footprint cannot be ignored. So today I am going to talk about Responsible Tourism and how to be a responsible tourist. And I assure you, I will not say words like – travel less, rather I’ll just give the alternatives.
What is Responsible Tourism?
We travel for different reasons, some for vacations, some for fun, or some are passionate about seeing the entire world. No matter our reason is, one thing we should keep in mind is Responsible Tourism. This term is the hot topic is the current era, why? Because of the impact tourism leaves on this planet. The carbon footprint through the transport we use and excessive use of plastic is not doing any good for the environment. Various cases have come forward where the plastic dump disrupts the ocean life. Responsible Travel is nothing but the ways to travel in a responsible way and not impacting the environment in a negative way.
How to be a Responsible Tourist?
In the recent past, organizations are coming up with ways to help tourists to travel responsibly. With the help of my fellow bloggers and travellers, I have compiled diverse ways on how to be a responsible tourist –
Carry a Reusable Bottle
How many of you buy a bottle of mineral water while travelling? I assume, a lot! Myself guilty of doing it until a few years ago. Being a mountain lover, I travel to the Himalayan range a lot and the natural water streams as clean as purified water. It was my mum and dad who pointed it out years ago that we can directly refill the bottle from that. I know this clean water is not easily available everywhere and especially in the coastal areas. Whenever we go, restaurants and hotels serve clean water, I always refill from there now. When on a road trip, carry an extra jug with (or without) ice cubes to keep the water cool. This is my number one tip on how to be a responsible tourist, don’t you agree?
Suggested Read – Road Trip Essentials.
Travel By Bicycle
Clare Dewey at Epic Road Rides suggests exploring the world by bicycle. Travelling by bike is the most environmentally sustainable and responsible form of transport out there.
It’s also a fantastic way to get to know a new place because you travel on roads and through places way off the beaten track. You get to see underneath the skin of a destination, past the glossy tourist attractions and into the heart of a country.
On two wheels you notice things you’d never spot from the back of a car or bus: brightly coloured hedgerows and verges full of birdsong and vivid flowers, the lively chatter of school children walking to school, the tinkle of cowbells on a mountainside.
Do it, travel by bicycle!
Carry a reusable shopping bag
Matilda from The Travel Sisters says One tip to be more responsible when you travel is to bring a reusable shopping bag with you. It is a very easy way to be more eco-friendly and avoid using plastic bags. Instead of getting a bag every time you shop for groceries, souvenirs or anything else during your travels, you can use your foldable reusable bag to carry your loot. Bringing a reusable bag with you can also save you money in places where you are charged for plastic or paper bags plus reusable shopping bags are more durable so you don’t have to worry about flimsy plastic bags falling apart.
Tasha suggests that over the last year, shampoo bars seemed to have soared in popularity. Not only do they smell amazing, but they’re also great for the environment. Instead of liquid shampoo in a throw-away plastic bottle, you can buy a round tin to put these shampoo bars in which can be used over and over. It has been said that shampoo bars could replace the 552 million shampoo bottles which are thrown away annually.
I buy mine from ‘Lush’ and would personally recommend the ‘Godiva’ and ‘Honey I Washed My Hair’ flavour. They smell divine! If you’re not already convinced, another reason to try them out is that you don’t have to worry about going over the 100 ml liquid limit for hand luggage on flights, they also reduce your carbon footprint as they are lighter than liquid shampoos. Overall, swapping liquid shampoo for shampoo bars in reusable tins is a great way to cut your plastic pollution. This is a tip not known to many and a is a great step towards responsible tourism.
Support Local Business
Jennifer from The Rainbow Route has a wonderful take on how to be a responsible tourist. A great way to experience local food and culture while supporting sustainable farming is to shop at farmers markets. You can rest assured that you are buying locally grown produce that is in season and are supporting small businesses. Chat with the vendors and get to know some locals while sussing out new and delicious foods to try. If you’re unsure what something is, even better! Let your taste buds have an adventure and ask the vendor for suggested recipes to get to know the culinary culture better. Cooking for yourself while on holiday can also help keep you on the budget – although, you might get so excited about how delicious the food is, you spend all of your money at the farmers market.
Treatment of animals
Nadia from The Nomadic Nerd says It hurts my heart to think about how I used to partake in activities that exploited animals. I don’t blame myself, I, of course, didn’t know any better, but my parents should have. It’s a funny thing, from a young age we are taught to enjoy looking at animals in confinement. It’s almost inhuman.
Almost yearly, I discover animals being mistreated for the personal enjoyment of humans, most of them being tourists. The drugged up tigers being poked and prodded by little kids. The frustrated elephants either chained and unable to roam around properly or forced to carry up to 100 kg on their backs in the blistering heat when they can roam around finally. Most recently, the exhausted donkeys made to carry tourists and all their luggage up the stairs in Santorini, given little rest, little water and suffering blisters from the friction of the saddles.
My responsible travel tip on how to be a responsible tourist is this: If you don’t know, don’t go. Meaning, if you don’t know exactly how the animals are treated, if you don’t do extremely thorough research into safaris and if you have heard the slightest bad rumour about animal mistreatment, then don’t go there. Take the time to care, take the time to find an ethical substitution.
Say No to Straws
It is estimated that 500 million straws are used and thrown away every single day in the United States (source)! This is crazy and what is even crazier is the impact that a simple change can make. How often do you use a straw, daily? Most of us use them several times a week. Imagine how much plastic you could save if you didn’t use a straw for an entire year! Deborah from 12By12Travel quotes, in my opinion, the easiest solution is to ask for no straws. This takes some getting used to and I still forget, but try your best. If you forget to ask and it is still wrapped, simply don’t use it. Either leave it on the table or return it to your server.
If you really can’t live without your straw there are several great alternatives to plastic. Many companies make metal, bamboo and glass straws. Buy one on Amazon to arrive before your next outing. Any of these alternative straws should last you a long time and often the set comes with a cleaning brush to ensure they are hygienic. The key is remembering to ask for no straws and packing yours with. So, let us all promote responsible tourism and sustainable living by giving up straws.
The hotel industry uses so much water! Nowadays it is common practice for hotels to only change sheets every couple of days. Deborah fully support this change! At check-in, ask how often your hotel changes sheets and request them to extend that to 3 or 5 days or however long you feel comfortable. I bet that will make the housekeeping staff happier and in turn, your stay will be even more enjoyable. Do the same with your towels. At most hotels, they leave the towels that are hung up and will replenish the ones lying around, so take a few extra seconds and hang up your towels. I have stayed at several hotels that offer extra points in exchange for skipping your daily clean towel and linen change. That sounds like a win-win situation to me! It’s easy to do your part in cutting down on water usage.
Deborah don’t think there is anything wrong with buying souvenirs but do we really need a souvenir for every trip. If you find something you love, get it. But stop buying souvenirs to simply have something from the trip. Our main souvenir is now a cribbage board we carry with us. This board has travelled with us for over 5 years, every time we are somewhere new we play a game and write the city onto the board. The board is now filled with cities from all over the world. It has a use when we are at home or travelling. This fills our desire to have something to remember where we have been and is very useful on long layovers. When we do buy souvenirs we try to get something functional that represents the country, such as a teapot from Morocco or a silk tie from India. We take the same approach when buying souvenirs for friends and family. Rather than buying useless knick-knacks, we try bringing them a consumable gift. Some great consumable ideas are local spices or speciality snacks from the area. Another gift alternative is to take them out for dinner or give them a gift card to their favourite coffee shop.
Use moon cup
Aside from being expensive and taking up valuable room in your luggage, pads and tampons are also a huge contributor to landfill waste. Suzie from The Wandering Linguist says there is an alternative! Using a moon cup will stop you contributing to this problem, and it is also ideal for travelling as you don’t have to change it as often, and don’t even need to find a rubbish bin! The moon cup is by far the most convenient and most sustainable way to handle menstruation and becomes even more useful when you travel.
Take Fewer Flights
Each flight that takes off every day lets off a huge amount of carbon emissions. If you can, avoid flying and take a road trip or a train trip instead! If you’re travelling across oceans you might be excused. But if you are going somewhere within the same country or that is accessible by road, try not to fly unless you really have to. The Wandering Linguist Says you might be surprised by how much more you can see and learn by travelling this way. Travel slowly and steadily and enjoy the journey as well as the destination.
Be a good guest to the heritage monuments
India is a country with more than 5000 years’ of history. The unfathomable timeline runs way back to the history. There are traces of the mighty ruler and their sprawling kingdom. Once the bloodbath and invasion stopped, few of the largest empire of human history was built in the land of Indus-Ganges-Bramhaputra. Time has hardly gnawed in many of the monuments. The creative excellence was of superlative stature.
However, the subcontinent is swarming with people these days. Some of them are supposedly bitten by the “wanderlust bug” and take pride in an increasing number count of the ticked off bucket list items. In the process, they exhibit extreme disregard for the monuments and heritage buildings that stand as the solemn witness of time bygone. The corners are colours with Paan-spits. The walls are embedded with some enthusiasts’ name and how he proclaims his love for a dear one! At times the stone carvings are stolen to be sold at a black market as a prized antique. What a sheer waste of culture and our shared traces of civilization!
To solve this burning issue, thankfully, many government laws have been crafted, sometimes imposed with a heavy fine. NGO’s come up to increase awareness. The locals are taught about the rich inheritance and the importance of protecting the same! Madhurima from The Orange WayFarer believe, we need to teach our children the value of protecting these live pieces as and when we travel. The onus lies upon us as a society! Show them the grand remains and how beautifully people had created them, how respectfully people are protecting them and they will continue with the ownership in future!
Do you have any other tip which you think help in responsible tourism? Share it with me.
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– The Wanderer