Do you know how to plan a responsible holiday? As a traveller, you will certainly have an impact on both the culture and environment of the place you are visiting. So here are some useful rules of thumb to make your impact a positive one:
Avoid short-haul and indirect flights whenever possible
A flight will dwarf all other elements of your holiday in terms of carbon emissions. Use online calculations such as Climate Care to learn about the footprint of a particular journey and see how long it would take you to make the equivalent carbon saving by cutting down on car journeys or using low-energy light bulbs.
If you have to fly, try to avoid short-haul flights where there are viable alternatives, as the fuel-hungry take-off and landing make up a greater proportion of the journey’s overall emissions. Similarly, flying indirect to save a few pounds can radically bump up your emissions tally due to the extra take-off and landing.
Consider your accommodation
Many areas popular with tourists struggle with water and energy supplies and have limited waste and recycling facilities. Before you book your accommodation, check their website or brochure for a statement on sustainability or responsible tourism. Anywhere doing its fair share will be shouting about it.
Find out about local issues
Find out if there are energy or water shortages or particular development or conservation issues in the destination you are planning to visit and make sure you don’t contribute to them by inconsiderate behaviour through your choice of accommodation or tour operator. See the Travel Foundation for more information.
Report bad practice
If you spot hotel staff ignoring environmental policies, for example by washing towels daily, without an option to leave it longer, suggest an alternative to the management. Similarly, if you encounter exploitive practices in destinations or among tour operators, complain to the company you booked through and write an on-line review. You can report animal exploitation via the Born Free Foundation’s Travellers’ Alert campaign .
Be culturally aware
Learning a few words of the local language can help you interact with locals in a far more respectful and rewarding way than stumbling through with English plus hand gestures. Learn about local customs and religious beliefs and modify your wardrobe and behaviour accordingly.
Travellers pay fleeting, and often seasonal visits, to their destinations. Choose tour operators and hotels that employ local people, ideally year round, and source as much food and other supplies as possible from local producers. Make sure you get out of your hotel or resort to visit local restaurants, shops and markets and always tip with cash. In markets, don’t let the love of bartering get in the way of paying a fair price.
Give something back
Our love of exotic, off-the-beaten-track holidays has brought us into greater contact with societies struggling with poverty, conservation, development and sometimes exploitation. Although it can be very diffi cult, try not to give money to child beggars as this encourages the practice when they should be in school. A donation to a local project, charity, health centre or school is more likely to end up in safe hands. You can also find out about local projects and items in short supply by using the stuff your rucksack website.
Taking your litter with you is obvious. But refraining from buying corals, shells or other precious products made from endangered plants and animals and helping to preserve local wildlife is equally important.
Take your habits with you
If you recycle, avoid unnecessary car journeys and avoid wasting water at home, don’t binge on holiday. Use public transport in your destination, keep heating, lighting and air conditioning to a minimum and shower rather than use a bath. As many island and mountain destinations have limited waste and recycling facilities, it pays to leave unnecessary packaging on holiday purchases at home.
Don’t play golf in a dry zone
More and more developing world countries believe that they must provide golf courses for Western tourists, even in waterpoor areas. These either drain water reserves or depend on desalination plants that use vast amounts of energy.