Travel has always been an important part of our bucket lists and vision boards, but we hardly ever consider what repercussions our dream trip would have on this planet. According to a World Meteorological Organisation report, 2014 to 2019 were some of the hottest years recorded. We need an urgent global response to bring climate crisis under control and, as travellers, there’s a lot we can do to mitigate the situation. Let’s face it – travelling opens up the world, and ethical travelling protects it.

For starters, ethical travel isn’t a killjoy and to ensure it isn’t, here’s a list of things you can do differently. When you go through it, you’ll realise that you are probably doing a few of these things already.

1. Packing Light

This is probably the simplest of all. Carrying fewer bags not only makes it easy for you to move around but also helps save on some fast replenishing energy (read fuel – the higher the load, the more the fuel consumption). Don’t get us wrong, travelling light doesn’t have to mean you don’t get to carry your favourite clothes on the trip anymore. For instance, carry one swimsuit instead of the three you couldn’t decide between. 

2. Carry Reusable Bags

We all make time for shopping on trips, but at what cost? Plastic is choking our planet. So every time a vendor offers you a plastic bag, turn it down. Just so you know – plastic takes anywhere between 10 to 1000 years to decompose. That’s why plastic bags are a big NO! Instead, carry reusable cloth bags. They are cheaper (in the long run) and more environmentally friendly.   

3. Reusable Bottles

This thumb rule also applies to plastic water bottles. Instead of purchasing a new bottle each time, carry a reusable bottle (not plastic) and refill it at your hotel, at restaurants, or wherever you can find filtered water. Not only will you save money, you’ll also be helping the planet – each bottle of plastic takes more than 450 years to decompose. So, make this a conscious choice. 

Alternatively, if you’re visiting a place where the water could be unsafe, consider carrying a portable water purifier. This will ensure that the water you’re drinking is clean.

4. Fly Economy 

Yes, we know… you were flying coach anyway, because who can afford a Business Class ticket? But did you know, flying Business accounts for more carbon emissions than flying Economy? One Business Class seat occupies the same space as 3-4 Economy seats. This reduces the plane’s passenger carrying capacity, making travel inefficient. So the next time you plan your travel, one way would be to opt instead for a low cost airline or just skip the business seat.

5. Find Eco Friendly Accommodation

Make the choice to stay in an eco-friendly property, which follows green living practices. These hotels work with the natural ecosystem around them by using organic materials, renewable energy, and recycling programmes. Enjoy your stay, without compromising on comfort.  

6. Use Public Transport And Leg It Wherever You Can

Getting into a cab after a long and tiring flight is sure convenient and no one deserves grief for it. But one way to reduce your carbon footprint is to use public transport – especially with it getting better everywhere. Local transports are more fuel-efficient and cost effective. For shorter distances, choose to walk instead. It’s one of the best ways to explore and experience a place. Not only will you be doing your bit to help the environment, you’ll be saving a fair bit.

7. Say No To Fresh Linen Everyday

A good hotel will always provide fresh laundry, towels, etc. to make the stay comfortable. And we love fresh linen as much as you do but everyday need not be laundry day. Much like you’d do at home, reuse that towel and bed linen for at least a couple of days (unless, of course, it’s filthy).  Reusing hotel fabrics means a lighter laundry load, thus reducing the resources needed for the hotel to function.

8. Turn It Off

Remember family members trying to cut down on the electricity bills by switching off fans and lights when not needed (sometimes, even when we were right there in the room)? Turns out they had a point after all. Turning off switches not in use (even charging points) can save tonnes of energy. So, switch off electrical gadgets and appliances in the hotel room before stepping out, just like you’d do back home. Don’t want to come back to a hot and stuffy room? Leave one of the windows slightly ajar (only if it’s safe), or draw the curtains to keep out the sunlight.

9. Eat Local Every Once In A While

The best way to get a flavour of a place is to get a taste of their cuisine. Eating local not only helps you immerse yourself in the native culture but also helps the local community. All foreign produce needs importing, which in turn ups the carbon footprint. 

10. Segregate Waste

This is a small gesture that goes a long way. It not only helps reduce the production of harmful greenhouse gases but also helps distinguish between recyclable and non-recyclable items. So try segregating waste in your hotel rooms and Airbnbs, much like you would back home – a small favour you’d be doing yourself and the hospitality staff. 

11. Leave A Place Prettier Than You Found It

‘No littering’ is a mantra we’ve grown up with. We work hard at keeping our homes spotlessly clean, so why not go one step further when travelling? It takes less than a minute and costs you nothing. And if that’s a difficult ask, just make sure you clean up after yourself. 

12. Shop Local And Avoid Haggling

Be kind and pay back. It’s a nice gesture. To give something back to the community, buy from local artisans and workers, instead of shopping for brands. And more so avoid haggling. While local art might seem a tad expensive (local vendors are notorious for quoting a higher price to tourists than other people), you’ll certainly be contributing towards fair trade, which is priceless! 

13. Be Aware Of The Products You’re Using

No tropical holiday’s complete without sunscreen. But did you know that the toxins and chemicals we slather on our bodies are causing irreversible damage to aquatic life, in particular, coral reefs? A study conducted by the National Park Service (in the US) estimated that 4,000 to 6,000 tonnes of sunscreen enters reef areas annually. Harmful ingredients like oxybenzone cause the corals to become sick, bleach (turn white), and eventually die. 

An easy solution is to use reef-friendly sunscreens. Look for sunscreens that are natural or those that avoid oxybenzone.

14. Care For Other Species

A lot of our travel plans include jungle safaris, snorkelling, and other such activities that bring us closer to wildlife. You can make a difference here as well – sign up for activities that do not harm animals. Let’s face it – animal rides or shows are rarely, if ever, cruelty-free. Ensure you visit only reputable zoos and sanctuaries with a proven track record in conservation – places where animals are treated ethically.  

Travelling responsibly does not take the joy out of our holiday, but it does a world of good to our planet. Ethical travel ensures the earth remains pristine not just for you and me but future generations as well. So next time you travel, head out with a conscience.