As travelers, we need to be aware of how our travel choices affect our planet. Even though eco-friendly travel is quickly spreading among the travel community, I’ve realized that there are still misconceptions associated with it. Many uninformed travelers continue to believe that to travel sustainably you need to break the bank or that it limits your travel options. But a quick internet search will tell you otherwise. There are endless ways to be sustainable while traveling and to still have fun without spending large sums of money. In this post, I’ll give you tips on eco-friendly tourism and you’ll find 7 myths about eco-friendly travel that you need to stop believing right now.
What is sustainable travel and why is it important
For those who love to explore the world, it is important to differentiate travel and sustainable travel. Responsible tourism is committed to respecting the local environment while contributing to a local community, economy, and culture. Sustainable tourism has 3 main pillars: economic, environmental, and social also referred to as people, planet, and profits. The goal of sustainable tourism is to ensure the way we behave while traveling will have a positive impact on the local people and area.
Sustainable tourism is important for one simple reason. Tourism is based on discovering places, so without the environment and the places, there’s no tourism. Traveling is becoming easier and more popular which is why it’s so important to preserve our planet. If you want to know more about eco-friendly tourism and its importance, read my post on everything you need to know about sustainable travel.
7 Myths about eco-friendly travel debunked
There are many myths and misconceptions associated with sustainable travel. Unfortunately, this causes travelers to believe that there is no way they can be conscious while traveling. Well, below you’ll find 7 myths about eco-friendly travel debunked and resources to help you find out what really is sustainable travel.
Myth 1: Eco-Friendly travel is expensive
The most common myth about eco-friendly travel is that to be a responsible traveler, you need to have a six-figure bank account. Well, this isn’t true. If you’ve been reading my blog you know I’m on a budget. Yet, I manage to travel in a sustainable way. You do not have to participate in a special “eco-tour” to be a responsible traveler. I even think you are more likely to travel sustainably when you are on a budget since being sustainable involves reducing drastically your daily waste.
For example, to reduce your impact on the planet on a budget, you could volunteer to help local populations and contribute to wildlife conservation. If this isn’t your kind of holiday, you can look for tour operators offering sustainable holiday options.
Staying in an Airbnb instead of a hotel is a great eco-friendly option when looking for accommodation. By the way, if you plan on staying on an Airbnb, you can get $20 off your first stay with my coupon code. You can also check the Green Key for more eco-friendly accommodation choice.
Meeting the locals and immersing yourself in the local cultures is the most cost-effective way to travel and at the same time, it is an extremely enriching travel experience. Eco-friendly travel can be budget friendly or costly, depending on what type of holiday you’re looking for. Whether you want to sleep in an eco-friendly 5-star hotel or go glamping, you decide.
Myth 2: Eco-friendly travel is just a niche market
You might think sustainable travel is just a niche market, and another way to make money but really it’s not. Eco travel is more than just a trend, it’s a way to travel that should be reflected in all activities. Whether you’re going on a safari or on a city trip, there are many ways to be sustainable and to make your holiday more responsible.
Obviously, travelers are not the only ones responsible. Companies also have their share of responsibility in all this. Many big hotel brands have made the switch to become more eco-friendly. Think about Hilton who worked hard to generate sustainable energy to their properties or Hyatt who managed to reduce their waste. Even though it’s obviously not perfect since these brands usually have huge hotels, we can at least salute the efforts.
Myth 3: Sustainable travel only exists in poor countries
Responsible tourism is important everywhere, even in western countries. Impacts of eco-friendly travel are more obvious in remote and less rich countries because tourism is often the main economic activity. That doesn’t mean you can’t be eco-friendly in the USA or in Europe.
You can travel responsibly on a city break. For example, you can start by reducing your plastic waste, and you can do this anywhere in the world. More and more capitals of the world are pushing their green efforts, and plenty of green hotels, eco-friendly leisure activities and responsible restaurants exist in urban destinations. Making sure that the local population’s benefit of tourism is also vital. Tourism shouldn’t affect locals (like it does in many European cities). Consider traveling to less popular places. You could also think about visiting countries that work hard to promote sustainable tourism like Norway, Iceland or Costa Rica.
Myth 4: Eco-friendly travel is uncomfortable
Sustainable travel doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to stay on a farm and plant trees during your holidays. Don’t worry you can have a sustainable holiday without giving up your comfort. In fact, many luxury hotel brands are leading the change and work hard to make their hotels greener (Hyatt, Banyan Tree, or Fairmont). You can sleep in a green hotel with eco-friendly equipment and still have all the comfort you need.
Some eco-travelers obviously chose to stay in tents in remote corners of the globe volunteering in wildlife sanctuaries. But if you don’t want to do that, there are alternatives. For instance, you could stay in a hotel that protects natural habitats, uses green energies and reduces waste is also a great way to contribute.
Myth 5: Flying is not eco-friendly
Air travel plays a significant role in greenhouse gas emissions. Flying is certainly not the most responsible way of traveling but there are ways to reduce your carbon footprint when flying. If finding an alternative to flying is not possible, flying more responsibly is. For instance, flying direct emits fewer carbon emissions, so try to book direct flights. Also, many flight companies offer a carbon offset program, where you can contribute to programs helping local populations and encouraging sustainability.
I know that flying isn’t the greener way to travel, and I always try to find an alternative. If you’re traveling in your own country, there are big chances that taking a bus or a train is possible. In Europe, you can easily go anywhere with trains and buses, no need to fly.
Tourism is a reality, and it’s not going to stop anytime soon. To avoid flying you could consider traveling slow. It will be more eco-friendly and more enjoyable since you’ll have more time to see the country instead of being in transit all the time.
However, aviation isn’t all bad. It creates many jobs around the world, so at some point, it does benefit the local populations. Try to use airlines that have environmental commitments like Cathay Pacific, or Air New Zealand. Also, Nature Air Costa Rica is an example of a carbon neutral airline.
Myth 6: Sustainable travel is only for hardcore nature lovers
Travelers who choose an eco-friendly vacation usually are nature lovers. They want to help protect the environment and help local populations. However, more and more people want to travel in a sustainable way simply because it’s a necessity. Let’s face it, the state of our planet is not great, so trying to reduce our impact while traveling is important.
Ecotourism is becoming mainstream and offers a wide range of activities. Eco-tourism doesn’t mean camping in the wild and reading a book by candlelight. There are many activities that are eco and accessible to everybody. Think about biking, river rafting or bungee jumping for example. You’ll also find many luxurious eco-tours and eco-hotels where you can spend a nice time without having to give up your comfort. However, I feel like being eco does mean you want to get closer to nature so I find glamping a great alternative. Glamping allows you to get close to nature and enjoy the outdoors while staying in a comfortable and sustainable accommodation. Eco-friendly travel can be fun and responsible.
Myth 7: It’s hard to know what really is responsible tourism
Sustainable travel is simple. It’s about ensuring that our impact on the environment is limited and the local populations benefit from your holiday. Sustainable travel is becoming more and more popular, and unfortunately, some people are exploiting the increasing demand. What’s hard is telling if an experience is truly sustainable or just greenwashing. The website Eco Companion rates eco-tours so you can know how sustainable they are. When in doubt, just ask the locals wherever you go and you will quickly know if the company you chose has a good reputation or not.
Eco-friendly hotels usually have their sustainability policies clearly stated. They should manage their waste and energy properly and often support local communities. Hotels certified LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design ) are “officially green”. You can also check a list of eco-friendly hotels on the Green Globe.
Now that we’ve debunked 7 travel myths about eco-friendly travel, I want to share with you my best tips to successfully spend an eco-friendly holiday.
Things to remember while on an eco-friendly adventure
There are many ways to travel sustainably. But to make it easier for you to understand how you can travel more responsibly, I have listed my most important tips below.
- Respect the local culture of the places that you visit. Try not to strike a bargain each time you buy something. Remember that you are a lot richer than some people in poorer countries. Also, make sure you check the dress code of the country you are visiting to avoid disrespecting the local culture and people.
- Respect the local fauna and flora. Avoid purchasing animal products such as leather, ivory or fur. If you want to go to a sanctuary, make sure it is legit and ethical. Many places pretend to be sanctuaries but really aren’t. Just keep in mind that any place that offers to touch wildlife is not ethical. You are not supposed to touch wild animals.
- Keep track of your waste, try to reduce your plastic consumption and to act responsibly. If you’re going hiking, camping or picnicking, take your rubbish with you.
- Shop local in order to help the local communities. Try to resist beggars, they are often linked to bigger networks. Ask before you take pictures of the local people. In some countries, locals don’t appreciate being photographed. How would you feel if someone came up to your face and took a picture of you without asking?
- Opt for sustainable tour operators, accommodations and restaurants. You can find green accommodations on the Green key for example. Go to restaurants that use local products, limit their use of plastic and resources.
- Only leave footprints and spread the word around you about sustainable travel. If you like a place but found that they were using too much plastic or overly wasting, don’t hesitate to let the staff or manager know. Maybe they are not aware of more eco-friendly options.
Ecotourism is a great way to immerse yourself in different communities and get a glimpse of foreign cultures. Explore the area you are visiting, be curious, talk to the locals and be respectful. These are the best ways to enjoy your holiday while being conscious of the environment. Don’t believe the many misconceptions about sustainable travel, read and educate yourself about the subject. You’ll quickly realize that there’s more than one way to be a green traveler. Do you know other myths about sustainable travel? Let me know in the comments below.
Are you going traveling soon? Don’t forget your travel insurance!
Travel insurance is the only thing I don’t go anywhere without. Your travel insurance covers you against travel risks such as lost or stolen luggage, trip cancellation, and most importantly, unexpected medical costs abroad. I like WorldNomads because they are backed by reputable insurers, have 24h assistance providers, and are affordable. Get a quote and read the policy details to ensure that it’s right for you. For more information, read my travel insurance page.
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