How to travel more sustainably this year? 

Tourism is a double-edged sword. Although it brings money and creates jobs, On the other hand, it is badly harming the environment and local communities. The adaptation for sustainable tourism has become a dire need in the last few years, as tourism is on a peak, people are constantly travelling to different parts of the world.

One of the biggest problems with unsustainable tourism is unnecessary use of natural resources When tourists travel, they use more water, electricity, and other resources than they would use at home. This causes shortages and damages fragile ecosystems. For example, in areas with limited water resources, excessive use by tourists strain the local water supply and harm aquatic ecosystems. Excessive use of non-renewable energy sources like- coal and oil for transportation and accommodation contributes to air pollution & global warming.

Another alarming issue with unsustainable tourism is littering and improper waste disposal. Many tourists leave trash and litter behind that are severely harmful to the wildlife and contaminate the local environment. Improper waste disposal pollutes soil and water sources, making it challenging for local communities to access clean water. In some cases, tourists even dump hazardous waste, like chemicals, batteries, and electronic equipment, which causes long-term damage to the environment.

The destruction of natural habitats is another major problem that is associated with unsustainable tourism. Tourists usually engage in activities such as off-road driving, hiking off-trail, and collecting plants or animals, which damages natural habitats and harms ecosystems and it becomes the main cause of soil erosion, reduces biodiversity, and disrupts the balance of local ecosystems. Most tourists indulge activities that threaten endangered species or harm the natural landscape.

Irresponsible practices and behaviour during travelling also lead to the exploitation of local communities. Some tourists exploit local labour, and behave inappropriately that harm local communities. This perpetuates poverty and inequality, it creates a negative perception of tourism among local communities.

What do you understand about Sustainable Tourism?

Sustainable tourism, means responsible tourism or ecotourism, is a form of tourism that prioritises minimising the negative impact on the environment, preserving cultural heritage, and supporting local communities and their culture. The idea of sustainable tourism is rapidly gaining popularity among travellers who are seeking for meaningful travel experiences that are beneficial for the environment and to the local communities.

Sustainable tourism aims to make a balance between economic growth, environmental preservation, and social responsibility. The primary goal of sustainable tourism is to lessen the adverse consequences of unsustainable tourism practices. Tourism may have both good and negative effects on the tourist destinations.

Arguably among the most vital components of sustainable tourism is the decreased amount of carbon emissions from activities related to tourism. This is only achievable through using more renewable energy, avoiding waste, conserving water, and adopting eco-friendly modes of travel like cycling and walking.

The protection of cultural heritage and aiding the local community are crucial components of sustainable tourism. It aids in fostering cultural understanding and respect for the locals’ indigenous customs. It helps promote cultural awareness and respecting the native traditions of the local community.

It also promotes and encourages responsible travel practices like lesser use of plastic, supporting local businesses, and respecting the environment. Travellers are encouraged to engage in several activities to promote sustainability by volunteering with local conservation programmes, making efforts or participating in eco-tourism activities that promote environmental sustainability.

Sustainable tourism is not only good for the environment but also for local communities, it offers travellers a meaningful & real travel experience where travellers can connect with the local culture and traditions and learn about conservation efforts. Adapting to sustainable tourism involves making conscious choices and changes to our travel behaviour and practices.

Here are some ways in which we can adapt to sustainable tourism:

Choose eco-friendly accommodations: Always find hotels or lodgings that have eco-friendly practices like energy-efficient appliances, renewable energy sources, and if they have proper waste management systems. Also, consider staying in locally-owned accommodations that support the local economy.

Conserve natural resources: Conserve water by taking shorter showers and reusing towels, don’t use unnecessary lights and air conditioning. Opt for eco-friendly transportation such as walking, biking, or taking public transportation. 

Support local businesses: Purchase locally made products and support local businesses and artisans. This not only helps support the local economy it will also promote cultural exchange and understanding. Try to participate in locally-run tours and activities.

Respect cultural heritage: Observe local customs and traditions, dress appropriately, and be respectful towards local beliefs and practices. Avoid participating in activities that disrespect cultural heritage or exploit local communities.

Minimise waste: Bring reusable water bottles, shopping bags, and containers to reduce plastic waste, dispose of waste properly and participate in local recycling programs if available. Refrain yourself by purchasing products that generate excessive waste.

Choose sustainable activities: Always opt those activities that are not harmful for the environment or local communities. For example, choose activities such as hiking, snorkelling, or wildlife watching that do not disturb natural habitats or wildlife.  Avoid participating in activities that harm animals or exploit natural resources.

Learn about sustainable practices: Learn about the local environment and culture before travelling. Also educate yourself about sustainable tourism practices and how you can contribute to preserving the environment and supporting local communities. Try volunteering with local conservation or community development organisations.

Practising sustainable tourism is not only beneficial for the local communities but also our cultural heritage, and environment.

If we adapt to sustainable tourism practices, we are helping minimise the negative impact of tourism on the environment and promote its conservation in the long run. It will help to reduce the carbon footprint, less damaging to natural habitats and wildlife, so that we can protect the environment from pollution.

Sustainable tourism also promotes environmental awareness and encourages people to adopt sustainable practices in their daily lives too.

By adapting sustainable tourism practices, people will be more likely to make conscious and eco-friendly choices that will help to reduce their impact on the environment and that is how we can create a healthier planet for future generations. Sustainable tourism is not just a way of travelling, but it is a mindset that promotes responsible travel practices.

The article first appeared here Experience the Beauty of the World: Travel Sustainably and Respectfully

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