How Sustainable Travel Works

How to Travel Sustainably

Brian T. Mullis, president of the nonprofit organization Sustainable Travel International (STI), defines sustainable travel as "travel that supports conservation of the environment, preservation of cultural heritage, and development of the localized economy" while also encouraging "cross-cultural understanding." Using categories suggested by Mullis's definition, here are some ways you can make your next trip more sustainable:

Conservation of the environment: You can take steps toward this goal before you even leave home by unplugging your appliances and utilizing paperless online services to book your travel. If you have to fly, take nonstop flights and pack less in order to reduce your overall fuel consumption. It's also a good idea to bring your own lunch, water bottle and reusable shopping bag when you travel to minimize the amount of waste you produce. Once you arrive at your destination, avoid using a car if possible by walking or taking public transportation. Your accommodations and tour operators should also engage in sustainable practices like energy and water conservation, recycling and composting. Want to do more? Purchase carbon offsets, which are basically donations to green energy projects intended to offset the carbon emissions incurred during your trip.

Preservation of cultural heritage: Avoid chain hotels that offer the same experience regardless of your location, insulating you from the local culture. Instead, opt for accommodations and experiences that immerse you in the customs and traditions of your destination. When dealing with locals, consider yourself a visitor in their home. Be respectful and show interest in their way of life instead of demanding that they submit to yours.

Development of the localized economy: If possible, choose local guides, stay in locally-owned accommodations, and eat locally-grown food. You should also buy souvenirs from local artisans, but be careful not to purchase any products made from endangered plant or animal species. These steps will ensure that as much of your money as possible is infused into the local economy.

Cross-cultural understanding: To develop a greater appreciation for local heritage, consider visiting during a festival, when many customs and traditions are on display. Another way to immerse yourself in the culture of your destination is through voluntourism and agritourism. These terms describe vacations during which tourists volunteer with local projects or learn about farming from local cultivators.

Now that you know how to travel sustainably, click over to the next page and learn how to plan your sustainable trip.