The Green Miles
Sustainability, quite simply defined, is the ability to exist constantly. Sustainability is often said to be the need of the hour, especially since we are said to have only 18 months to stop climate change from being irreversible. Every action that we do and object we produce needs to be sustainable, and tourism is no exception.
Sustainable travel is often imagined to be bland, expensive and requires a lot of effort. People don’t want to think about saving the environment on vacation, but can there ever be a vacation from the environment?
This flawed thinking comes from the lack of knowledge about what exactly sustainable travel entails and how it is defined.
Sustainable travel involves finding ways through which travel and tourism can be maintained for the long-run without posing a threat to natural and cultural environments. It should reduce the harmful effects of tourism to a minimum and ideally be advantageous to the original setting.
“I think we have done a disservice by always harping on the idea of ‘doing good for the planet, for the people, instead of focusing on the deeper, richer experiences. Undoing this will take time," says Soity Banerjee, an adviser to the Outlook Responsible Tourism Initiative, which promotes responsible travel through awards, events and content.
Sustainable Travel can often be compared to Eco-Tourism, Green Travel and other similar ideas. However, there are new dimensions that are being explored with respect to what sustainable travel can pertain to.
Sustainable travel is now said to cover the following three aspects -
Travel should be sustainable for the environment and should not interfere with the biological and environmental systems of the location being explored. One should avoid excessive air travel that causes harmful CO2 emissions. Basic steps such as carrying your own reusables, looking for eco-friendly hotels and restaurants, researching for responsible tour operators to explore wildlife tourism should be taken by all travellers. Taking a train or bus is often a more sustainable option over flying or driving by car to the destination, but the final decision should depend on the destination and the number of people travelling. When at the destination, travel by foot or bike whenever possible and always prefer public transport, minibuses or carpools to get around the city sustainably. It is advised to be a slow traveller and to take one two-week-long holiday than taking two short weeklong holidays.
Cultural Sustainability is a relatively new concept, although immensely important. Culture and heritage should be preserved, not commercialised. It is important to note the impact of our travels on local people and communities. One can make their travels culturally sustainable by supporting businesses that involve and support local people, by contributing to local NGOs, travel guides, charities. This can be done through volunteering towards social causes or by taking up initiatives to learn about local life and practices.
Economic sustainability of travel revolves around positively contributing to the local economy. This can be done by staying in locally-owned accommodations, spending your money in local restaurants and cafes and avoiding international food-chains like McDonald’s. Visiting and buying from local markets, farmers and artists is an excellent way to make your trip not just economically but also culturally sustainable. Avoid imported souvenirs which have a larger carbon footprint due to being flown or shipped in from abroad, even though they might be cheaper than authentic, locally-produced souvenirs. You can shop for local fruits, vegetables and other produce at local farmers’ markets. Another way to be economically sustainable on trips is to have a ‘one in, one out’ rule with regards to clothes.
Travelling is close to our hearts, and it’s time we make this fulfilling activity enriching for not just us, but every living and non-living element it brings us in touch with. What used to be a stunning travel blog here by writer and actor Anika Landsteiner isn’t one anymore, and you can read why.
“‘Treading lightly’ isn’t enough anymore and it’s no longer just about limiting our impact—it’s about treading with purpose, fixing the damage we’ve already done, and making global exploration sustainable for generations to come,” says Holly Tuppen, Travel Writer and Sustainability Geek.