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How To Merge Your Vision of a Sustainable Life and Wanderlust

If you feel a tension between your love of travel and a desire to live sustainably, you’re not alone. Turn to Google and you’ll be one of the hundreds asking “how to travel sustainably” each month! 

It’s quite the dilemma… this “I want to see the world but also know we need to preserve it” mindset.

The impact that travel has on the ozone layer is well documented. In fact, some studies predict that 40% of the world’s carbon emissions will come courtesy of the tourism industry by the year 2050. That’s largely due to air travel, and people are flying more often and farther than ever before. 

Besides climate change concerns, you also have to take into consideration the immediate impact tourists have. The beautiful places we visit aren’t unbreakable. Far too often, locations are over-traveled and natural aesthetics, culture, and economies are pillaged for the sake of our social media feeds or personal expansion. 

But there are ways to mitigate the harm and enjoy all the benefits of tourism. Mindful travel is a fantastic way to learn about other cultures and recognize our vast world. It can cultivate an appreciation for life, lend a sense of wonder, and offer the opportunity to extend a helping hand. Abandoning it entirely isn’t necessary… yet.

But we do need to employ sustainable tourism.

It’s defined by the World Tourism Organization as “development [which] meets the needs of present tourists and host regions while protecting and enhancing opportunity for the future. It is envisaged as leading to management of all resources so that economic, social, and aesthetic needs can be fulfilled while maintaining cultural integrity, essential ecological processes, biological diversity, and life support system.”

There are things we can do on your adventures to minimize your impact on the planet. Here’s a brief rundown to get your mindfulness juices flowing!

BYO Reusables
    • This one’s a piece of cake and can make a big difference over the course of your lifetime. A straw, thermos, and camping utensils go a long way toward reducing your own personal waste. Less in the trash can means less in the landfills and less accidental litter floating down the river!
Choose the Greenest Transport
    • Each scenario will be different, but you should think carefully about how to get where you’re going. If you travel in a group and can drive, that would make more sense than everyone flying. A trains or bus might make more sense than flying if the distance is short. When you do fly, selecting coach and choosing the route with the fewest stops will minimize your carbon footprint.
Support Local Businesses
    • This could mean choosing the little bed and breakfast or local inn versus the fancy hotel. It probably looks like finding local cuisine versus a global restaurant chain. And it can certainly mean hiring locals for excursions and guiding services. All-inclusive resorts are often foreign-owned and definitely discourage travelers from doing anything outside their boundaries, so consider this when planning your next beach vacation. Just do some research to find out if your cash will be helping the local economy or not.
Investigate Green Certifications
    • Many countries are starting to offer certifications to tourism companies. For instance, Costa Rica has a system of 1 to 5 leaves it awards to qualifying businesses. The Global Sustainable Tourism Council also has a vetting system owners can go through. See if you can build an entire trip from these GSTC members!

If we want future generations to enjoy adventures as much as we do, it’s up to us to make the opportunity last. Let us know in the comments how you’ve changed your travel habits, or your favorite sustainable tourist tip!

And remember all the ways you can improve your engagement with natural spaces we talked about a few weeks ago as you begin your next adventure!

 

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