8 Ways To Promote Sustainable & Responsible Travel

Whether you are coach surfing across South America, flashpacking through Europe, honeymooning in the Maldives or camping underneath the beautiful skies of Tanzania, there are many ways for travellers to seek our adventures in a sustainable manner.

Over the past few years, there continues to be an increasing interest by travellers of all styles to give back to the countries they are travelling to. Adventures to foreign and unknown lands are exhilarating experiences but our gift in return is to ensure that we do our part to minimize the negative environmental impact and continue to respect the cultures and well-being of the local populations that inhabit the areas we visit.

IMG_93448. Invest in a filtered water bottle

The beauty of technology is that it continues to advance at rates that we can’t even seem to adapt to. As travellers, we have the ability to experience beautiful cities, countries and cultures while assisting with its sustainability.

A simple step? Invest into a water bottle instead of purchasing plastic water bottles while you’re on the road.

Honestly, I’ve only discovered the LifeStraw water filtration systems this past year and found it fascinating. You can take any water source (yes, even contaminated) and turn it into viable drinking water. Bottle is a tad heavy, but it’s a small price to pay for your contribution to reducing waste in the areas you are travelling through.

It’s a double win, reduce environmental impact and save money!

7. Bring a reusable bag

No matter what you are purchasing, plastic bags seem to be given out without a care in the world. Whether you’re buying a single banana or a bag full of local handcrafts, it is more likely than not to be bagged wastefully.

An easy and quick step we can take as travellers to mitigate the growing epidemic of plastic bags in landfills, streets and yes, the ocean; bring a re-usable bag. I bring my easily washable bag wherever I travel because it takes up very little room and can used as a shopping bag or beach bag.

6. Buy from local vendors and markets

No matter where in the world you are, there are a number of great markets selling local goods from coffee beans, coconuts and cozy alpaca blankets. A direct capital investment into the local economy is more likely to be positive, as it can be a meaningful contribution to the vendors’ daily lives.

Skip the big chain stores and go to the local markets to pick up your groceries and souvenirs.

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5. Respect fair trade

In all countries, we have the power to negotiate especially if it does seem unreasonably high versus other vendors. However, there is a distinct difference between haggling and abusing the power of one’s currency.

Whether you are purchasing a single item or multiple, there is always room for bargaining as it is naturally priced in for vendors. However, price negotiation is reasonable to an extent but please don’t be that traveller asking for a $20 item to be sold for $2. Even if you are paying $12 for the item, realize that you are already getting the item at a significant discount relative to what you would have paid at home.

 4. Walk, cycle and share a ride

In this case, more is less! There are many parts of the world that still run on diesel for their transportation, and sure we all need to get from one area to another. Take the scenic route by grabbing a bike or taking a stroll, it’s great exercise and you’re able to soak in your surrounding environment. On the flip side, there are always other travellers that are open to sharing a taxi to the airport, town or beach!

FullSizeRender3. Bring down a suitcase of donated items

Sure, room can be an issue but how many times do we really use that extra checked in luggage allowance?

Our personal networks tend to have extras under their bathroom sinks, so why not make it a mini project of your own to bring down those extra tubes of toothpastes, travel sized hygiene products, make-up samples and even, gently used clothing?

It’s a great way to provide resources to those who need it vs. throwing them out when we clean our homes.

2. Avoid the “poor tours”

Travellers are up in arms about elephant rides, sedated tigers and of course, the infamous selfies that kill animals. With that in mind, it is quite obvious when I say that there is absolutely no reason for anyone to attend a tour to snap photos of individuals who are socially and economically disadvantaged.

You wouldn’t appreciate if a stranger knocked on your door and snapped a selfie with you because of the colour of your skin, religion or sexual orientation. So, why would it be ok for a person to do this with members in impoverished communities?

Want to make a difference? Volunteer, bring resources and actually give back. Don’t kill time to see how “the poor live” because at the end of the day, we’re all human beings and ALL lives matter.

1. Let your love of travel overcome your fears

Terrible things can happen anywhere at any time and it doesn’t matter if you are at home or abroad. Let the love of travel, adventure and experiences overcome the fears (even if they do seem rational) because tourism really does help; especially those who have been plagued by stories of terrorism and aftermaths of natural disasters.

Each passport stamp we receive is a symbol the steps we have taken to support the countries we visit. We as travellers have the power to help fight the negative stigmas of the areas we travel to through our powerful stories, captivating pictures and personal experiences.

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50 thoughts on “8 Ways To Promote Sustainable & Responsible Travel

  1. Great post! I love the idea of eco tourism, and I did it for the first time in India. I love your post and I am sure I am going to stick to responsible and sustainable tourism from now on :). Thanks for sharing such a brilliant post

  2. Great suggestions. I swear by the reusable filtered water bottle & reusable bag. I also suggest bringing a small set of cutlery (like bamboo!) as it helps reduce the need for plastic. My favourite suggestion though is #2. All travellers need to learn to respect the people of a destination as real people not just props for your Instagram. Thanks for spreading some great suggestions.
    Lauren recently posted…A City Of Inspiration: Dubrovnik, CroatiaMy Profile

    • thanks, lauren! filtered water bottle and reusable bags are key; i love my reusable bag because it’s easily washed and dried, full multi purpose and from what i experienced in south america, they burn a lot of the garbage. i would much rather decline the plastic and throw it in my bag 🙂 i actually don’t have a set of cutlery but will def look into it for my trip to costa rica! thanks for the suggestion 🙂

  3. I actually feel like I’ve been doing this all my “travel life” – before it had a name associated with it. I remember saving up all my toiletries from a year of corporate travel and staying in hotels and took all of that to Cuba, where they don’t have access to this type of product easily. I walked the streets every morning, giving them to families and kids. I concur with all of your other points as well! Great article.
    Kerri recently posted…Essential packing list for campervan hireMy Profile

    • a lot of us have been doing it but it’s a good reminder, every trip i take i make sure to collect toiletries and cash donations to deploy down in the areas i visit via ngos. i think it’s so easy to take the luxuries we have forgranted, kudos to you for showing love in cuba 🙂

  4. These are ALL great tips and I will share this. On 7 & 8 – Anything we can do to reduce plastic waste is essential, particularly in arts of the world where waste management and recycling regimes are not well advanced and so much plastic waste ends up in the oceans. We also need to put pressure on tour operators, accommodation providers and airlines to be doing so much more.

    • i completely agree, i think that waste management advancements are needed but those of us coming from areas where we can practice sustainability (at home or away), it’s a great way to do it. airlines could just give us reusable bags given they take sooo much $$ from excess baggage and other one-time fees (food, ear buds, etc).. well, at least the canadian airlines do!

  5. Great ideas! I definitely try to do a lot of these. Sustainable travel just makes so much things better: money saver, environmentally friendly…why wouldn’t you try to do it!?

  6. What awesome suggestions these are! I’ve been looking for a filtered water bottle for ages in the Philippines. Still haven’t found one tho!

  7. This is a great compilation. I tend to mostly visit cities so I haven’t encountered some of these, but I always try to shop local and always carry a bag on me! I love the idea of bringing donated goods if you’re going somewhere that could need them!

    • things will pop up along the way, but it never hurts to bring goodies for kids and other people who aren’t able to access what’s available to us! shampoos, toothpaste, and other hygiene products are always welcomed in any area we travel to 🙂 from my experience, at least!

  8. Great tips! I also advocate responsible travel and I’d like to add that people do research before going to a city or country. It’s important to understand the culture ahead of time. I saw lots of people wearing short dresses or skirts at Angkor Wat and it upset me as it’s incredibly rude since it’s a holy site. Thanks for sharing!

    • totally with you on the respect of customs and cultures. i think that it is a huge part of travel, sure things may seem different to us but realistically, we’re the ones who are different in the places we visit. 100% support the research and due diligence!

  9. Yes. Yes. Yes! We just wrote an article on some of our favorite sustainable travel products. The more I see of the world more I’m reminded of just how much of an impact we are creating on our planet. It’s sad really. Also, love my lifestraw water bottles have several.

    • amazing, i’ll def check out your article! our world has so much to offer and realistically, i believe that if we can venture and spend our money touring.. we can also take the time to give back to the communities. <3 lifestraw = lifesaver 🙂

  10. I’m curious about the “poor tours” you mentioned in #2 — you means things like tours of a favela in Brazil, or a remote ethnic minority village in Vietnam, things like that?

    • yes, that’s correct.

      there are regions where tour companies take tourists to walk through communities of those less fortunate as they turn a profit with 0% of the funds being given back the communities they tour. from my experience, i believe that working with organizations and giving the communities direct resources to promote literacy, education and on-going sustainability projects is more worthwhile. certainly, if an individual was on the other side of the situation i’m sure they would feel it is disrespectful.

  11. Very important. Good work on addressing number 2 – those “village tours” make people’s homes seem like a zoo, there for people to be nosy, peer at and take photos. Or try to make themselves look good for visiting impoverished communities. We like to head up through the villages in Fiji and we face extreme poverty there, but often we give the locals a ride in the back of the ute to save them walking for hours in the heat!

    • juliette, it’s certainly a point of contention with some people but realistically i find it unbelievably disrespectful. working with non-profits who provide resources and try to help those who are affected by poverty, it breaks my heart to know that tour companies are exploiting the difficult day to day life of other human beings.

      i love that you go out and help those when you can as that’s what humanity is all about. i think what you are doing is incredibly inspiring and hope more travellers adapt your big and generous heart!

    • Isn’t it insane how much plastic and waste accumulates? In Ecuador, they just burn the trash into the air as a means to reduce the waste. It’s disheartening to see.. but if we can make a little change by practicing these habits maybe it will help just a bit.

    • i think it’s a great way to bring down the things we no longer need and instead of discarding them, just bring them down to areas in need. there are plenty of ngos that will accept gently used clothing, toys, books, hygiene samples 🙂

  12. Thanks for the enlightening article. I fully agree with all the points. Especially about fair trade and poor tours. I find it ridiculous to peek into someone’s life, just because they are different. I also have fears just before traveling i get nervous. But most of the times my fears have proven baseless.

    • thanks, i feel that way as well. if individuals avoid zoos, what makes it ok to judge, snap photos/selfies with those are living what they have. i always strongly recommend bringing down items to work with ngos and help out the communities by purchasing the assets needed to support ongoing sustainability programs.

  13. This is a great list. I would also add to stay in family owned hotels and restaurants rather than in big chains where the majority of the money goes back to the headquarters, not the employees working there. Another bonus is that you get to experience a much more authentic stay abroad. Don’t live in your tourist bubble and go out and really learn about the country you visit by talking to the locals and live life how they do for a little while!

    • i do the same, i love boutique hotels and hostels to especially ones that contribute back to their communities. travelling through south america, i found that my understanding of spanish increased quite a bit and loved living the life as a local 🙂

      travel to me is leave the bubble 🙂

  14. Great post! After living in India for almost a decade I can attest to so many of these being so very important. I am still super bad about the reusable water bottle. I do it at home, but somehow never bring one with me.

    As for the poor tours.. I think you are correct, but there are some really great tours out there in poor areas that can give visitors real insight into life in slums or to correct misheld beliefs. A friend of mine started one such tour in Dharavi, Mumbai’s largest slum. They don’t allow photos on the tour, so it doesn’t end up being a “look at poor people” trip, rather they show all of the fabulous industries that go on in the slums. It’s really eye opening for people, but also for people like my parents who never travel, it was very sad to see how so many people in the world live. We also did a NGO tour of the townships in South Africa where we visited local non profits of people who live in the townships.. it really was an amazing experience and one i would whole heartedly recommend. Again, it’s a not a tour to see poor people being poor, rather to see how much they accomplish with such limited means.

    • I think it’s important that travellers are educated about the circumstances, economics and hardships. I’m really glad to hear that your friend disallows photos, but how do they regulate that? I think it’s important to know that as humans, we all live within our means and some of our situations are different but the fundamentals of survival are not.

      Interesting, I wonder if the funds from the tour in South Africa went back to the communities involved. I think it’s important to inspired travellers to give back to the areas if they are able 🙂

  15. I absolutely adore your post. Thank you for taking the time to write about, and draw attention to eco tourism. I agree with you on the ‘poor tours’ and everything else on this list. Appreciate you drawing awareness to this 🙂

    • thank you so much, and i really do believe that travel is a great educational tool for personal growth and teach our networks at home of how we can make the little changes to help 🙂

  16. Nice set of tips. We try to keep up our travel as much sustainable as possible and always try to help the local communities, especially when we travell to poorer destinations. Thanks for sharing and keep up the good content.

  17. Amazing post! I love that you promoted responsible travel. I need to start bringing my own reusable bags and filtered water bottle whenever I travel. Thank you for the reminder!

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