June 9, 2017

Sustainable Travel Tips

During the Sustainable Travel Summit hosted by Immersion Magazine, Randy Durband, CEO of Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC) listed a few practical tips on how to be a more sustainable traveller.

The sustainable travel summit was a great even that brought sustainably minded individuals and organisations together from all over the world. Randy's discussion highlighted many interesting points, some of which I had hear before and others which really made me think about the impact I have when I travel. I really look forward to more events from Immersion Travel Magazine!


We need to care about our impact on the environment and our impact on our future. We think of travel as breaking out of day to day - but we also let our guard down as a result. "It's only one luxury, or one inconvenience" is our excuse for excess and thoughtless consumption. Here are a few examples how how you can reduce your environmental footprint:
  • Reuse your towel: We don't usually use a fresh towel every day at home, so why do it in a hotel? This issue is also about communication as travellers need to make the hotel aware of issues with this policy and also speak up about it more often.

  • Say no to plastic straws: Approx. 500 million straws are used and discarded every day in the United States alone. That’s 175 Billion a year filtering into landfills (environment) and littering our waterways and oceans. Simply request “no straw” at bars & restaurants and share your commitment with others. Encourage your favourite restaurant or bar to only provide straws on request from the customer and to use compostable or reusable options to the plastic straw. 

  • Reducing Air conditioning consumption. Air conditioning units require enormous amounts of energy. Randy highlighted the example of his hotel room being cooled hours before he arrived. Whereas hotels see this as good service, in Randy's eyes it was unnecessary and wasteful. His simple suggestion was to ask for hotel not to turn the AC on hours before you arrive.
  • Reducing water consumption, especially in areas that have drought or issues with running water. It's as simple as turning off water when you are brushing your teeth. In certain destinations, visitors use up to 20x more water than residents. 
  • Be considerate of the local environment: As a sustainable traveller, you need to change your behaviour to suit the location that you are visiting.
  • Reducing food waste is another huge issue that can be addressed. Hotel breakfast buffets are a "big nightmare" because they create so much food waste. There needs to be a a "culture change" in the industry and that starts with the traveller seeking out more sustainable suppliers. 

Social Justice

To reiterate Randy's point about letting our guard down when we travel, we often overlook certain social situations because they are not on our radar or may be an inconvenience. We either continue with our 'normal' behaviour or simply ignore certain things when we travel. Here are some ways that you can be a more socially aware traveller:
  • Be aware of fair labour relations - are the staff being treated well at your hotel? Are they being paid a fair wage? These are all issues that we would normally be aware of in our home countries, so that concern needs to extend to the destinations we travel to. 
  • Do your research. Make sure to seek out service providers that abide to certain codes and standards and those who support their local community.
  • Question ethics. There is the issue of wealthier travellers visiting a poorer place and simply accepting things 'as the way it is here' without really questioning anything.


Randy's main point was about communication and speaking up to let the providers know that sustainability is important to you. With a greater demand for more sustainable travel the 'supply' will eventually follow. You can do this by:

  • Asking about certifications, verification and supply chain 
  • Making certain issues known to travel and tourism individuals and bodies. Hotels and service providers need to understand your concerns in order to make changes. 
  • Travel service providers, hotels & destinations on a whole should give stricter tips on how to behave locally. Most visitors want to be better travellers, but they need to be made more aware. 

Sustainable travel is a cycle; a balance between supply and demand between traveller and provider/destination. Once we communicate more and open ourselves up to the idea that everything is connected in one way or another, we can have a more positive impact on the world.

Do you have any more tips on how to be a more sustainable traveller that you would like to share? Please comment below! 

Did you know that 2017 is the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development? Now you do! Looking for more ideas? Download the Tips for a Responsible Traveler developed by the World Committee on Tourism Ethics.  


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