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If you love travelling, but you love the planet more: how to do it sustainably

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It’s a dilemma for travellers with a green heart: you want to see the world, yet you know travelling isn’t pleasant for our planet. Especially if you travel by plane. 

Two weeks to Bali by plane, means a CO2 emission of about 4.000 kilos. And mass tourism also causes pollution of the oceans, animals in tourist places are often badly treated and from all the money we spend on holidays, only a small amount reaches the locals. 

What to do: stay at home? That’s an options – there’s a lot to discover in your own country – but of course, the rest of the world tempts us. With good preparation and a little extra research, you can make your holiday more sustainable. 

Choose your transportation wisely

Use the most sustainable means of transport, both to your destination and at your destination. For your next city trip or sunny holiday, go by train. That’s actually a very pleasant way to travel: you don’t have to check in and board, there’s more space, and you actually see the landscape change around you. 

Prefer a road trip? If you can, use the car to the fullest. Perhaps you can spend the holidays with friends or family. That way, you decrease the pollution per person. When you’re at your destination, walk or bike as much as you can. If the distance is too big, use public transportation – just like the locals!

Really have to fly? Compensate your CO2-emission 

Sometimes, you can’t reach your destination without flying. After all, taking the bus to South-Africa or the train to Thailand is a bit difficult. Choose the most sustainable airline: the one that makes an extra effort to be nice to the environment – even if it’s a bit more expensive. At your order, you can tick the box for extra co2 compensation – the costs depend on the length of your flight. Airlines use this money for investments in CO2 reductions. 

A more fun way to compensate CO2 emissions is planting trees. Trees, especially the growing ones, transform co2 into oxygen. Join in tree planting projects or donate to a forest project in the country you’re visiting. 

Sleep green 

Forget about big hotel deals and book your nights at small eco accommodations. It takes some time to find the best places, but once you’ve arrived, you’ll thank yourself. The owners are so proud of their place, they love to spoil you, and there places are often lovely. You could wake up in a tiny house, a tree house or a bedouine tent in the middle of nowhere. Not bad, right? 

Make sure your money ends up with the locals 

Booking at small accomodations means part of your holiday budget will contribute to the local economy. With everything you purchase, ask yourself: can we do this locally? Don’t plan excursions with big organisations, but with local initiatives. Eat at local lunch joints and restaurants, in stead of big chains. Buying souvenirs for friends or family? Get them at small stores, run by local entrepreneurs. At many destinations you’ll find souvenirs made by people in community projects. They’re often handmade, and always more authentic than your dime a dozen keepsakes bought at the airport. The profit that’s made, goes straight back to the community. Which makes both you and the store owner happy. 

Treat nature kindly

A nice mantra when going on a holiday is: take only pictures, leave only footprints. Nature is vulnerable, and nothing is as sad as garbage in a national park or a wild animal used for human entertainment. Prevent yourself from polluting the environment unnecessarily – use reusable water bottles, refrain from using plastic straws and throw any garbage in the bin. If you want to do more than just reduce your own waste, think about doing a couple of hours –or days- of voluntary work at your holiday destination. Help cleaning the beach, for instance. 

Watch wild animals in their natural habitat. If you want to go on a safari, see whales or make any other animal excursion, look for sustainable, animal and environmental friendly companies and use your common sense. Don’t buy products made of animals or protected plants. Coral is beautiful, but appreciate it where it grows – if its part of a jewel or a mantelpiece, it’ll lose its lustre.  

Text: Sanne Eva Dijkstra - Photo: Ivana Cajina