I recently traveled to Europe, and I wanted to make sure my trip was climate friendly. I am interested in climate change and how it has rapidly affected our planet. Research has proven that the changes we have seen over the past few decades normally occur over hundreds of thousands of years. Our oceans and seas are getting smaller. Wildfires are destroying our beautiful lands and historical landmarks. Floods are washing our cities away.
I wanted to leave the smallest carbon footprint possible—my goal was to travel sustainably. I booked with a travel company that supports sustainable travel. I packed my reusable tote bags and pouches, straws, and water bottle. I knew I was doing this the right way. As I prepared for this blog, however, I realized that I did not fully reach my goal.
The United Nations World Tourism Organization defined sustainable travel in 1988 as “tourism that takes full account of its current and future social and environmental impacts, addressing the needs of visitors, the industry, the environment and host communities.” Sustainable travel, also known as ecotourism, is the integration of the following three tenets:
- Environmental – Ensuring that nature, historical buildings, and ruins are preserved for future generations.
- Sociocultural – Minimizing negative impacts on the host community, such as overcrowding and increased traffic. You should become one with the community through cultural exchange and local traditions. You will get a more genuine experience and richer history using the community’s tourism industry.
- Economic – Keeping your money local. The community you visit should reap the financial rewards of your travel. Make your trip community centered by staying at local hotels and supporting local restaurants and businesses.
I thought I’d accomplished the economic aspect of sustainable tourism. I made sure that I supported local shops and restaurants, especially since I am plant based. I knew I had a better chance of finding meals that fit my lifestyle than if I supported big chains, like Burger King and McDonald’s.
My travel company offered aspects of sustainable tourism, such as using eco-friendly buses and promoting walking, but it missed the mark. The hotels we used did not satisfy the economic part. Most hotels were big conglomerates, like Hilton, Crowne Plaza, and Radisson. The travel company should have placed more emphasis on local companies, such as Oceania Hotels, which is only in France.
I was also surprised by the shortcomings of these green hotels. We were provided with eco-friendly slippers in recyclable packaging, water bottles made from recycled materials, natural soaps, and fair-trade body products. Yet for all these green accommodations, no hotel room had a recycle bin. Only one hotel had a recycling container in the building. I was bewildered that these eco-friendly hotels were not doing more to provide sustainable stays.
While I may not have had control over my hotel options, I made a valiant effort to decrease the negative impact of my vacation. I will be more aware of the choices I make in the future. Please consider the following options to lessen your travel impact:
- Choose economy seating instead of first class to reduce emissions.
- Go to less-traveled destinations instead of popular tourist spots.
- Opt for walking, bikes, or public transportation.
- Pack reusable utensils.
- Try to get a nonstop flight to reduce emissions.
- Use mineral sunscreen to reduce the impact on marine life and damage to coral reefs.
- Visit during the offseason to help the local economy.
*This article was written by a grantee of The People’s Fund and reflects her original thoughts and perspective. All questions or impressions of her work can be directed to her website linked at the end of this piece.
Aronya Waller is a writer for Veggie Mijas. She enjoys writing about injustices and advocacy, particularly for marginalized communities. She likes to intersect community, culture, and civic engagement throughout her work. Aronya advocates making small changes to save our planet.
Mercy For Animals is proud to support Veggie Mijas as a People’s Fund grantee and grateful for their partnership in our mission to end industrial animal agriculture by constructing a just and sustainable food system.