One of the reasons summer feels empowering and rejuvenating is because it breaks the year in half, allowing us to catch our breath and smell the roses––perhaps, in foreign climates––before we get back on our feet to work.
While it’s not hard to make a case for summer vacation, it’s been harder of late to justify excessive travel in the wake of our ongoing climate crisis. Yet, when done responsibly, eco or regenerative tourism can leave a positive impact on local communities and the environment. Below we address how you can spend your vacation sustainably this season:
01. Go off-peak and offbeat
We’re all susceptible to trends and it happens no less with travel: say the lure of an iconic ski resort or a Greek island that made a must-see list. But too many people in the same place at the same time makes a dent in our fragile ecosystem as well as historic cultural landmarks. The perks of discovering less obvious destinations are worthwhile: fewer crowds, a more personal touch, and a more even spread of the tourist dollar across communities. Travelling off season is even better for all these reasons whilst also helping create a more stabilised tourism economy the year round.
02. Choose your medium wisely
If you are going to fly, a modern plane will be more efficient so look out for Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner and the Airbus A350. Booking websites like Google Flights and Lite Flights reveal carbon emission estimates for every flight to help travellers reduce their impact. Fly economy, direct, and pack as light as you can because heavy planes burn more fuel.
Consider a rail adventure for a scenic, comfortable and leisurely route that makes the point of getting somewhere all the more pleasurable. Japan’s Shinkansen is a formidable example. For Europe, use Chronotrains' useful interactive map to see exactly where you can get to within five hours by train, or the brilliantly lo-fi Man in Seat 61, which will help you organise pretty much any train itinerary in the world. You can even outsource it all through an agency like Discover the World.
03. Reduce your carbon intensity
For accommodation, consider whether the hotel uses renewable energy and other sustainable initiatives. Responsible Travel is a website that can help with this and much more. Within the city or region, embrace plant-based ingredients and regional cuisines as well as the satisfaction of human-powered or local means of transport: cycling, trekking, sailing, kayaking and the like. If the task of research and planning seems daunting, use an expert like the site above or YellowWood Adventures which plots unconventional trips that benefit local economies. The B-Corp certified Much Better Adventures claims that for every $100 spent by its customers, about $78 goes into the local economy. According to the UN, that number is as low as $5 with mass tourism.
04. Take your time and give back
Remember that the same downsides of fast food and fashion apply to travelling at jet speed and at the drop of a hat. As the director David Lynch once said, “slow it down and it becomes all the more beautiful.” Here, that translates to staying longer in one destination, using buses, ferries, trains and bikes where possible, and packing reusable items to lighten your load.
It also includes taking that extra step to tip back the scales and support the livelihoods that are enriching your experience. There are some amazing companies offering the opportunity to give back like the B-Corp certified Journeys with Purpose that runs small-group trips to conservation projects, from the Scottish highlands to the Rwandan jungle. Several hotels tie up with local guides to plan itineraries that can expand your horizons and would be fun to do solo, as a couple and or especially with kids.
Safe travels, Godspeed and go green!