Summer has arrived and lockdown is slowly lifting. At Planet Earth Games we talk about the dangers of climate change a lot, but we have come up with some tips for you to try out on your next adventure. Making sure your saved-up holiday budget is being spent effectively, and going to a place you can be proud of, means that your next trip will leave as positive an impact on the world as possible.
Although massive amounts of money is spent on tourism every year, up to 95% leaks out of the local economy. Big global tourism companies tend to pocket most your cash, leaving the locals missing out. The easiest way you can help out the community you visit is to eat and shop locally sourced and sustainable products, stay in local run eco-accommodation and travel with local transport providers.
Eco-friendly local tourist companies, including homestays and local day trips, have given me some of my most cherished memories. Below is a photo taken at the Tereng Wilis Ecotourism Village in Lombok, Indonesia. Trekking through the mountains to go waterfall diving, learning to make Lombok coffee, rounding the day off with a home-cooked meal by the owner’s mother before marvelling at the unpolluted stars and falling asleep in the beautiful handmade homestay is something hard to forget. Knowing that my money will stay in their village, I had minimal impact on the environment and the connections I made will last a lifetime is my sort of holiday.
A good place to start is to look on local facebook pages, message boards and even chatting with Airbnb hosts about what’s local and what’s not. Others recommend Intrepid Travel who were one of the early pioneers of carbon neutral travel and arrange small tours with local employees and accommodation. Others champion Sustaining Tourism and Tripfuser who connect travellers with sustainable and local tour companies and guides.
Homestay at local-run ecotourism village
Residents of tourist cities say that people are often most wasteful whilst on holiday. From single-use travel toiletries to single-use holiday flip-flops, unfortunately people often take a holiday from their sustainable habits when they go away. Here are some easy, daily, small actions which really add up:
- If you are staying in a hotel or hostel, hang up your towels! It’s a message which transcends all languages – “No need to wash my towel, I’ll reuse it!”. Sure, it’s nice to have fresh sheets, but daily seems wasteful
- Leave the ‘do-not-disturb’ sign on the door when you’re out, not only will you save the cleaner time, but you will reduce unnecessary washing of bed sheets, hoovering and chemical cleaning
- Bring your own toiletries! You can buy a pack of reusable travel-sized bottles in most big supermarkets or chemists for a couple of quid. Bottle after bottle after bottle of cheap, nasty, chemical mixtures are thrown out every summer. If it doesn’t end up seeping into the ground below a landfill site, it’ll end up poisoning our oceans
- Stop using small single-use plastic bottles. If you’re somewhere where the drinking water is drinkable, like all of Europe, then refill a long-lasting bottle. If you’re somewhere where that isn’t an option, buy big 2L bottles and please recycle them
- Like shampoos, not all sun creams are made equally. Try to get hold of ocean-safe sun cream. Many creams can harm ocean life, bleach the coral and really throw a spanner into the delicate ocean eco-system
UNESCO Heritage Old Town of Lisbon, full of hotels and airbnbs
CAREFULLY CHOOSE YOUR MODE OF TRANSPORT
We have all heard it a million times, but that makes it no less true: flying is one of the worst things you can do for the environment. Compared with every other mode of transport, flying produces the most carbon per person. Some of the best experiences I’ve had whilst travelling has been the travelling – pristine trains with mountainous views around Europe and overnight buses with too many joyous moments to summarise in a short blog around Asia – take the public and scenic route! You won’t regret it, trust me.
If there are no realistic public transport links, another fantastic option which beats flying is a road-trip. Grab some mates and rent a van, take a cross country (or cross continent) road trip. There are plenty of ways to make it sustainable, take a look here. Or if you really want to see a country, go for two wheels: winding through mountain passes on a motorbike you can see things which you couldn’t imagine from thirty-thousand feet above. On a road trip, you can stop at restaurants usually reserved for the locals, and the schedule is truly in your hands. So if you see something you like the look of, there is nothing stopping a detour.
If you really have to fly to where you want to get to, don’t fret, there are lots of options. Carbon offsetting, renewable biofuels and travel offset programmes are just a few of the ways airlines and independent companies give you the option to reduce your impact. For just a few extra pounds, your flight can result in more trees planted and investment into biofuel research.
View from the train in Italy
LEAVE NO TRACE
“Leave nothing but footprints, take nothing but memories” is a classic phrase you see hand-written across Gap Year black-and-white Instagram posts. As cheesy as it is though, it is true. In order to be responsible and respectful on our travels, we cannot leave a trace.
Always recycle or bin your rubbish and obviously don’t graffiti on buildings or nature. On the other hand, you shouldn’t take natural items as souvenirs, no seashells or feathers, not matter how pretty they would be on your bookshelf. Going hiking with local tour guides is often the best way to get to see the local environment. They often know the best routes to tailor to your needs, but also, they don’t want to see their homes ruined by tourists.
Many define sustainable travel as more than just the natural environment, it’s about the culture too. Unfortunately, Brits abroad don’t have the best reputation, it’s something to do with “Lad’s on Tour” in the Med and not bothering with the local language when shouting slowly will do. Sustainable travel means not taking photos of people without their permission, it means learning a few words of the local language and it means respecting local customs and traditions. Not only will it leave a good impression with the locals, it’ll make your holiday feel less like a trip to the pub but heighten your experience into something truly memorable.
Hiking in Kashmir with local tour guide
Consider staying closer to home this year
Maybe 2020 just isn’t the year to go gallivanting through South America. One of the cheapest, environmentally responsible and pandemically safe ways to go on holiday this year is to stay in the UK. As well as cutting down on air-travel, staying near to home can tick the boxes of supporting the local economy, leaving no trace and you can use the life-hacks discussed earlier.
There are some beautiful parts of our country and you’d be hard-pressed to see it all! A family day-trip to Oxford can net you some history and culture. A Cornish beach weekend in August can have you feeling like you’ve found a secret paradise. Or, like me, you can plan a trip up to the Scottish Highlands to soak up the wilderness and haggis.
Remember, whatever you decide to do this year, it is important that you follow government guidance on safety regarding coronavirus. Face-masks rules need to be followed, any symptoms should be reported on the track and trace app, and please be responsible by avoiding any local lockdowns, busy hotspots or large crowds. Travellers this year have lots of responsibility: to the natural environment, local economy and public health.
Durdle Door, Dorset
Planet Earth Games
At Planet Earth Games we want to give you the best summer we can! From August 1st, we are hosting an eco-friendly virtual games for you, your family and friends. With world-class sports leaders, fun outdoors brands and climate activists, we are setting daily challenges for you to get involved in. Get fit, have fun and protect the environment with us this August for a Healthy Planet and Healthy People.
Photos and words by Matt Thomson