What is conscious travel and how to travel more responsibly

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After the last year we’ve all had, travel was stunted and we are now finally able to start travelling again… so maybe we should start doing this in a responsible way? Conscious travel is something that is gaining popularity with travellers knowing that they can do their part for looking after the earth whilst still doing what they love and creating special memories.

So, what is “conscious travel”? There are many different definitions provided but essentially it is being mindful of what impact you are having when you travel. It aims to benefit employees and businesses, as well as the environment when travelling. There are lots of small steps that can be taken in order to be a more conscious and ethical traveller, and we have put together 5 tips to help you!

Tip 1 – Do your research

It is important to understand what conscious travel is and how it benefits not only you but others around you, more information on conscious travel can be found on websites such as Conscious Travel and The Conscious Travel Foundation.

The Conscious Travel Foundation defines conscious travel as “assessing the whole picture and questioning the entire process of booking your trip.” They suggested that “you should look out for travel companies with accreditations such as B Corp or Earth Check, and always look out for a sustainability statement on a travel operators’ website.”

It is also vital that you research not only the country that you are travelling to but the area of that country. Don’t be naïve and assume that the whole country has the same culture, as it is likely that different areas and regions have differences within cultures. It goes without saying that understanding culture goes hand in hand with respecting the culture and locals. You should also research things to do when you’re there before setting off on your adventure – this may help you find more sustainable ways of doing an activity, or find an activity which is more environmentally friendly. For example, instead of going to the zoo, go to an ethical animal sanctuary. Miss Filatelista has numerous travel guides for different countries and cities across the world, with a focus on how to be a responsible traveller when you are visiting new places.

Enjoy wolf tracking with a local tour guide in the alps
Image courtesy of Undiscovered Mountains

Tip 2 – Stay and support local

Now, when we say stay local, we don’t mean don’t travel; we just mean stay in local small or independent hotels or hostels. This again comes down to doing your research. There are lots of people who would say book directly through the place you will stay but finding these may be difficult! If you’re going to book through an aggregate such as Airbnb then just make sure that you look at who the host is – are they definitely a local person or are they someone with multiple properties trying to capitalise on tourism?

Girl about the Globe suggests you “look for social impact projects such as restaurants and accommodation that helps give back to the local community.”

Image courtesy of Girl about the Globe

When you’re at your destination try to eat locally, at independently owned restaurants, instead of chain brands. Not only does this support small businesses, you’ll get to experience proper local food, not just standardised menus! We also recommend trying wherever possible to buy gifts from local businesses, especially those that are handcrafted gifts. It is usually much easier to get to know where the items were made and chances are they are probably made more sustainably. On top of that you have a gift with meaning not just the same old touristy tit and tat!

Tip 3 – Use a responsible travel agent

Independent travel can be great, but if you are looking for the convenience of booking through an agent, we recommend doing your research first.

There are numerous local and responsible travel companies out there which provide bespoke holidays that are for conscious travellers, we’ve compiled a list of some of our favourite providers. Check them out for your next get away:

  • andBeyond is a luxury sustainable safari tour operator, who ensure they invest back into the local environment.
andBeyond’s Conservation and Community Impact Director commented on responsible travel and what it means to andBeyond as a company. “Responsible travel is about the decisions the traveller makes before they engages their service providers so they can ensure the whole trips is undertaken in a responsible manner”.

Image courtesy of andBeyond

  • Undiscovered Mountains provide holidays in the mountains of Europe, including Ski Holidays, climbing holidays and activity holidays. They ensure that all of their guides are local and provide independent accommodation.
Undiscovered Mountains explain what being a conscious traveller means to them. “Being a conscious traveller means thinking about how your travel impacts the world at every level.”
  • Pure Breaks provide a high-end service to their customers and aim to positively impact the local communities in destinations, they do this through their charity which is currently in 5 countries delivering community projects.
  • Responsible Travel was founded in 2001 and provide holidays that benefit both ‘people and the planet’ and it allows people who book with them know they are doing good for the earth whilst having an amazing holiday.
Justin Francis, co-founder and CEO of Responsible Travel explain why conscious travel is important – “making sure our holiday leaves behind tangible benefits for the place we’re visiting, and the people and wildlife that call it home.”

Justin Francies, hiking in Spitsbergen
Image courtesy of Responsible Travel

  • Sawday’s specialise in slow travel and have the well being of their staff at the forefront as well as ensuring they provide sustainable bespoke holidays whilst being socially and environmentally responsible as a company – in 2019 they committed to planting 1 million trees by 2025.

Tip 4 – Reduce waste

Waste is a big issue on holiday – you’re often not able to drink the local water, equating to numerous empty bottles. Or you end up using plastic straws simply because not all countries have adopted the paper straw.

There are however plenty of ways for you to reduce waste whilst away, for example you could buy a reusable water filter to take with you so that you can drink the tap water and reduce the amount of single use plastics. One of our favourites is from  Water-to-Go whose filters can remove up to 99.9999% of all microbiological contaminants!

Image courtesy of Water-to-Go

You could take metal straws so that you don’t have to use plastic ones, you can enjoy your holiday and know you’re saving the turtles. We recommend a company like The Last Co. who make collapsible metal straws that come in a case with a key ring making it easier to take away with you!

Image courtesy of The Last Co.

When you go on day trips and to places with brochures, think about whether you actually need one. If you do, see if they have an online version or try and keep it in good condition so you can put it back for others to use instead of just binning it.

If you are staying at a hotel, think about how often you actually need fresh towels, do you really need fresh ones daily? Just think, would you do that at home? Or would you use your towels a few times and then wash them – if you go by that rule then you won’t just be saving the cleaners a job, you’ll also be saving water and energy! There is also a range of environmentally friendly toiletries out there that are great for home use as well as travel use, products such as reusable cotton wool pads, no plastic shampoo and reusable tissues from a company such as LastObject are a great way to help the environment!

Image courtesy of LastObject

Lastly, consider other single use or short-term use items and see if you can replace them with a longer lasting, more sustainable option. For example, many insect repellent solutions such as sprays and bands get used and binned in one single trip, but there are more sustainable and environmentally friendly options out there. We Drifters bamboo clothing is infused with anti-insect treatment, which is 90% effective against those biting bugs that in some cases ruin holidays! Using a bug proof sleepwear set means you don’t have to worry about taking pyjamas or insect repellent as its 2-in-1.

Tip 5 – Think about your carbon footprint

Understanding your carbon footprint can be tricky and flying equates to 49% of the world’s tourism carbon footprint – you can read more at Carbon Footprint of Tourism - Sustainable Travel International.

There are lots of ways that you can help to reduce your carbon footprint when travelling, in turn helping make you a conscious travelle. For example, taking direct flights and avoiding change/stopovers can help. Flying economy is also better for the environment as more people can be put on the plane, meaning less trips have to be made as there is a more economical use of space. Another thing you could try and do is use sustainable transport when you arrive at your destination wherever possible, so take public transport instead of getting a taxi, or even better walk! Charlie on Travel has a great section on travelling sustainably and discusses other ways to help reduce your carbon footprint.

You can also help reduce your carbon footprint by travelling light! The heavier a vehicle the more fuel is consumed. Items like the We Drifters bug proof clothing can help you travel light, the product is multi-functional, reducing the need for several different items, and when packed it is compact, so doesn’t take up much space. It can be used as anti-insect sleepwear at night as well as a base layer during the day.

You could also look at donating to initiatives that give back to the environment. Some companies tend to use charities such as Cool Earth. Some sustainable travel companies donate to them every time an employee or customer takes a flight in order to try and help offset their carbon footprint. Cool Earth uses donations to conserve rainforests, wildlife and help with fighting wildfires and beach clean ups!

These are just a few ways that you could become a more conscious traveller! One small change can help inspire others to do the same, and we hope over time more people will become more conscious of how they travel and the impact they may be having. Do you have any tips on travelling more consciously? We would love to hear them – join our community of drifters and get sharing.

At We Drifters, travelling and exploring new places gives us a sense of freedom and wellbeing which we believe is so important for our souls. It is at the heart of everything we do, and what inspires us to develop innovative products to give you the freedom and peace of mind to safely adventure around the world. We also care about people and the planet, which is why travelling more mindfully and as sustainably as possible is something we are passionate about. Find out more about We Drifters here and our Bamboo Anti-Insect Sleepwear here.