Travel ethically: Your checklist for a sustainable vacation

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By Jess Spate, HL&S Guest Blogger and writer for Appalachian Outdoors

Modern consumers are more aware of the impacts of their choices than they have ever been before, but what about on days when we’re not supposed to be worrying about anything? Like on vacation?

We consider the ethical implications of the foods we buy and the clothes we wear, how they were made, where, and by whom. Where possible, we think twice before getting into the car when it would be possible to walk instead. We recycle bottles, cans, and paper, and avoid plastic shopping bags.

But it can be difficult to do this while on vacation for many reasons, including because you aren’t in your normal routine. Here are a few points to get you thinking:

Practice sustainable travel and reduce your carbon footprint

Practice sustainable travel and reduce your carbon footprint

1. How are you going to get there? Air travel is probably the worst offender when it comes to carbon emissions, while land-based transport is less damaging in most cases.
2. Where are you going to stay? Eco-tourism is growing fast, and there are plenty of great environmentally friendly accommodation choices almost anywhere you want to travel. Look for environmental information on hotel and resort websites. If they do have good green and social credentials, they’ll almost certainly say so.
3. Is the accommodation appropriate for the region? For example, altogether too many hotels in hot, desert places aim to capture the luxury market with lush green lawns and European-style landscaped gardens. These take up a huge amount of water that may be sorely needed elsewhere. At best they show disregard for the local environment and should be avoided.
4. Where is your money going? Look for businesses that employ local people. Some may also offer a guarantee that a share of profits will go back into the local community. This is particularly important if you’re traveling to developing countries. Where possible, choose locally-owned hotels, restaurants, and tour providers.
5. What’s going on your plate? Remember that the ethical standards governing food production are not the same all over the world. Where possible, choose local, sustainable food.
6. What’s coming home with you? Souvenirs such as sea shells are often harvested for the tourist market, not washed up empty on the beach. Steer clear of buying keepsakes and gifts with an animal component.

The very best thing an ethical traveler can do is ask questions. The more you do that, the more travel providers, tour operators, and hotels will realize that they have to lift their game when it comes to environmental and social responsibility. Be critical, be vocal, and make sure your reasons for choosing one holiday over another are out in the open.

Jess Spate is a sustainable business consultant. She works for eco-friendly companies like Fountain Spirit and writes for travel magazines.

Written by Healing Lifestyles & Spas Team

Healing Lifestyles & Spas Team

Healing Lifestyles & Spas began as Healing Retreats & Spas back in 1997 with the premise and mission of bringing and making healing modalities and spa wisdom mainstream. It quickly became obvious, however, that while retreats were an integral part of the spa experience, what the magazine really hoped to do was bring the spa home, allowing readers to create a truly healing lifestyle, and thus the name change in 2001 to Healing Lifestyles & Spas.

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