Palau, most sustainable destination 2019

11 simple steps to becoming a more conscious, responsible traveller

Whether you’re looking to reduce your carbon footprint, be more conservation-minded, or merely respect your destination more when you travel, these 11 tips will ensure that your next getaway will be a far more responsible, ethical and conscious one all round.

There’s no place like home
The most efficient way to reduce your carbon footprint is to travel less often, by making fewer, longer trips or finding new and intriguing things closer to home. Often we neglect what’s on our own doorstep, eschewing it in favour of something more exotic, but we live in one of the most beautiful countries in the world and sometimes there’s nothing better than playing tourist in your own country. If you’re looking for some inspiration, we’ve rounded up NZ’s top hiking trails here or, alternatively, you can find some of the country’s finest glamping spots here.

Do your aircraft research
That being said, something a little further afield is often in need of, especially when winter begins to rear its ugly head. You can reduce your carbon footprint by choosing a fuel-efficient aircraft — the Boeing 787 and the Airbus 345 have been particularly noted for their fuel efficiency — or, as far as airlines are concerned, you can check which has the lowest emissions per passenger mile before booking. Last year, UK airline TUI Airways was titled the world’s most eco-friendly carrier by the Atmosfair Airline Index — with Air NZ coming in at an honourable 13th place — while Qantas, Austalia’s largest airline, has recently become the first-ever commercial flight to produce no landfill waste.

Choose destinations wisely
If you’re craving a holiday but not sure where to go, try to support places that are currently putting effort into going green. At the 2019 Sustainable Top 100 Destination Awards, Slovenia, Portugal, Guyana, Tanzania and Ecuador were just a few countries singled out for their efforts — with Palau ranking as the most sustainable destination. The archipelago not only banned sunscreen, but it also now boasts a law that requires travellers to take an oath to act responsibly before they enter the country.

Be product aware
Speaking of sunscreen, if you are jet-setting off to warmer climes be sure to pay close attention to your beauty products and sun protection. Chemicals in bathroom products and sunscreens can cause damage to local coral reefs, so try to opt for biodegradable soaps and reef-friendly sunscreens instead.

Eat locally
Whether it’s a food stall, a farmer’s market or a family-run cafe, avoid big chains and try to eat where the locals do wherever you can. Not only is it the best way to fully immerse yourself in another country’s culture, but it also provides support for local communities.

Watch out for greenwashing
Don’t fall for the buzzwords — just because a hotel claims to be ‘eco-friendly,’ ‘sustainable’ or ‘green’ on its website doesn’t necessarily mean that its values are truly in the right place. Greenwashing is becoming more common by the day and it’s important to do further research. Ask questions, peruse reviews and read the small print before selecting accommodation.

Get from A to B more consciously
It may seem easiest to hire a motor and explore your exciting new destination via four-wheels, but cars can both pollute the environment and help contribute to annoying congestion. Public transport is great, but cycling and walking are even better. Plus, there’s no better way to truly engage with your surrounds — better for you, better for the environment.

Be respectful of the wildlife
If you’re hoping to experience wildlife, ensure that you are responsible when booking through conservation organisations. Some are obvious: avoid elephant sanctuaries that offer rides and don’t take photos with tigers in Thailand, but some places require a little more research (websites like PETA have in-depth checklists that you can consult). If you’re lucky enough to be in a place where you can encounter animals in the wild, enjoy them from a distance — don’t feed them and definitely don’t taunt them.

Respect the rules
Uncontrolled and disrespectful tourism has led to serious damage in some parts of the world. In Croatia’s Plitvice National Park, hordes of tourists wandering off the wooden walkways are causing destruction to the natural phenomena that reside there. In Lisbon, Portugal, a tourist accidentally knocked over an exhibit in the National Museum of Ancient Art while taking a selfie, destroying a $200,000 artefact. Moral of the story: be respectful of both the rules and your surrounds whenever possible. Stick to the trails when you can, and if there’s a sign telling you not to step into a certain area, touch a certain object or go beyond a red rope, chances are, it’s probably there for good reason.

Leave no trace
When you leave your destination you really should be leaving behind little to no evidence that you have been there. Which, put simply, means that everything you take there you should bring home. If you’re partial to treating yourself to a new purchase or two before a holiday, be sure to do any unboxing prior to the trip so that the packaging for your new sunglasses/ swan pool inflatable can remain at home. Wherever possible try to carry your own straws, utensils and reusable bags, and if your destination offers minimal recycling facilities, pack your plastic and bring it home with you.

Counteract your impact
If you’re really feeling guilty about the footprint you’re contributing to, you can always calculate your carbon contribution — websites like Enviro-Mark offer emissions calculators specifically for travellers — and then donate the monetary value to certain organisations, like Carbonfund or TerraPass.

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