How To Be An Ethical Traveller This Summer

Nothing beats the excitement of booking a trip - the planning, the anticipation of something brand-new and exciting. Whether the aim is adventure, rest, or simply spending a few days in a new place, few things can compare to looking forward to a trip. But in this day and age, it's impossible to ignore the environmental and social impact of travel. From the devastating pollution involved in air travel to attractions that abuse animals, our globetrotting has the potential to do harm to the world that we are so eager to experience. So, how can travellers ensure that their adventures tread lightly on the Earth?

By Sascha Camilli: writer, speaker, activist, and vegan fashion expert. 

In today's climate of rising consciousness, ethical globetrotting is indeed on the rise:'s 2023 report reveals that 76% of respondents are interested in travelling sustainably. But what steps can we actually take while planning, preparing and experiencing a trip to limit the impact that our wanderlust carries with it?

Avoid air travel – if you can

This might not always be possible, but if you can, choose to travel by train, ferry, bus or car share. Flying has many times been found to be the most polluting form of travel, accounting for around 5% of global warming. Of course, eschewing the flight would mean adapting your destination to your means of travel and is only feasible if you can spare the extra time it would take to get there - train travel, for example, is more time-consuming than flying. But if it's on your list of possibilities, exploring train travel, for example, can carry an air of romantic wonder with it.

Minimise plastic use 

Plastic pollution is wreaking havoc on the Earth, the soil and the seas - approximately eight million tonnes of plastic end up in oceans every year.  Avoiding single-use plastic can be tricky while travelling, as bottled water can be so prevalent. Reusable bottles with built-in filtration systems are available, as well as purification tablets, if you are visiting a place where water filtration is subpar. Avoid plastic bags by taking tote bags with you, and steer clear of disposable plastic items by using reusable versions, such as razors. Travel-sized toiletries come in bottles that can be re-filled and re-used for your next trip, and don't forget to pack a bamboo toothbrush.

Alex Azabache Unsplash

Respect local cultures

Too often we focus only on what we can take from a trip, rather than what we can give back. Nina Karnikowski, travel writer and author of Go Lightly and The Mindful Traveller, says: " One of the best ways we can honour local cultures when we travel is to make sure that as many of our money as possible is going back into their pockets. According to the UN’s World Tourism Organisation, as little as five percent of money spent by tourists actually stays in the communities they visit, with the rest ending up in the pockets of multinational corporations. One of the best ways to plug these leaks is to support small, locally owned businesses, prioritising small locally-owned eateries and hotels or homestays, native guides and tour operators, and hand-crafted goods that support indigenous artisans." Remember this advice next time you're choosing where to stay or eat, or what souvenirs to bring home with you.

Do good locally

While you're exploring your destination, taking part in actions that help the area thrive is not only worthwhile, but also a great way to learn more about the place and meet new people. One such activity is joining a beach clean - meeting up on the beach to pick litter. The local vegan Facebook group might have info on when and where beach cleans are held (these groups are a good idea to join anyway). Not in a beach area? Join a local tree-planting day, or litter pick-up expedition. Volunteering in a local animal shelter will also be an uplifting experience that allows you to lend a helping hand while having a heart-warming time. 

Mylon Ollila Unsplash

 Avoid animal attractions

While some may look innocent, all tourist attractions that use animals are built on cruelty and exploitation. When travelling, make sure you don't contribute to animal families being torn apart, baby animals being taken from the wild and ending up confined in captivity, or animals suffering in the heat to give tourists rides. Things having a selfie with a tiger cub or swimming with dolphins might look like no big deal, but these animals have been deprived of everything that is natural to them and are kept in conditions that will never suit their wild nature. Many are also drugged to ensure they don't lash out at tourists. Animals kept in enclosures are often exhibiting sings of zoochosis – stereotypical behaviours that develop due to extreme stress. With today's rich entertainment scene, there is no need to take part in abusive attractions abroad.

The human desire to see and explore the world will probably always exist - but there are ways in which travellers can alter their impact on the planet around us, and for the well-being of the world that we are in such awe of, it is crucial that we act.

By Sascha Camilli

About Sascha

Sascha Camilli is a vegan fashion writer, speaker and activist. Her book Vegan Style is out now on Murdoch Books. For more about Sascha, you can read our interview with her or read her newsletter Kind of Wild. You can also follow her on Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn.

Cover image by Luca Bravo. Second photo by Alex Azabache. Third photo by Mylon Ollila. All via Unsplash

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