The single best thing you can do to travel more sustainably
Sustainable travel can be complex. From carbon offsetting, to minimizing waste, to choosing services owned by local businesses, the list can also be quite long and in some cases pricey, too.
However, in 20+ years of being intimately involved in all things sustainable travel, my number one recommendation is both simple and essentially free. Thus, it’s something that everyone can do with nearly each and every travel decision they make.
So here it is…
Whenever you are in touch with a travel provider, like a hotel, tour operator, transportation company, you name it, ask the question “what is your involvement with sustainable travel?” That’s it…simply asking the question about what that person, business, or government entity is doing in the world of sustainable travel.
This one phrase may seem simple, but it actually packs a lot into it. Not only does it directly ask an important question, but it also shows the person you’re talking to that sustainability is important to you. It also gets that other person or business thinking about sustainability, which is a key part in promoting a conservation culture around the world.
What happens next is also important…how they respond. When I ask this question, I often get mixed responses. Sometimes it’s met with a bit of befuddlement, sometimes people cobble together an answer that makes little sense, sometimes people nail it with just the answer I was hoping for, and sometimes people simply say “I have no idea.”
These responses speak volumes, but the reality is you don’t actually have to make a travel decision based on their answer and whether it actually shows the business is sustainably minded. You already won by just asking the question, getting them to think about it, and showing that travel provider that you care about sustainability. And guess what happens when that single hotel gets a dozen questions like that in a single week. They start talking about it with their upper management, in their staff meetings, and in quarterly reports. It becomes a market trend.
Of course the other side of this is actually making decisions with how you spend money based on the quality of their answer. As you can imagine, the more money and business provided to those companies with strong sustainability ethos, the more they succeed and the more other companies look to them as setting the bar (and then strive to be just like them…becoming more sustainable).
The overall idea here is that influence is one of the most powerful tools we have to spread ideas and practices on sustainability. While there are no doubt many other things we can individually do to be more sustainable…this goes for our day to day life just as it goes for travel. However, if we are doing so independently and siloed without helping others along the way, too, we’re vastly less effective. Thus, this power I am touting here is one of influence, and the influence you have as a consumer in the way businesses conduct, well, business.
So, next time you are making plans for a holiday, a great expedition, or simply a weekend getaway, remember this one important step…be sure to ask those you are working with about their stance, their position, or their involvement in sustainable travel (wording is largely up to you, but you get the idea…). Or heck, even just asking them what they think about sustainable travel is a very powerful move that will have pronounced ripple effects sooner than you may think.
Cheers, and be well, Court