Sustainables travels: enjoying without environmental impact
We have learnt a lot since the tourist boom of the nineteen sixties. The most important lesson is that there is a good side, but also a bad side to the transformation of villages and cities due to the constant passing of travellers. Therefore, a travel model has to be found that does not harm the destination and contributes as little as possible to polluting the planet.
The improvement of the conditions of life in developed countries and the considerable developments in the transport sector have multiplied tourism, especially since the beginning of the 21st century. Tourism leaves its, very often negative, footprint, so learning to travel responsibly and sustainably has become a necessity.
Tourism, one of the sectors that produces most pollution
Mariano González Tejada, Transport coordinator of Ecologists in Action, says that “tourism is one of the sectors that produces most pollution, as it is one of those that most changes the natural rhythms of both rural and urban areas”. This environmental impact on travel is produced at two fundamental times: on the trip and in the stay.
Whenever we move around in vehicles, we are emitting greenhouse effect gases. The plane is the means of transport that contaminates most of all, far more than the rest, and is followed by road transport, and especially cars, with the railway in last place. Mariano González clarifies that “this does not mean that we can’t travel by plane, but that we must think of how to amortise these emissions produced”.
How to get around sustainably:
- Avoid “getaways” by plane. These are the least sustainable trips there are, as they require great expenditure in emissions for a very short stay. The most desirable thing would be that the longer the distance travelled by plane, the more time would be spent at destination.
- Avoid cruises. “On the one hand they produce a large amount of pollution, as they require great fuel consumption, which adds to the waste produced on the voyage. What’s more, we must remember the poor conditions in which a lot of staff work in these ships, which are governed by very precarious labour covenants in developing countries”, says the person responsible for Ecologists in Action.
"There are still practices that are very negative for the local fauna of which the tourist is not entirely aware"
Once at destination: how to enjoy without polluting
To make a trip that turns out to be sustainable, we have to minimise the role of the tourist and do our utmost to integrate in the place where we go and not aggravate the inequalities that this kind of economy produces.
Advice for a sustainable stay:
- Use public or group transport wherever possible.
- Contribute to the local economy. Ensure that the wealth produced stays at the destination.
- Avoid the places only conceived for tourists and the accommodation that means that the inhabitants of the large cities are “expelled” from the centre.
- Choose the hotel with sustainable criteria. The expert explains that “the more luxurious they are, the more energy they consume”.
- Get away from the large resorts on the beach, and especially those that move under the formula of ‘all-in’. They do not generate wealth for the local economy and consume a lot of energy in their maintenance.
- Take care of the surroundings: do not throw away rubbish or waste.
- In the case of routes in natural spaces, don’t leave the paths, avoid large groups, don’t make too much noise, don’t spend the night in places where it is not allowed and avoid leaving organic waste near the rivers.
When the exotic becomes a target
One of the most striking impacts of long-distance tourism is the deliberate damage to the ecosystem, its vegetation, its animals and sometimes the local population.
Unfortunately, very harmful practices continue to be followed, such as hunting and the purchase of wild animals, as well as harassment of local communities and sexual tourism. Sources of the tourist sector say that “these kinds of options are no longer offered in any case from the countries of origin, but once at destination, it is still possible to get them”.
According to WWF data, in the last 15 years, there have been 164,000 captures in 120 countries, an average of 30 a day. Every year 1.5 million living birds and 440,000 tonnes of medicinal plants reach the market; 120 tigers are killed, around 30,000 elephants, more than 1,000 rhinoceros and 13,000 pangolins, and 1,000 tonnes of exotic wood are cut.
"The citizens’ awareness is rising over the need to travel responsibly, without harming the destination and contributing as little as possible to polluting the planet"
Furthermore, there are tourist options which, without being illegal, are absolutely unadvisable from the ethical viewpoint. In the case of animals, there is growing awareness concerning their respect and protection, but there are still very negative practices of which tourists are not entirely aware.
The FAADA Foundation for Advice and Action in Defence of Animals works to expose the problem of the use of animals in the tourist sector, and the close relationship there is between them and the disappearance of seriously threatened species.
For a responsible tourism that is respectful of animals, the FAADA recommends, among other things:
- Do not pay to see the elephants fed or other animals whose owners display them or make them perform in the streets of some cities. Don’t accept a ride on an elephant.
- Don’t go to shows or take part in activities that involve caged or chained up animals.
- Avoid staying or eating at places where wild animals are displayed in captivity.
- Do not swim with dolphins or other wild animals.
- Avoid horse or donkey riding or going in carriages pulled by them.
- Do not feed or touch wild animals. Do not interact in any way with dangerous animals.
- Do not buy souvenirs made with animal parts or take any living animal home as a souvenir.
- Do not support the use of animals as photographic objects.
- If you should see any kind of mistreatment, take photos of it, note all possible information and contact the Foundation.