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The Joys of Sustainable Travel

  • Philip Boxall
  • 8 August 2015

THIS POST IS BROUGHT TO YOU BY THOMSON UK

As many parts of our world become more and more accessible, so too does the importance of traveling and exploring in a way that not only respects local cultures and environments but helps to sustain it. The goal is to protect the unique qualities of a place so that it can continue to be enjoyed by others and provide a healthy living for locals.

While some travelers might hear the term “sustainable travel” and think of a vacation that is limited primarily to outdoor environmental endeavors, there are many more fun activities and options available to people who are looking to vacation and travel in an environmentally and socially respectful way. Here are a few ways you can enjoy both sustainable and cheap holidays.

Group on a farm holiday

Group on a farm holiday. Image by woodleywonderworks, used under Creative Commons license

Sustainable Working Holidays

If you’re looking to get your hands dirty, a sustainable working holiday gives you the opportunity to live like a local in a foreign village or town, and the satisfaction of helping locals on important projects, such as building, farming and occasionally teaching.

These types of holidays aren’t necessarily for the faint of heart, but they do let you experience something more than just a resort vacation. By learning local trades and living skills, you also make a significant difference in support of local development and sustainability.

Reducing Your Carbon Footprint

Travel is a major source of pollution. As a consequence of travel, things like fuel consumption for transport (especially planes), water use for washing at hotels, and waste as a result of a general throwaway culture tend to increase drastically.

There is, however, a growing number of travel companies and vacation options designed specifically to offset the carbon footprint left by travelers. Although the majority of these companies doesn’t completely offset the carbon footprint, travelers who can make personal commitments to full offset by donating to agencies (such as carbondfund.org) involved in preservation and environmental growth. This is often but not exclusively done through the planting of trees.

Tree planting

Troop 562 tree planting at Griffith League Scout Reserve in Bastrop, Texas. Image by motleypixel, used under Creative Commons license

Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, and the Mayan Riviera of Mexico

Fortunately today, a growing number of destinations features sustainable holiday options, including luxury resorts, such as Sharm El Sheikh, located near the famous Sinai Mountains of Egypt. This region of the country is “home” to the nomadic Bedouin culture; tourists can sign-up for camping trips and expeditions to experience this heritage and lifestyle as a way to help sustain the culture’s ancient practices. The local resort also uses the Earthcheck system, which has resulted in significant reductions in energy and water use (5 percent on energy per year, 4 percent on water). So if you’re looking for a mixed vacation, split between a backpacker’s dream of mountains and deserts, and a relaxing time in a palm-dotted resort, Sharm El Sheikh is a wonderful place to enjoy in an ethically, culturally and environmentally friendly way.

Another great destination for a sustainable holiday is the Riviera Maya of Mexico, where visitors can work to preserve the natural world — sea turtles, rainforests etc.— as well as local cultures and villages that have been affected by natural disasters. For trips to the Mayan Riviera, look for organizations that plan sustainable holidays, or research any one of the charities that have volunteer options for visiting tourists.

Wherever you decide to go for your next vacation, plan to make it a sustainable holiday. You will travel in good conscience, you will be doing right by the local people, animals and environment, and the rewards will have you quickly looking for your next fulfilling experience.

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Philip Boxall

Philip Boxall is a sustainable traveler and environmental scientist. He believes a greener planet is possible.  
Philip Boxall
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Africa, beaches, ecotours, Egypt, marine conservation, Mexico, North America, Northern Africa, Northern America, outdoors, voluntourism, whl.travel,

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