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Welcome to the Responsible Traveler series.

As travelers, one might argue that it is our responsibility to ensure that we are respectful of the cultures, geographies and people we visit.

When we travel, we embrace the genuine meaning of global citizenship, not only as ambassadors of the countries whose passports we carry but of the world and its precarious state. Check out our Responsible Traveler Series for tips on how to become a conscious traveler and participate in the growing culture of sustainable tourism.

Travel is a remarkable journey, and seeing the world is one of the prime ways to prize our planet and ultimately protect it. However, we should be aware that our travel footprints are huge. Beginning with the plastic housed supplies we purchase and bring with us for the ride, to our long, fuel guzzling flights that bring us to our treasured destinations, our environmental impact is significant.

Eco-friendly tourism has become a movement, and there are many resources out there to ensure that you educate yourself on how to become a sustainable traveler as you explore the world.

So how can we stay environmentally conscious while we travel?

...we should be aware that our travel footprints are huge.

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Minimize your plastic use

Select cruelty free, environmentally conscious activities and activity providers

Preserve treasured sights for generations to come

As those who spend time with me will tell you, my refillable waterbottle is my constant companion. I feel nude without its presence - in fact, I would rather leave my phone at home than my treasured waterbottle (I know, it’s a love love relationship with that waterbottle). Easy to do and greatly impactful, bringing your own refillable waterbottle with you on your travels is a fantastic way to have an impact at a low cost to you. And stay hydrated, because who doesn’t love radiant skin? If you are traveling to a destination without easily accessible potable water, look into bringing water purifying tablets - and the research has already been done for you

Visiting wildlife abroad is absolute magic. Seeing animals in their natural element brings your Disney dreams to life. But ensuring that the animals are treated with respect and that their welfare is taken into account throughout your encounter is essential. Some activities do not privilege animal welfare, and even drug the animals so that they remain docile as your interact (deep down we all know that that tiger is not willingly sitting calmly by your side for your Insta photo).

Popular tourist sites are beginning to feel the strain of tourism. The United Nations has even created the List of World Heritage in Danger to spur preservation and ensure that these sites are taken care of as tourism continues to grow.

I remember, when I visited Ankor Wat in Siem Reap, Cambodia, we were instructed not to climb certain temples and ruins on account of their precarious state. Naturally, there were some rebellious travelers who climbed the temples anyways, but they did so at the sacrifice of the greater good (and their own liberty…. given that it is illegal!). An Instagram post isn’t worth the greater sacrifice. Share the sights with your fellow travelers, locals, and future generations by protecting its integrity, history, and wholeness.

You don’t need to touch them to enjoy them!

An Instagram post isn’t worth the greater sacrifice. Share the sights with your fellow travelers, locals, and future generations by protecting its integrity, history, and wholeness.

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The Responsible Traveler Series: Become an Eco-Conscious Traveler

Take Public Transit and Book Eco- Conscious Accommodation

Chatting with locals is always a fabulous way to learn about your surroundings, and have a brilliant travel story to share. One of my favourite travel stories is from a bus ride I took in Myanmar from Inle Lake to Yangon, when I encountered a Buddhist monk. We chatted for the entire 10 hour bus ride along the meandering roads. Not only did he explain to me the role of the priesthood in Burmese culture and society, but just prior to arriving at our long awaited destination he asked me to marry him and move to his village (not kidding). While I politely declined, I was honoured no less. And imagine, if I had taken private transit I would have deprived myself of this incredible encounter!

Oh and book eco-conscious accommodations! While at times pricey, these are lovely spots to try if even for a night or two. Often times they present themselves in the fashion of a tree house lodge (who doesn't want to sleep in an elegant tree house for at least one night in their lives?!) and seaside cottages. And if you’re in a regular hotel or hostel, make eco-conscious choices - for example, you don’t need a new towel for each and every shower you take etc.

On the Global Sustainable Tourism Council’s website, you can click the “For Travelers” button and find diverse certified sustainable destinations and accommodations. 

Also bring a reusable tote! Easy to pack, a tote bag or a day pack takes up very little space and is a great addition to bring with you for your day to day and shopping needs.  

Finally, bring reusable tupperware if you’re going to be traveling for an extended period of time. It’s perfect for your street food endeavours. And side note:  please eat street food - don’t miss out on the flavours, just pack extra Immodium and toilet paper in case it goes right through!

From the time I was young, my mom decorated our home with images of elephants. And so, given that I have long felt connected to this majestic and wise animal, I knew that my first visit to Thailand would include an encounter with this remarkable wonder. In my research to find a spot that privileged the elephants' well-being, I found The Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai which is a remarkably special spot that rescues elephants and rehabilitates them in a natural, communal space. The Park educates you on elephant welfare and habits, and ensures a cruelty free environment and interaction (for example, you can’t ride the elephants at all). One of the first centres of its kind in Thailand, you can go for a short visit, a day visit, or an overnight adventure and wake up to the sounds of elephants (I’d recommend this one - the accommodations are awesome and waking up to the sound of elephants is surreal)! There are other such centres such as the Elephant Jungle Sanctuary.

There are many rehabilitative, educational and animal welfare oriented experiences to take part in while you travel, and choosing centres that privilege the animals well-being over the most Instagram-able moment. Another such experience is with the Orangutan Foundation International in Borneo, Indonesia where you can volunteer to assist with the foundation’s mission to save wild orangutans.  Also the Jane Goodall Institute in Tanzania and Uganda, have wonderful offerings!

So do your research, and get in touch with the animal kingdom.

Pack environmentally conscious products

From shampoos, conditioners, and body washes, to our sunscreens, we leave pieces of ourselves everywhere we travel. The shampoo we rinse out of our hair swims down the drains of our showers and into the abyss of sewer systems that do not necessarily match those we have at home. And even at home, protecting the earth through the products we use involves consciously purchasing brands that privilege the use of non-toxic substances. Thankfully, there is now an abundance of companies who are plugged into the environment and producing quality eco-friendly hair and skin products. Some such brands include Lush, Not Your Mother’s Shampoo, Love Beauty and Planet, and Rahua to name a few. As far as sunscreens go, check out Mad Hippie, Bare Republic, and Supergoop.

 

In search of other useful resources for the sustainable traveler? Sustainable Travel International recognizes that travel contributes to local economies and growth, and has great tips on how to best introduce eco-friendly elements to your travel experience.

Eco-conscious travel is the way to go - so let’s get conscious and get traveling!

February 27th, 2019

By Chelsea Sauvé