Four tips for a more environmentally friendly travel experience

Travel is back, and so too is the impact tourists have on the destinations they visit.

Thankfully, there are ways we can minimise our damage to the environment as we explore the world once more.

Sustainability begins before you’ve even left home, and is something you should keep in mind for the duration of your trip.

Here are some tips for a more environmentally conscious holiday, courtesy of Lonely Planet’s Sustainable Travel Handbook.

Rethink the plane

Air travel accounts for 2.5 per cent of global carbon dioxide emissions, but it also has other negative effects on climate change.

As Australians, we often can’t avoid jumping on a plane to travel overseas, or even interstate.

But there’s always room to cut down on the number of flights we take, especially once we are in our destination country.

As Lonely Planet puts it: “Far from meaning an end to travel, a commitment to flying less can open up new horizons.”

“Train journeys, electric vehicles, low-impact cruises, cycle tours, buses and even hiking all offer incredible ways to get from A to B at a lower-emission cost, while at the same time creating opportunities to experience your destination more deeply.”

Fast trains are greener, more convenient and often more scenic than jumping on a short flight.

Fast trains are greener, more convenient, and often more scenic than jumping on a short flight. Photo: Getty

Across Europe and Asia, electric bullet trains can be a competitive alternative to planes.

The prices can be cheaper, they’re more comfortable, the travel time is often comparable, and train stations are typically located in city centres – unlike airports, which can add hours on each side of the journey.

Choose your destination(s) wisely

Sometimes, it can be where you go that makes all the difference.

The Pacific nation of Palau has implemented a world-first points system to encourage tourists to reduce their carbon footprint.

These points can be redeemed on exclusive experiences, like exploring historical sites or swimming in hidden caves.

Other sustainable travel picks include Costa Rica, Nepal, Sweden and Taiwan, thanks to a combination of their existing environmental commitments and their local tourism industries’ commitment to protecting nature.

Closer to home, Tasmania stands out from the pack.

“It’s a joint effort in Tassie – the home of the world’s first green political party – where local produce plays a starring role at restaurants, hotels are moving to ban single-use plastics en masse, and activity operators are committed to ensuring clients tread lightly, all of which help to safeguard one of the last truly wild places on Earth,” Lonely Planet states.

For specific eco-friendly experiences around Australia, Lonely Planet also recommends the Byron Bay solar train, the wukalina Walk near Launceston, or Queensland’s Electric Super Highway for an EV road trip.

Spotting animals can be an unforgettable travel experience. Just don't get too close.

Seeing animals can be an unforgettable travel experience. Just don’t get too close. Photo: Getty

Respect wildlife and their habitat

Seeing animals in their natural habitat can often be the highlight of a trip.

But tourism can affect these animals and contribute to destroying the places they call home.

Lonely Planet’s No.1 tip is to keep your distance.

Outside of the wilderness, travellers should seek out genuine animal sanctuaries rather than zoos with inadequate enclosures.

When tourism venues offer the chance to pat or take selfies with animals – particularly dangerous ones – it’s likely the animals have been treated cruelly, according to Lonely Planet.

On top of that, it’s a good idea not to feed animals.

Some tourist hotspots have serious litter problems.

Some tourist hotspots like Bali have serious litter problems. Photo: Getty

Cut down on plastic and other waste

This one’s a no-brainer. A big part of sustainability is creating as little waste as possible.

Australia’s ecotourism accreditation board says that even bringing a refillable water bottle or a keep cup can go a long way to reducing waste.

In the era of COVID-safe travel, a reusable mask is another key option.

Some hikers and outdoor adventurers have even created the movement, Leave No Trace.

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