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9 Simple Ways To Make Your Next Trip More Sustainable Without Even Really Trying

9 Simple Ways To Make Your Next Trip More Sustainable Without Even Really Trying

Sitting on 4WD in Blue Mountains Australia

Travel as we once knew it is now a thing of the past and honestly, we hope it stays that way. While jetting off for a last-minute holiday to Asia or New Zealand or Hawaii was pretty incredible, the philosophy of instant-gratification travel we all saw as status quo was taking a huge toll on the very Earth and cultures we’re so keen to explore. Sustainable travel is the future but it’s here now.

Sustainable travel is a way to have the best of both worlds: to travel and explore while minimising the impact to the planet and increasing the benefits to particular communities. It‘s also easier to travel more mindfully than you might realise – and in many cases, due to restrictions, you’ve already started. 

How does that look? Well, for starters, it begins well before we reach our destination. Here are nine easy ways to make smarter choices and get with the program.

#1 Rethink when you travel 


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Personally, I don’t know why people with another option would choose to travel to tourist hubs during peak times – Byron over New Years? No Thanks! Turns out, travelling off-peak or off-season is one way to help areas dealing with overtourism, which strains infrastructure and local environments. It’s also helpful to locals who struggle making ends meet outside of peak periods.

#2 Go off-piste


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Instead of hitting up your favourite major city for the 10th time, explore regional areas as well as under-the-radar spots. Not only will this bode well for social distancing, but you’ll reconnect to the adventurous side of travel lost on the familiar, while supporting communities in these lesser-travelled areas.

You can also intentionally choose a destination that values sustainability and is making headway in that area, to support their efforts and enjoy your stay without having to think about that side of things (hello, Lorde Howe IslandOne & Only Wolgan Valley and Nihi Sumba to start).

#3 Slow travel over regular travel


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While a weekend away can always be fun, I’d much prefer to take a longer break as it allows you to connect to a destination and culture in a more authentic way. This is also a good tactic to make local buds and get recommendations for more amazing places to check out while you’re already away. 

Most importantly, though, taking less frequent but longer trips lessens the amount of flying or other transport you need to use in order to go away multiple times a year. Maybe instead of your customary three long-haul trips a year, you take one larger holiday by air with the rest staycations or spent closer to home.

#4 Avoid flying, where possible


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Flying is a nasty business as far as climate change is concerned, thanks to the burning of  fossil fuel that emits greenhouse gases directly into the atmosphere. Reducing the amount of planes you jump on has a hugely positive impact for our world, and thankfully, cycling, trains, boats and cars (hello, road trip) are far better options. As AWOL Editor Kassia Byrnes puts it, “ask yourself, ‘is there another way to get there?’”

However, we know that flying is unavoidable in certain situations. In those instances, take direct flights where possible and once landed aim to travel overland instead of taking multiple short-haul flights. You can also Google which airlines have lower emissions when booking.

#5 Explore the magic in your own backyard


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Despite flying’s toll on the environment, it’s almost been a rite of passage for young Aussie travellers to forsake the magic and beauty of this country for the thrill of the foreign. Culturally, we’ve really suffered a ‘grass is greener’ mentality and it’s been refreshing to see that shift out of necessity in 2020 because if there’s one major travel lesson from 2020, it’s that we are bloody lucky to call Australia home. 

Start exploring what’s on our doorstep: feel the sacred energy of Uluru, walk the ancient Daintree Rainforest, swim with whale sharks in Exmouth, snorkel in The Whitsundays, hang out with the quokkas on Rottnest Island and explore a real-life Jurassic Park and learn about ecotourism on Lord Howe Island. We could keep going, but you get the drift.

Here are 20 places that need to be on your Aussie bucket list this year.

#6 Make more ethical accommodation choices

There are so many interesting and beautiful places to stay that aren’t large-scale hotels. The best option will be eco-friendly accommodation (and these stays have come such a long way, all the way to totally sustainable travel luxury) as they go out of their way to think of systems that are cyclical, regenerative or have a softer footprint. 

But if you can’t find somewhere a little more eco-conscious, then turn your attention to smaller scale options. Think lodges, villas, farmhouses, home stays, tiny homes, cabins and many more options that spread the abundant wealth on this planet to people and initiatives who need it. 

#7 Spend your money locally

Beyond your accommodation, there are lots of delicious ways to make your dollar have a positive impact. Eating local is the big one, obviously (and if you see a Starbucks in a destination, please, for the love of all that is holy, try somewhere else). 

If you manage to stay at local accommodation, eat at independent restaurants and cafes, buy locally-made products and book local guides or cultural experiences, you are the best kind of traveller: one mindful and supportive of the destination they’re visiting. 

This is the very practice that helped struggling towns in Victoria and NSW after the devastating bushfires, with initiatives like Empty Esky. Your choices have a tangible, almost immediate impact.  

#8 Consume less 


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You might be used to the waste programs from your home country, but when travelling abroad especially, the same systems and resources often aren’t available. Water is a big one, especially in tropical areas or drought-affected zones, so watch your shower time and always ensure taps are turned off. 

Plastic is another huge issue, remaining largely unrecycled the world over. Avoiding single use plastic, eating in restaurants to avoid takeaway packaging, eating what is grown locally – these are small ways you can consume less and with more intention.

#9 Go one better and pack reusable 

The easiest way to avoid single use plastic and reduce your waste? BYO. Pack reusables like a water bottle, steel or bamboo straw, food container and coffee cup (collapsible ones are great for travelling), cutlery or a spork. Add a cotton or calico bag for groceries. If you want to take it to the next level, take zero-waste toiletries like shampoo bars along for the ride.

The best way to instil these new habits is to travel like a local, as if the place you were visiting were your own home.

(Lead image: Emirates One & Only Wolgan Valley)

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