Students who are fortunate enough to travel the world – whether on a class trip or studying abroad – should keep sustainable practices in mind at all times. Being mindful of resource conservation, supporting the local culture and minimizing waste-generating actions will help ensure the destinations you visit are there for the next set of travelers.
Here are four categories students should think about when preparing to travel sustainably.
This starts by conserving water, and can be done in three easy steps: Taking shorter showers, turning off the faucet while brushing your teeth (why do we all leave it on in the first place?) and reusing your towels and bed sheets to reduce the laundry your host or hotel has to do each day.
Turn off the lights and your electronics when you’re not using them. Why? It reduces the burning of fossil fuels to create the energy needed to power your lifestyle.
Control your climate: Keep the air conditioning and heating at reasonable levels. Why? Same as above – that power has to come from somewhere.
Keep it clean: Minimize waste and pollution
If students can cut down on just one thing during their travel, it’s probably reducing their use of single-use plastics. A reusable water bottle is an easy way to make an instant impact. Packing a reusable bag or an extra travel pack for shopping is also an easy win.
We all learned to properly throw things away when we were three years old, so disposing of waste and recyclingproperly should be one of the easiest sustainable practices you follow on your trip.
Reduce your carbon footprint: OK, so you’re probably not flying private to your destination. Still, taking the train instead of a quick flight or long car ride is the better choice for the environment. Staying local? Why not walk or rent a bike? And if you do have to fly, packing light helps. If your bags are heavy, the plane will need to burn a little more fuel to get you to your destination.
Respect the culture
Sustainability isn’t just about recycling and carbon footprints. Being mindful of the traditions and cultural sensitivities of the area you’re traveling to will keep the experience authentic for everyone.
Show some respect when visiting historical or religious sites (some of which will require dress codes), and follow the rules in protected areas and parks
Don’t be like this guy. Avoid damaging structures or touching artifacts. We can’t believe we have to type this.
Be considerate around wildlife for both your benefit and theirs. Students should observe animals from a safe distance – the last thing you want is to go viral for getting barreled over by a bison – and don’t take part in activities that exploit them.
Sustainable tourism is also responsible and thoughtful tourism
Think about buying local. Local businesses and artists often create the one-of-a-kind purchases you’re seeking anyway. Make sure to research in advance to understand where these key businesses operate, so whatever you purchase goes back to the local economy
Hire local, too. This means getting service providers – like hiking guides, for instance – who live in the community and contribute to the local economy themselves.