Tourism stands as a testament to human curiosity and the need for connection, intertwining cultures and lives of millions across the globe. Every September 27, we celebrate this on World Tourism Day – a day marked by the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO).
However, UNWTO also highlights that while this is one of the most fast-growing sectors in the world, vital to livelihoods of so many, its growth is also shadowed by environmental impact. The Global Tourism Plastics Initiative reveals that peak tourist seasons often amplify the plastic challenge, significantly contributing to the yearly addition of eight million tonnes of plastic that ends up in the world’s oceans. Inland tourism areas too see their share of waste, with much of it eventually finding its way to our vast oceans.
Both tourism businesses and the traveller community hold the keys to change. While industry stakeholders craft and implement sustainable strategies, we, as travelers, can make more conscientious choices.
Here are 6 easy ways to create less waste while travelling:
Embrace the convenience and eco-friendliness of digital tickets. Most companies now offer a digital ticket option that can be stored on smartphones, thus there is no longer a need to print out bus, train and plane tickets and paper wastage can be avoided.
While most sustainable hotels and resorts now offer refillable amenities, the best way to ensure waste-free daily routines for an entire trip is to bring your own toiletries. Solid soap and shampoo bars are the most sustainable option as they are zero-waste and plastic-free.
Most disposable makeup wipes are made from a non-recyclable plastic called polyester, which is used once and then thrown in the bin. Transition instead to a reusable microfiber cloth or makeup remover pads made from bamboo or cotton. These can be washed and reused time and time again.
Instead of reaching for plastic cutlery or a plastic straw when buying food and drink on the go, put together a reusable set before leaving home. A metal straw, knife, fork and spoon, housed in a simple container or pouch can be a useful and eco-friendly travel companion.
Despite being mostly made from paper, takeaway coffee cups are lined with an unrecyclable polyethylene plastic to keep them waterproof. Estimates suggest 2.5 billion single-use coffee cups are sent to landfill globally each year. Similarly, while plastic water bottles are technically recyclable, around 85 per cent end up as waste. This waste can be avoided by bringing a reusable cup or refillable water bottle on holiday.
Plastic indigestion or entanglement is responsible for killing hundreds of thousands of marine animals each year. That is one reason why more than 100 countries have implemented a full or partial ban on plastic bags. Pack a tote bag instead – they’re lightweight, washable and a versatile solution for various needs from a beach day to a supermarket run.
The beauty of travel lies not just in the destinations we explore, but in the legacy we leave behind. Embracing sustainable practices is more than just a conscious choice; it's a heartfelt gesture towards the world that hosts our adventures.
From choosing greener flights to supporting local artisans, discover more ways to travel responsibly.