Most of the time when we travel, we want to go somewhere where we can relax and eat a lot of great food, but have you ever considered going on a vacation to save the planet? Just like using a reusable water bottle is a step towards reducing waste, considering sustainable travel destinations can also have a great impact.
Travel writer Caleigh Alleyne says you can definitely travel in style andsustainability. Even though 80 per cent of us want to travel sustainably, 50 per cent of that number have never done so. but there’s definitely ways to do it with a touch of style and lux.
WHAT IS ECO-TOURISM?
Travelling produces a lot of waste starting from plastic bottles we may use, to single-use items and over-tourism. Eco-tourism is a way for us to reduce the impacts travelling and tourism has on the planet, wildlife and ecosystems.
SUSTAINABLE LUXURY TOURISM
A common misconception is that making things eco-friendly means getting rid of luxury and style. Some options to keep both sustainability and luxury are:
The Brando: It’s in the French Polynesia and it’s known as one of the first truly sustainable luxury properties. How are they doing this? They are using a seawater air-conditioning system to cool the 35 villas on the property. It converts deep-ocean water into low-energy, high-efficiency AC which reduces energy by 90%. They also have a sorting centre to compost food waste, its own beehives and a fruit and vegetable garden.
Isla Palenque: This property opened in the Gulf of Chiriquí on a private island in Panama. This was the first step by this hotel chain towards creating a more sustainable, luxurious resort. They use renewable materials, biodegradable products and have built their own furniture with fallen trees from the island.
One of the best things about travelling is trying different types of food from around the world. But, to be more sustainable, we should rethink the way we eat. When staying at Isla Palenque, you can experience the Dock to Dish program that delivers and offers guests culinary options that are sourced locally and have low-impact. You can also find this program in LA, The Hamptons, Vancouver, Costa Rica and others. Some hotels are even growing their own vegetables on-site to provide pesticide-free produce and making sure to have products that can be composted and reintroduced into the local ecosystem.
DARK SKY PRESERVES
Artificial light pollution is becoming a larger problem every day. That’s why a dark sky preserve is an area that restricts artificial light pollution, promotes astronomy and can also be beneficial to wildlife around the area. It’s important to remember that ecosystems and wild species don’t stop operating and depend on natural darkness. Artificial lighting affects migration patterns, predator-prey relationships, and the circadian rhythms of many organisms. You can visit these options:
Mont Mégantic: This is 2.5 hours east of Montreal and Quebec City. It’s the site of the International Dark-Sky Association’s first International Dark Sky Reserve and the site of the ASTROLab. You can stay overnight under the stars in one of the 37 sites or one of the 10 tents.
New Zealand: On January 4th, 2019, New Zealand’s third largest island was officially recognized by the International Dark Sky Association as an International Dark Sky Sanctuary. However, New Zealand already has an International Dark Sky Reserve in the Mackenzie Basin in the South Island’s Southern Alps, and the Dark Sky Sanctuary on Great Barrier Island off the North Island, north of Auckland.
Over-tourism to certain destinations is making places regulate their guests and even close attractions due to overcapacity. For example, visits to Machu Picchu have gone from 400, 000 to 1.4 million from 1996 to 2016.
Zion National Park in Utah gets about 4.4 million visitors a year, but 70% of that is seen in the warmer months. In the winter months, accommodations and other establishments tend to offer cheaper packages as it’s not “peak” season. By travelling in “off seasons”, you help maintain the carrying capacity of the destination, park workers are able to maintain the parks and the natural ecosystem can have more time to regenerate.
THE ROAD LESS TRAVELLED
If your plans happen to fall during peak season, try visiting less common, yet still beautiful destinations. If you want to explore France, head to Brittany instead of the busy city of Paris. In Brittany, Caleigh recommends you explore the historic architecture in Rennes and then head to the Atlantic Ocean to admire Dinan, St.-Malo, Dinard or Saint-Brieuc, areas that are a short train ride from Paris. This is less about green initiatives and more on avoiding over tourism which can benefit the infrastructure of destinations and local businesses in smaller towns. Taking the train from Paris to Rennes to begin your trip to Brittany also helps lower your carbon emission, compared to driving a car.
A second option is Northern Thailand instead of the Thai Islands. Similar to the common destinations like Phuket and Bangkok, places such as Chiang Mai, Pai and Chiang Rai are full of culture, history and food you can explore.
WHERE IT ALL BEGAN
Caleigh’s final and favourite suggestion is for you to consider visiting Costa Rica. In the 90’s, it became known for eco-tourism and they continue find new ways to let tourism take place while taking care of their beautiful country. By 2021, they are hoping to achieve carbon-neutrality by working towards reversing most of the deforestation that has happened.