How to be an Eco-Conscious Luxury Traveler
For years sustainability and luxury have operated at opposite ends of the tourism spectrum. Sustainable trips were for people that wanted to spend no money, live out of a backpack, and hitchhike from place to place. On the other hand, luxury travel was costly, stuffy, and consisted of traipsing from one landmark to another. I am an eco-conscious person, but I also like to be pampered on vacation, those desires no longer have to be mutually exclusive. The modern traveler has changed, and so has the tourism industry. Here are my tips on how to be an eco-conscious luxury traveler.
Get rid of single-use plastic. The oceans and landfills overflow with discarded plastic; it kills wildlife and ruins our environment. Stop using it! Need tips for reducing plastic use? Read my blog 14 Simple Ways to Reduce plastic on a Trip. I go into great detail there.
Pick your destination with careful consideration. After "Game of Thrones," interest in Croatia travel blew up. Tourism has destroyed Croatian landmarks and roads. Prices surged, making it difficult for locals to survive. Croatia is going to start limiting the number of ships and people coming in every day. Trendy destinations can be awesome and fun to explore, but they can also devastate. If you are planning to go to a very fashionable "it" country, try to book during the shoulder seasons.
Choose a destination that puts a premium on sustainability. Many countries are working towards the goal of becoming carbon neutral. Beautiful Bhutan is carbon negative! Give your money to countries that put their money where their mouth is in regards to being eco-conscious. Click here to discover the most sustainable travel destinations.
Choose a hotel brand that puts a premium on sustainability. You do not have to stay in a yurt to travel eco-consciously. There are plenty of 5-star hotel brands that work tirelessly to ensure their hotels are as green as possible. For instance, the Red Carnation luxury hotels have done away single-use plastic. They are working on rain gardens and recycling. Do your research; many hotels say that they are "green," but don't offer much more than a discount at the store if you don't get new towels every day. Red Carnation isn't the only luxury hotel that prioritizes sustainability I can help you determine if your favorites are environmentally friendly.
Choose a cruise line that puts a premium on sustainability. When you saw the words "cruise line," you probably rolled your eyes! Cruise lines are not known for their commitment to the environment. But Sir Richard Branson is trying to change that. His new adults-only cruise line, Virgin Voyages, is striving to be as environmentally conscious as possible, and they are working hard to give back to the destinations they visit. They have eliminated single-use plastic and the dreaded buffets that lead to massive food waste.
Find the right travel partners. Jeep rides through the jungles of Kauai seem harmless on the surface, but they can destroy plants, damage animal habitats, and kill animals. Many tour companies are changing their offerings to ensure that they have zero impact on the destination. They are committed to giving back more than they take. Look companies like G Adventures, Intrepid Travel, Nat Geo Travel, and Abercrombie & Kent. You would have a lovely, luxury trip with any of these, but it would still be good for the environment.
Pack Light and pack thoughtfully. The bigger and heavier the luggage, the more gas you need to get your from one destination to another. Also, who wants to lug around huge bags? Make sure to pack:
Reusable, filtered water bottle
Bamboo or stainless steel utensils
Large jars (or glass containers are even better) of shampoo, conditioner, etc. You don't want to be dependent on those tiny hotel toiletries.
Reusable bamboo straws
IPad or phone with books and magazines downloaded.
Sunscreen that is safe for wildlife and coral
Say it with me now: NO animal entertainment activities! Don't ride an elephant, hold a snake, play with a tiger (How crazy was Netflix's Tiger King, BTW's!) Don't do it. Abused animals are the norm at these "entertainment" experiences. I never have and will never book your big game hunting trip, elephant ride, a play date with a boa constrictor. But there spectacular resorts where you can help take care of rescued animals. One of the most exceptional experiences of my life was working with the elephants at the Anantara Golden Triangle Elephant Camp and Resort. You can spend time with animals, but always remember that they aren't toys!
Leave footprints, not trash. Be respectful of the environment of the destination you choose. Would you want people visiting your home and using it as a dumpster? Respecting the environment also means following hiking trails, not feeding animals, and don't pick plants. Leave the country the way you found it. Pick up litter, so that you leave the land better than you found it.
Shop locally. The economy in many foreign destinations is very dependent on tourism, so make sure your dollars go to help the people that need it most. Don't go to the souvenir trap and pick up a bunch of junk. Instead, go to an artisan's shop and buy something truly unique.
Save energy. Unplug your phone when the battery is full, and turn off the lights when you don't need them. And the biggie, turn off the air conditioning when you aren't in the room! If you close the curtains, it will help keep your room at a comfy temperature. Many hotels will not allow you to run the a/c unless you are in the room anyway.
When possible, avoid flying. Flying is not environmentally friendly, but it is a necessity at times. You aren't getting from Lexington to Greece without flying, but you can get from Athens to Santorini without flying. They have multiple ferry options. Travel by public transport if it is feasible then use it. And whenever possible, walk or bike around the destination.
Environmentally friendly, luxury travel is not only possible, but it is becoming the norm. When you prioritize sustainability, the tourism industry will prioritize it too. You might have to spend a little more time planning, but you can have a trip that thrills you without destroying the places you love. I only work with companies and resorts that are eco-conscious. So if you need help, let me know, and I will lend you a hand. We only have one planet, so let's take care of it.