A Guide to Sustainable Travel in 2021

Elisa Carassai

Discover The Maptique’s tips to travel in a sustainable way. Hotels, trips and experiences to be an eco friendly tourist

Editor: Elisa Carassai

As the world slowly recovers from COVID-19 and borders gradually start to open, we expect travel to look slightly different from what it did pre-pandemic.

Although nobody knows exactly what will happen, one thing is clear; we won’t be able to travel as freely (without consideration for our health) as we used to, at least for the foreseeable future. 

One thing’s for sure, though, even before the pandemic turned tourism upside down, sustainability was becoming a significant focus in the industry. In 2021, sustainability will be more than a buzzword, as people across the globe consider how to travel with a green conscience. Although it’s easier to travel than ever before, and there are more greener options available, how do we make our holidays more eco-friendly?

However, this may mean bad news for those fond of long trips abroad via planes. A new study has identified the four actions that would significantly impact an individual’s greenhouse gas emissions: 

- Eating a plant-based diet
- Avoiding air travel
- Living car-free
- Having fewer children

According to the European Commission, aviation accounts for more than 2% of global human-produced carbon-dioxide emissions and is one of the fastest-growing sources of CO2. Thus the simplest way to cut carbon-offsetting would be to fly less. 

But for those who want to see the world, there are ways to make trips more sustainable, including where you go, what you pack and how you decide to get there. So, how to approach this? How to engage with this upcoming trend? 

Sustainable travel tips

Apart from trading in your car for a hybrid or begin biking, carpooling, or using public transportation, an alternate way to approach carbon-offsetting could also be to compensate for a trip by planting a tree or help rewetting peatlands. Because trees use carbon dioxide to build their trunks, branches, roots, and leaves, they are natural carbon absorbers and clean the air. 

One of the main ways one can do this is to find local adventures. Walking in unexplored corners of your neighbourhood or visiting museums in your city is among the greenest forms of travel; however, if you want to venture just a little farther and switch off, consider driving a few hours to a beach or forest, to places off the beaten track. Even a small adventure can feel like a world away. Homestays, local guides and programs that give back to communities are also great ways to ensure the local economy flourishes.

Slow travel may also be an option. One of life’s best rules of thumb can be applied in ecotourism to the significant effect: do less, do it better. So think fewer, more immersive trips to local or national locations rather than one long whirlwind holiday per year. 

One could consider doing culturally sustainable tourism, which aims at giving back to local entrepreneurs and communities. One of the experiences we’re proudest to have organised here at the Maptique is Organic Savanna, a remarkable trip we arranged for our clients in Kenya. Organic Savanna is a Kenyan social enterprise that was born in response to poverty. The community planted 30,000 aloe plants and started making ethical aloe-based products (soap, lotion, lip balm and candles) to empower people. They reinvest 100% of the profits in the community, they have created 78 jobs (aiming at 500), and they have funded education for 500+ children. The experience offers a stay in the social enterprise’s farm, following a series of activities which can either be activities you would like to learn or practice such as cooking class, Nairobi tours, candles making, Swahili learning, etc. People staying are also invited to volunteer their professional skills, so the community and the business can benefit.

As greener travel becomes increasingly popular and essential, also hotels and lodges are finding ways of becoming greener. For example, Preferred Hotel Group, Inc has announced the launch of the new sustainable hotel brand Beyond Green. Launching with a global portfolio of 24 founding member hotels, resorts and lodges, sustainable tourism will be at the heart of everything it offers. The founding members have pledged that some of its primary initiatives will be the implementation of initiatives to restore and protect natural ecosystems, elimination of all single-use plastics on property and adherence to local, national, and international regulations and guidelines for wildlife viewing, animal welfare and the illegal trade in endangered species.

Another hotel set to open in 2022 is Svart in Norway’s Arctic Circle. The world’s first energy-positive hotel, consuming 85% less energy than a traditional hotel, the hotel is positioned within a circular design to exploit the sun’s power no matter the time of day or season, with Norwegian solar panels cladding the roof, produced using clean, hydro-energy. 

The truth is, it’s not easy being green, but it finally seems a much more viable option for people that are committing to the cause. And truthfully, as much as we for all of the initiatives mentioned, the challenge for all those wanting to engage with sustainable travel will be to identify the people, places and business that are green, as opposed to those claiming to be.