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Sustainable tourism: 6 essential tips to improve your footprint

mulher na montanha - women on the mountain

Sustainable tourism: 6 essential tips to improve your footprint

When I started making my first trips, the concept of sustainable tourism didn’t even cross my mind. I wanted to go, explore new destinations, get to know different cultures, meet animals that I only saw on TV, or go to beaches that I only knew from magazines’ pages.

As time went by and with some stamps in my passport, I realized the impact my travels have on the country I’m visiting and the planet itself. This is a reality (and concern) that has accompanied me more and more.

I never believed in radicalism, and from a distance, I can’t see myself traveling only by bicycle or starting to use just solid shampoo. I confess that I have tried to engage in vegetarianism, but without success, and I still love flying. On the other hand, I increasingly believe that if we all do a small part, we can improve the state of the planet and mitigate our passage through this land.

What is sustainable tourism?

So, what is sustainable tourism?…

Sustainable Tourism is a way of traveling and discovering a destination, where we respect the culture, the environment, and the people, preserving local traditions and natural resources and giving prominence to resident communities.

Viajar Verde

That said, what I bring you here is a set of steps that we can follow to contribute to more sustainable tourism.

Ideally, all these actions would be part of us, as responsible travelers. But even if it’s impossible to fulfill them all, it’s already a great help if we can incorporate some into our travels.

1/ Travel in a more sustainable way

monge no comboio - monk at train station

If you’re like me, you love to fly! However, airplanes are one of the transports that most contribute to carbon emissions. Thus, the goal is to reduce the use of them to the indispensable.

If you’re going to a distant destination, this will be almost impossible. But within countries, why not opt ​​for a train journey instead of an internal flight?

You can also try to choose a more efficient company or join the carbon offset programs that some of them have.

For short distances, think twice before getting in the car. If you go on foot or by bicycle, you’ll be more attentive to everything that crosses your path, and from there, you can have great travel experiences.

2/ Choose a greener hotel

eco hotel

There are more and more lodgings that make sustainability one of their main banners. Whether because they already use renewable energies, use recyclable materials, and even dedicate themselves to organic farming. Therefore, it’s not that difficult to find a more ecological accommodation.

And why not choose a homestay or a B&B? You’ll be helping the community of the place you’re visiting.

In addition to where you are, you can also reduce your footprint through the way you act.

So, don’t ask to change towels or sheets every day (you don’t do it at home, do you?), and take your own bathroom products. If you really have to use the ones the hotel offers, take the rest with you and reuse it during your next trip if you don’t finish them. In the end, don’t forget to recycle the packaging. Ah, also turn off the water while taking a shower.

Television, lights, and heating are also to turn off if you’re not in the room.

3/ Reduce the use of plastic

travel pack

It’s already a recurring reminder, but it never hurts to repeat it: reduce your plastic usage. Try to take a reusable bottle with you and avoid bags, cups, straws, or other plastic materials whenever possible, especially if they are single-use.

4/ Always take the trash with you

gaivota seagull

Whether you’re on the beach, hiking along the trails, or even when walking the city’s streets. Leave each place you visit as you found it or even better. If you come across a piece of trash, why not pick it up and put it in the right place? And why not join a beach cleaning or even start your own?

5/ Support local businesses, but make conscious purchases

mercado local market

Always choose to buy at local stores to help the community of the place you’re visiting. Ensure that the product you will take home was actually produced there, or at least in that country, and not “Made in China.”

However, also pay attention to what you are buying. Avoid objects made from animal origin elements, such as skin or ivory, or products made of coral.

6/ Respect animal life

africa savana africana

Whatever your destination, it’s essential that you respect the environment and its inhabitants.

I know it can be a dream to interact with wild animals, climb on an elephant or run a hand over a tiger’s fur, but NEVER DO THAT! Many of the animals that are “available” to tourists have been uprooted from their natural habitat. They also often live in terrible conditions or are even the target of abuse.

Fortunately, this type of activity is getting smaller and smaller, but it will only cease to exist entirely on the day when there is no demand. So it’s in our hands!

If you like wild animals, why not go on a safari or a nature walk and see them in their natural habitat?

Respecting animals also means looking, but not touching or feeding. Keep that in mind.

It’s hard … but it’s worth reading!

In June 2019, National Geographic published an article, by Natasha Saly, with photographs of Kirsten Luce, which was a real punch in the stomach.
“Suffering unseen: The dark truth behind wildlife tourism” shows the backstage of many animal attractions and how these animals live, only to be explored in exchange for a pat or, mainly, a photograph for social media


There are countless articles online that give advice on becoming a more sustainable tourist, but I wanted to leave you with the golden rules that I’m guided by today.

I’ll not lie to you. When I was young and beginning my first international trips, I was amazed by everything I experienced.

I even visited some places where I touched the turtles or bought bananas to give to the monkeys.

I thought it was funny when they gave me a liquid in a plastic bag to drink through a plastic straw.

I’m not proud.

Since then (and many years have passed), I’ve changed with what I’ve seen and learned. After all, this is part of our evolution as travelers and as human beings.

Therefore, I always keep these “six commandments” in mind. Even if I sometimes fail to apply them in full (as in air transport or accommodation), any change in favor of sustainability will contribute to a better future for us all.

What about you? Do you already include some of these tips in your travels? Have more suggestions to add? Share in the comment box below.

And if you found these tips valuable, share them on social media. Let’s build a better future together!

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Marlene is the creator of Marlene On The Move. A journalist by profession, she created the blog to share her adventures, in Portugal, destination on which she writes for Portuguese digital publications, as in the World. It's not uncommon for her to travel to new countries and discover new cultures.

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