From choosing homestays and public transportation to bringing your own tableware and toiletries: Make your trips eco-friendly

The year 2017 is designated by the United Nations as the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development. Two years later, in 2019, it has become one of the biggest travel trends in the world. In August of that year, teen activist Greta Thunberg refused to take a plane, contributing to atmospheric carbon pollution, and sailed across the Atlantic - she traveled by boat from Plymouth, England, to attend a UN summit in New York, US - putting a climate crisis and sustainable travel into the spotlight. But according to a global survey conducted by a leading digital travel platform, 37% of respondents agreed that they did not know how to travel going forward. If traveling is at the top of your New Year's resolution list and you start mapping your escapees, here is a ready reckoner that you can refer to to make your trips eco-friendly.

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Aim for a zero-waste experience

As a sustainable traveler, one should aim for a zero-waste experience. The use of available towels and toiletries in hotels and stays generate waste that eventually ends up adding a pile of trash. I traveled to Jageshwar Dham (Uttarakhand) and brought in wood toothbrushes, shampoo and toothpaste. We asked hotel staff to remove available toiletries from the room, said Madhu Mittal, a member of the Noida residents group, which leads anti-plastic campaigns and promotes maintenance.

Rashi Grover, who is leading an initiative in his Green Park locality, promotes waste segregation and discourages littering, adding, We carry our own hand towels in bags that we keep washing and reusing use throughout our journey. Although paper towels are considered eco-Friendly, they still constitute the waste we wish to avoid.

'Over the past 1 year, queries for environment-friendly stays have doubled'

To ensure an eco-friendly stay, Nishand Venugopal, another resident in Delhi, did extensive research before embarking on a journey. He said, I am always looking for a stay that incorporates friendly environment skills and is built of mud instead of concrete. Being a birder, I also make sure that the hotel's location or stay is not restricted to the natural wildlife of the region.

Supriya Sardana, who promotes sustainability in her Noida locality through campaigns and workshops, says she is choosing for homestays instead of hotels. I prefer homestays as they do not contribute to the waste of single-use plastics and other fancies made by hotels.

Prerna, who is also the founder of an eco-friendly travel agency, added that there has been an increase in the number of people who prefer to stay in the environment. All of our residences are mud constructions and the areas have more than 30% green cover. Over the past year, queries for environmentalists have doubled, with many choosing for places that enjoy environmental practices such as water harvesting, growing their own veggies and avoiding in the use of single-use plastic products, among other things, he tells us.

Traveler is keen on sustainable holidays

55% of global travelers report that they are more determined to make sustainable travel choices than they were a year ago, but barriers include lack of knowledge and appealing options when trying to make it happen.

41% asked travel companies to offer tips on how to be more sustainable while traveling

68% want the money they spend traveling to give back to the local community

52% of global travelers say they are now changing behaviors to become more sustainable while traveling, such as walking, riding a bike or climbing whenever possible

72% of global travelers are looking for authentic experiences that are representative of local culture

56% of respondents said that if there was an option to offset the carbon footprint on their vacation accommodation, they would do so

 Take a public transport Take a public transport

Although a road trip with friends in your own car can entice you to have your own 'Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara' moment, this is not the best choice when trying to reduce the carbon footprint. Traveling by bus or train is an eco-friendly option for sustainable travelers. Although not all carbon emissions are preventable, obtaining a public conveyance may at least distribute emissions, said Vikrant Tongad, an environmentalist from Greater Noida.

Bring the trash back Replace the trash can

Make sure you return any junk created while traveling and recycle it. Even after trying our best, some garbage was generated during our two-day trip to Dehradun. This includes a couple of tissue paper, two paper sheets and two wrapped chips, which my kids insist on having. I brought them back home to make an eco-brick that is not here, says Sameera Satija, a Gurgaon resident, who started a bank crockery bank in 2018.

An eco-brick is a concept that recycles plastic bottles and trash or wrappers. We put plastic bottles with all the trash to the tree, so they become solid as bricks. These eco-bricks have many uses. I made some dividers on my lawn and a dog-house on them, Sameera added.

Use your own cutlery Use your own cutlery

Whether it's a cup of tea, a bottle of water, or plates and spoons, bring your own cutlery every single vacation. Aside from the cutlery and steel water bottles, I always bring home cooked foods to avoid disposable food. In India, the traditional dhabas is by and large zero-waste as they use stainless steel so we prefer to eat there, Supriya says.

Sameera added, I have my own set of stainless steel cutouts that I use whenever we eat anywhere that serves food in disposables, Her cutlery pouch includes stainless steel straws, spoons and forks.

Go local Go local

To have a holistic eco-friendly experience, you can opt for local produce, try local cuisines, explore local villages and mingle with locals. During our trip to Sikkim, we bought products from local farmers in a village and also tried local cuisine on the available dishes at our homestay, Supriya says.

He also decided to talk to some local schoolkids while on a high altitude trip to Sikkim. Plekking is like plugging - you pick up a trash can while walking. We included a local guide who was very impressed with the idea. Some school kids also participated and we made some new friends! he shares.

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