Sustainability is the new buzzword, but do we really understand what it is? All we hear is ‘save water’ and ‘say no to plastic’, which has not solved the world’s problems, so far.
The UN World Commission on Environment and Development defines sustainability as “sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”
Why do we need sustainable travel?
Often, travellers resort to disposables as they want to move light and want it quick. Stays and restaurants wanting to cooperate with tourists have given into it. This culture has always brought in a lot of waste to these tourist areas. This waste, like most others, may not have been recycled and probably landed up in landfills.
Landfills are not the solution as they bring hazards like odour, smoke, greenhouse gases, leachates and so on. Therefore, managing our waste better and being sustainable, including while travel, is a necessity. Apart from carrying basic reusables, using public transportation, we must pay attention to where we stay. We must go beyond the marketing words of ‘eco-friendly’ and ‘green’ to understand and pick our stays.
How to spot sustainable accommodation?
Accommodations are sustainable when:
They have provisions of filtered water and reusable jugs, instead of packaged drinking water.
They provide bamboo toothbrushes that you can take home instead of plastic/silicon toothbrushes.
They have paperless check-ins to reduce their carbon footprint.
They provide soap and shampoo dispensers instead of tiny bottles of soap. These are natural so they do not pollute the oceans.
They have a rack to dry your towel, instead of sending it housekeeping each time.
They skip tea, coffee, sugar sachets and have jars of those instead.
They have a mini bar with organic food in biodegradable packaging, instead of those in MLPs.
They skip disposables like balloons and have natural reusable décor for celebrating special occasions.
They have reusable room slippers and laundry bags.
They use natural air fresheners instead of aerosols.
They check with you before cleaning the room during your stay.
They give used water another life by finally using it to flush.
They stress on group tours and car pooling over individual ones.
Their restaurants source ingredients from nearby, provide portions per person and reduce food wastage.
Their souvenir shop includes locally made, sustainably packaged items.
They are dependent on renewable resources like solar power, and dispose of their waste responsibly.
How you can make a difference by choosing a sustainable stay?
While it may not be possible for all accommodations to be absolutely sustainable, it is important to choose the one that checks off the most points. In other cases, we can request the stay for the sustainable alternative. We can also check while planning the trip and carry our own.
This would encourage them to continue to provide greener options and look for more. It will help to change the travel culture which has always brought in waste and shortage of resources at tourist destinations.
Every choice we make matters, so would you consciously choose a sustainable stay next?
Heena Shah is an avid traveller and covers topics such as sustainable travel and lifestyle.