Author: Zoë Smith

Green Travel Resolutions – 10 Ways to Travel Responsibly in 2012 

Our “Sustainable Travel” series is sponsored by Global Basecamps.  Global Basecamps is specialty travel company that helps independent travelers research and book locally owned boutique hotels, off-the-beaten path lodges and multi-day excursions all over the world. Whether hiking the Inca Trail, experiencing a traditional Japanese Ryokan, or relaxing on the beaches of Thailand, Global Basecamps specializes in designing completely customized itineraries to meet each travelers specific priorities and match their travel style.

From planning a road trip in your home country to going back to basics in the developing world or embracing the slow travel movement, these 10 New Year’s resolutions will help even the most conscientious travelers to travel more responsibly in 2012.

#1 I will take my time

We’ve all done it – the horrendously over-crammed itinerary that finds us dashing from bus to bus and flight to flight to jam all the ‘must-see’ sights into a too-short travel window – and it’s likely that most of us know all-too-well the effect that this can have on the environment. Well, 2012 is the year to slow it down and focus on the experience instead of the to-do list. Take local transport, stay longer in small, rural communities and ditch those domestic flights. Not only is it the most environmentally friendly way to see the world, but it’s a perfect excuse to relax, enjoy the journey and really explore those places you might have previously dashed through.

>> Read more about the case for slow travel 

#2 I will give back to local communities

Set yourself a target – for each country or place you visit, give a little something back. It could be volunteering, delivering needed supplies through an organization like Stuff Your Rucksack or donating money to a local charity, but for those with little time or money to spare, it can be as simple as considering where and how you spend your money. Take that tuk-tuk instead of walking, leave the helpful waiter a tip, buy your souvenirs from the local handicrafts market and grab some snacks for your journey from the little old lady hawking bananas at the bus stop. Soon you’ll realize that not only are your dollars going directly into the hands of those who need it most, but you’re having a much more ‘real’, local experience (and probably saving money too!).

>> Learn more ways to travel guilt free in developing countries 

#3 I will revamp my packing list

Ardent eco-warriors will have already scribbled a hoard of eco-friendly goodies on their Christmas list, but for the rest of us, let’s vow from now on to carefully consider all new gear purchases and update our packing lists with a few power and waste conserving additions. Let’s invest in a wind-up torch and a water filter for those long trekking expeditions and take along a solar charger so that we can effortlessly charge our ipods whilst getting a suntan. For those reluctant to get their wallet out so soon after Christmas, instead concentrate on cutting down the kilos – pack as lightly as possible and leave all the non-necessities behind. You’d be surprised what a difference this small change can make to your carbon footprint.

>> Check out great eco-friendly gear ideas

#4 I will offset my carbons

Carbon offsetting may be one of the most ferociously debated eco-friendly practices – does it really make a difference or just ease our guilty consciences – but doing something is always better than doing nothing. For those flights you simply have to take, paying into a carbon offset scheme can assure you that some good will come out of your air miles. If your airline doesn’t offer an offsetting scheme, log on to Carbonfund to calculate your own offsets and pay money into a scheme of your choice.

#5 I will sleep only in eco-friendly lodgings

No, this doesn’t mean you have to fork out a small fortune to live it up in a luxury eco-lodge (although if you can afford it, why not?). Instead let’s take a stand against big-budget chain hotels that fail to meet environmental standards and seek out more sustainable options. If money is an issue, opt for the ultimate back-to-basics lodgings and try camping, or else choose small, locally run establishments that are likely to be both cheap and conserving of local amenities. Don’t be afraid to ask questions before you make your choice, too – some hotels have great sustainable practices in place, like running schemes to help the local community or recycling their waste and grey water, so make sure you support the places that are making the effort.

>> Find more ways to travel sustainably on a budget 

#6 I will show other traveler’s the (green) light

Once you’ve picked up a few good habits yourself, make it your mission to spread the word to other travelers along the way. Whether encouraging other trekkers to carry out their rubbish and stick to the tracks, or persuading first-time travelers that the local transport is not as scary as it seems, it’s not about preaching, but sharing and exchanging advice. If you stayed at a great place or had an inspiring local experience, pass on the details to others and make sure you ask them for their own recommendations too.

#7 I will try it the ‘local’ way

Squat toilets, cold water showers, bizarre lumps of mystery meat swimming around in your soup… the world is full of strange, uninviting surprises, but this year, stop worrying about the unknown and make a promise to at least try it the ‘local’ way. Grit your teeth and enjoy the wake-up call of the freezing cold shower, embrace the limited electricity supply and catch up on your reading instead and stop fretting over the fact the fruits at the local market are all funny shapes and sizes. If you try it and really can’t adjust then there’s no harm done, but more often than not, you’ll find you’re far more adaptable than you thought. And as we all know, there’s no better way to be a responsible traveler than to truly live as the locals do.

#8 I will take a trip in my own country

The ‘staycation’ has been a buzzword in the eco-travel industry for a while now, and not without good reason. Make a decision this year to take at least one trip in your own country. Pack your mates into the car for a road trip, tackle on of your country’s most famous hikes or hit the tourist trail in a different city. Not only will you cut down on travel-related carbons and avoid the pitfalls of jet lag, but you may find yourself surprised by how much your own country has to offer.

#9 I will travel technology-free

Ok, so as a travel-writer, I’ve already committed the cardinal sin of taking my laptop traveling with me, but I try to make up for it by being (mostly) cell-phone and gadget free whilst I’m on the road. This year, aim to cut back on the gadgets and embrace being technology free for as much of your vacation as possible. Consider if you really need your cell-phone on a two-week holiday, or at the very least, can it hibernate at the bottom of your bag for a day or two? Can you go a whole weekend getaway without checking your emails or forgo the hairdryer or electric razor for the duration of your trip? Even if it seems impossible to travel gadget-free, vow to set aside at least one a day a week, where you avoid technology and simply enjoy your travel experience.

#10 I will explore the great outdoors

For everyone who’s made a New Year’s resolution to get fitter or lead a healthier lifestyle, the good news is that green travel can be a great excuse for making your travels more active.  The trick is to cram your travel itinerary with outdoors activities that utilize (but don’t damage) the natural environment – cycling, swimming, climbing and hiking, are all great ways to explore your destination and get your heart pumping, but even more adventurous activities like kayaking, paragliding or horseback riding, are still fuel-free and nature-friendly.

>> Read about six endangered phenomena to see now 

Need help implementing your New Year’s travel resolutions? Global Basecamps can help! Whether you’re looking for a unique eco lodge in Vietnam, need help planning yourInca Trail Trek, or would like to immerse yourself in the local culture on your next trip, Global Basecamps can arrange a custom tour for you ensuring your goals are met and that you are traveling responsibly. For example, Global Basecamps Thailand tours can include jungle treks, white water rafting, and visits to ethnic minority villages allowing you to experience the lifestyle and culture of the friendly Thai people. Further, Global Basecamps partners with Carbon Fund to have a tree planted for every one of their trips, meaning their clients can rest assured knowing they are helping to offset their carbon footprint and aid in reforestation efforts.

Read more about eco-friendly travel: 

Photos by:  AnnieGreenSprings, UncleweedPilotGirlCaptain Kimo, Moyan_Brenn, LULZ Photography