Travel has a way of allowing us to connect with and learn from ourselves, our cultures, and our surroundings. It’s meant to bring joy and experience, and open our eyes to the bigger picture so we can ensure that those who come after us are able to do the same thing.
With the rise of remote work these days, spending weeks and months on the road has become more attainable than ever before. As such, it’s important to ensure that we’re doing everything we can to be a more responsible traveller.
What is Responsible Travel?
Responsible travel, at its core, is being fully immersed in your destination by being culturally and socially aware of your surroundings and your impact- whether large or small.
How to be a responsible traveller?
While care to be as sustainable as possible when travelling is one of the most important parts, that’s not all there is to responsible tourism. Our goal as travellers and tourists should always be to minimize the negative impact of our travel while taking extra care to see if our actions can result in positive actions for the communities that we explore.
Want to learn more about how you can be a responsible traveller? Here are some tips!
- Choose Eco-friendly travel options when possible.
Travel transportation, by far, is one of the main pillars of exploring the world, and since we can’t bike or walk to the other side of the world, we have to opt for using other modes of transportation. This is why it’s important to choose providers who take sustainability and responsible travel as seriously as you do. One of the main ways in which airlines can reduce their environmental footprint is by modernizing their fleets. Luckily, new technologies, such as the one Air France is employing, allow for lighter planes that consume less fuel and produce fewer greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. A lighter aircraft consumes less fuel which results in the reduction of CO2 emissions.
- Support local communities first.
This goes without saying, but one of the best ways to have a more authentic travel experience is to interact with the locals and support local businesses. Our favourite way of doing this is asking locals where they shop, where they eat, where they like to spend time on weekends. Not only does this allow you to get a glimpse of what it means to live there, but you get a chance to see things that most tourists won’t.
- Respect the local cultures
Travelling to any country or city is a privilege. People let you into their homes and the least we can do is be respectful. This can be something as simple as bowing your head to say hello in some Asian countries, or adhering to a more modest attire in certain Middle countries, or being respectful in places of worship.
- Leave no trace
There’s more to this movement than just a famous Instagram account. Leave no travel essentially comes down to picking up after yourself and not impacting the land that you’re on in a negative way.
- Use Sustainable materials
This is the simplest way to ensure that you’re being a responsible traveller. Little things like using reusable water bottles and straws, avoiding the use of extra plastic, using reusable cutlery are all changes that we should be making in our daily lives- so it’s not that big of a step to practice those on the road as well as extending on the partners we chose for our travel.
For example, Air France’s priority is to reduce its consumption of single-use materials derived from petrochemicals. As a result, after testing several alternatives, they have opted to use cardboard cups and wooden cutlery and mixing sticks certified by the FSC label, which guarantees responsible forest management.
This avoids the use of over 1,300 tons of plastic per year. Since 2019, Air France is replacing onboard all its flights: 100 million plastic cups with paper cups. 85 million plastic cutlery items with pieces made and packaged from bio-based materials. 25 million plastic sticks with wooden mixers. The company has not distributed plastic straws since 2015, which is 1.3 million fewer plastic units. Additionally, some efforts are also made in innovation to further replace traditional fossil jet fuels by sustainable aviation fuels whenever possible and available.
- Give Back
There are many ways to give back to the planet and the communities that you visit. This can be done by sharing a skill or knowledge you have, promoting the local small businesses that you love, or just by donating where possible (to responsible organizations).
- Do your research before volunteering
With voluntourism on the rise, there are tons of ways that you can volunteer to help while travelling, but be mindful that sometimes there volunteering opportunities do more harm than good. Always research.
- Eat Local
This goes without saying. As foodies, the best part of travel for us, is trying new cuisines.
- Learn the language
While this isn’t always needed, learning a few keywords and phrases will not only be handy when you’re in a country that doesn’t have English as the primary language, but it also shows the locals that you respect their culture enough to try to communicate with them.
- Avoid contributing to over-tourism (wherever possible)
Listen, we get it – sometimes you want to go to the place where everyone went and eat the same thing and take the same photos. We’ve been there, too. And while some of our favourite places on the planet are suffering from over-tourism (looking at you, Venice), there are ways to not contribute to the overall problem. Easy ways include travelling in the off-season so tourists are not a huge burden on the city/country’s resources; staying in places a little farther way and exploring off the beaten path, etc, are all easy ways to be a responsible traveller.
- Be respectful with photography
One of our biggest pet peeves is tourists taking photos of locals without their permission – particularly of kids. Be a good person and ask before snapping away. It’s a nice thing to do.
- Reduce your carbon footprint
There are many ways to offset your carbon footprint, but the easiest way is to contribute to reforestation efforts. Tree planting protects biodiversity, helps communities, stores carbon enriches soils and replenishes water .carbon storage, soil enrichment and water replenishment. And a good example of this is Air France’s Trip and Tree program that helps enable customers to reduce their environmental footprint by supporting certified reforestation projects. In figures, the Trip and Tree program represents more than 200,000 trees planted, representing the support of 25 projects on 4 continents.
And it’s easy to do for those who are travelling via Air France. At the time of booking, customers can make a donation of their choice to finance a tree planting project around the world. This option is also available via My Reservations or when checking in on the Air France website. It is possible to contribute to the Trip and Tree program at any time, even without an Air France reservation, by making a donation directly on the Trip and Tree website. Customers can choose the project they wish to support among those proposed and follow its progress.
In 2020, a project located in Ontario, financed entirely, by the donations received from travellers and partners was added to the program. A new project has just been launched to follow up on this first planting in 2020/2021. This project also aims to support Ontario farm families and the planting target is 3500 trees. Over the past century, woodland cover in southern Ontario has declined to the point where it is now only 25% of its original level. In collaboration with Pur Projet, Air France is supporting the owners of several farms in Ontario to restore ecological corridors for local species. The tree species chosen are adapted to the local area and grown from locally harvested and regionally adapted seeds. In addition, most of the species chosen are pioneer species, which can withstand the cold Canadian winters.
- Thoroughly research all wildlife and animal interactions
While one of the most common travel activities for travellers is to take photos with animals, be sure that the animals are in fact while and treated in a humane way. Research is key here.
Learning how to be a responsible traveller isn’t that hard. It’s all about being more mindful of our actions and surroundings and having everyone’s best interest in mind.
This post is created in partnership with Air France, but all thoughts are our own.