How to travel sustainably and responsibly?

Here’s a guide for the responsible tourist, one who acts in favor of people and biodiversity. Discover how to travel sustainably and ethically.

It’s sometimes hard to believe that by wanting to discover a country, by participating in its tourism development and international influence, we’re participating in the deterioration of its fauna, flora and sometimes even its ancestral traditions carried on by its ethnic groups.

Unfortunately, the current accessibility of tourism and the opening up of borders is having harmful, sometimes even disastrous, consequences for certain regions of the world. In response to this alarming situation, a new way of traveling is emerging. This new way of traveling is capable of reconciling everything: satisfying the endless appetite of travelers, democratizing the discovery of the most remote regions, taking care of ecosystems and supporting the local economy.

What’s it called? Eco-responsible and sustainable tourism. Contrary to popular belief, sustainable travel is within everyone’s reach. It’s just that you need the right « ethical and ecological tips » to give travel a human face without losing its appeal and excitement. That’s why Generation Voyage offers you this little guide full of « green » tips.

Soft mobility and the praise of slowness

Mobilité douce - voyager durable

Photo credit: Shutterstock – Soloviova Liudmyla

It’s true that it’s not always possible to travel without taking a plane, and therefore burning kerosene. While border countries and some European countries can be reached by train, bus or even car, air travel is often the only way to get abroad. That said, there’s nothing to stop you from reducing the frequency of these air journeys in favor of local escapades.

If the opportunity arises, you should know that traveling to a foreign country by soft means of transport has a whole host of advantages. For example, between your own culture and the one you’ve come to expect in your destination country, you’ll encounter a whole host of other cultures with different nuances. And when you don’t fly, you don’t suffer from jet lag or sudden exposure to new bacteria. Our bodies gradually become accustomed to the changes and don’t suffer any « shocks ».

In concrete terms, you can now choose to travel by train, the most energy-efficient form of motorized transport on the planet. In addition to rail, you can also opt for car-sharing. Carpooling is on the rise for a number of reasons: economic benefits for drivers and passengers alike, ecological advantages and the creation of social ties. And let’s not forget local buses, often folkloric and full of authenticity.

But where it’s possible to dispense with the big greenhouse gas emitter that is air travel, it’s certainly on the spot. That is, when you decide to visit an entire country in a minimum amount of time. How about slow travel instead? Don’t travel to see more. Don’t see everything, but see it better. Soak up a place, reconnect with nature, talk to the locals, let yourself be carried away by the unexpected and don’t have rigid expectations. Look for experiences rather than destinations. Ask yourself: « What do I want to experience? » rather than « Where do I want to go? By adopting this way of thinking about travel, you’ll soon be able to dispense with domestic flights and itineraries that fly over an entire territory in a minimum of time.

Decarbonized activities

Activité décarbonée

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Ethical travel means making the right choices in terms of local activities and service providers. Experiences and organizations must respect the environment and local ethnic groups. Here are a few ideas for low-carbon activities that are good for your health, your morale and nature.

  • Hiking, from a few hours to several days, sleeping in lodgings inserted into nature;
  • Cycling and mountain biking;
  • Kayak itineraries and, why not, camping at every stage;
  • Themed outings focusing on observation and ecosystem awareness;
  • Solidarity and participative activities with local people and communities to discover their ancestral traditions and way of life;
  • Outings with naturalist and scientific guides to learn in a fun way;
  • Eco-cruises in small groups, aboard an eco-friendly craft (sailboat, catamaran or traditional boat).

If you’re looking for a more advanced way to get involved in green and ethical activities, why not try voluntourism, participatory tourism or even solidarity tourism? The aim is to make yourself useful, whether it’s collecting garbage, taking part in local events, taking part in building sites, working to improve living conditions or access to education. You can also take part in unique experiences, such as 100% wilderness expeditions or hitchhiking trips.

On the other hand, helicopter tours, jet skiing and quad biking in the desert are a thing of the past.

Responsible accommodation

Hébergement responsable - voyager durable

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Accommodation is one of the fundamental aspects of sustainable and responsible travel. The hotel industry is the second biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the world of tourism. Destruction of natural habitats, over-consumption of natural resources, creation of waste: the impact of certain establishments on the planet is catastrophic.

Fortunately, in recent years, a number of ethical and eco-friendly accommodation options have sprung up across the continents. Country cottages, family lodgings, green inns, eco-responsible campsites, sustainable hotels: the options for sleeping while limiting your ecological footprint are numerous. To help you choose the right establishments, there are a number of platforms, travel agencies and specialized websites, such as We Go GreenR, Ethik Hôtels, Chilowé, Allibert Trekking, etc.

Last but not least, give preference to addresses that have been awarded a quality label and are committed to sustainable tourism. There’s something for every type of traveler: from those who dream of a farm cottage to those who dream of a luxury hotel or ecolodge nestled in the heart of nature.

Don’t hesitate to compare offers (here again, take your time) and identify those that make « those little things » seem so small, but which ultimately make all the difference in terms of a virtuous tourist circle.

Committed destinations

Destination engagée - voyager durable

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Every year, billions of travellers cross borders. While the behavior and personal choices of these travelers largely influence the sustainability of their trips, the behavior of tourism professionals also counts. So, to enable future generations to discover unspoilt and authentic places, choose destinations that are committed to sustainable development.

As such, make an informed choice and look to departments, regions or countries that are implementing initiatives to protect and preserve their biodiversity. What’s more, choose restaurants that work in partnership with local producers, urban eco-neighborhoods where bicycle paths are king, villages that are warm under their solar panels, and so on.

In France, several destinations are renowned for their commitment to the environment: the Les Rousses resort, Angers, the Cévennes, the Canal du Midi, Strasbourg, Brittany, the Landes and the Camargue. Urban getaways or rural exoduses, in the mountains or by the sea, blue-white-red trips can also be green!

For a change of scenery, you can also decide to travel green in Europe. Denmark, Crete, Switzerland, Finland,Iceland, Norway, the Azores andAustria are all champions of responsible tourism.

And don’t forget the far-flung countries of the world that are committed to green, sustainable tourism. Costa Rica, Tanzania, the Republic of Palau, French Polynesia, the Galapagos Islands, the Bahamas, Benin, Mongolia, Rwanda, Bhutan: these destinations are ideal for a carbon-neutral itinerant trip, scattered with eco-responsible accommodation, aboard an electric car or in landscapes where the well-being of wildlife and plant species is paramount.

A distant journey… on your doorstep

Voyage de proximité - voyager durable

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Another way to travel sustainably and responsibly is to reinvent your vision of travel. If travel is often associated with far-off places, why not think of it differently, focusing more on proximity? Among other things, this allows us to take up the ecological challenge and contribute to containing global warming, while satisfying travelers’ need for discovery and novelty.

It’s perfectly possible to get the most out of traveling « at home » rather than abroad. Happiness is not only to be found in front of the Taj Mahal, at the foot of the Temples of Angkor or at the summit of Machu Picchu. Travelling far and wide, marvelling at your surroundings, has much more to do with the sensations generated by an experience than with the destination in which it takes place. So why not consider one or more trips to France, capable of bringing you the same emotions as you would have experienced thousands of kilometers away?

In the mood for Colorado? Go to the Colorado Provençal in Vaucluse. Looking for the Sahara? Here’s the Dune du Pilat in Nouvelle Aquitaine. Fancy a temple in Myanmar? Head for the Palais du Facteur Cheval in Drôme. Looking for Cappadocia in Turkey? Discover the organs of Ille-sur-Têt in the Pyrénées Orientales. Fancy the endless steppes of Mongolia? Explore Lake Nino in Haute Corse. Fancy the most beautiful river in the world? You can’t ignore the Loire.

As well as the scenery, perhaps you’re dreaming of tasting other cultures and having powerful human experiences? Then step out of your comfort zone and meet shamans, nomads and expatriates in France. Would you like to discover yourself on a journey of initiation? In France, there are temples, bastides and ashrams that employ the same rituals as in India.

Or perhaps you’d just like to relax and spend some time with your loved ones? The beaches of Brittany, Corsica and the Basque Country are more than up to the task. And if you’re looking for a thrilling and risky adventure in uncharted territory, we’ve got just the thing. Isn’t a hunter-gatherer survival course in the forest ofOrleans more intense than a hotel itinerary full of Western tourists?

As you can see, France has a wealth of wonders to offer you the thrill of distant travel.

These little bonus eco-actions

Artisanat local - Pérou

Photo credit: Shutterstock – Shannon West

You’ve selected professionals involved in sustainable tourism, booked your eco-responsible accommodation and listed activities that have no impact on biodiversity and/or focus on local people? Great! Now it’s time to pack your suitcase. By the way, what do you take with you when you travel as a responsible tourist? Simple: just the essentials, and always leave a little room for souvenirs from local crafts. Depending on your destination, be sure to pack appropriate clothing (especially for places of worship). Leave out any outward signs of wealth that might contrast with the country’s standard of living.

When you’re packing your bag, don’t forget the accessories you need to avoid pollution and over-consumption. Tote-bags (washable and reusable cloth bags), solid beauty and skincare products, reusable water bottles and cutlery: take off with a real zero-waste kit.

Souvenirs that you don’t buy, like photographs, are wonderful. However, before taking a portrait of a local, always ask his or her permission, and take the time to establish a dialogue if he or she invites you to do so. In natural or archaeological areas, be sure to read the rules to ensure you don’t commit theft or damage nature by collecting a souvenir.

Finally, on your return, become a storyteller about the richness and fragility of ecosystems. Make those around you aware of environmental issues and the living conditions experienced during your trip, so that the « green murmur » is heard more and more.