The young woman’s guide to becoming a responsible traveller
As a young female traveller, the importance of incorporating conscious travelling habits is growing even more. The consequences of increasing world travel and tourism are mounting and the damage is becoming more readily observable, so what’s a girl to do? The impact of travel starts with the individual, and small steps can start to effect positive change on a wider scale immediately.
Here, we detail exactly how you can get started on contributing to this change. Not all of these tips are exclusively directed at women, and not all are singular view of ‘responsible’ as just eco-friendly; here that meaning is extended to also being culturally sensitive or just plain safe! Travelling as a woman can be a vastly different experience to that of a man when encountering different cultures and customs. Hopefully these eight tips prove useful, whilst also giving you some inspiration for a different kind of travel experience than you may have considered before.
Do your research before you go
This starts with booking through a reputable company that meets your ideals of responsible tourism, checking safe areas that you will be visiting and researching the ethical principles of tourist activities in your destination, such as avoiding abusive animal attractions, tours involving people and voluntourism, and natural wonders buckling under the pressure of overuse.
Researching your destinations can give you a heads up on culturally appropriate dress and manners and the many countries that are committing to serious environmental and social policies. Basing trip destinations around policies that you agree with supports the political moves of countries and so voting with your feet can show the importance of making these policy commitments.
Walk or take public transport wherever you can
Not only will taking buses and trains over taxis be cheaper, you will see more of where you’re staying or a side of the city you might not have seen had you spent all your time in an Uber. The safety of being surrounded by many witnesses can also be a major deterrent on someone looking to target you.
Your carbon footprint also applies when flying to your destination. Try to use the most direct route to reduce unnecessary extra carbon miles, as well as packing light to reduce weight that adds to the fuel consumption in getting you to your destination.
Actively reduce the environmental impact of your tourism
When travelling, it can be very easy to consume more, and in a way that is less sustainable than you might necessarily be at home. Particularly when backpacking or when luggage space is at a premium, that reusable bottle may be sacrificed for disposable plastic ones when it comes down to that or more room for memorable souvenirs. Making sure reusable products are an essential part of your kit will not only reduce time looking for consumables, but significantly reduce demand for items that create growing levels of plastic waste.
As well as cleaning up and reducing your own litter, you can help reduce what has been left by others in a number of ways. Beach clean initiatives can be found running worldwide by local governments, organisations or charities. Bringing a Steripen with you to purify your own water will reduce your contribution to the wasteful worldwide amount of bottled water consumed daily. Even something as simple as forgoing a plastic straw in your drink all adds up in reducing your environmental impact.
Shop and eat local
Make sure that any souvenirs purchased are locally made, not mass produced imported goods, and avoid illegal trades such as ivory and furs. Women often make up a large proportion of crafts, garment and food workers, and by actively focusing on purchasing local services, this makes sure not only that the local area benefits from tourist spending power but that women are making their own money and contributing to the economy too.
Consider smaller scale accommodation options or eco-friendly hotels
Regardless of where you're staying, doing things such as opting in to a reduced laundry service will seriously reduce the amount of water wasted and making sure that electricals are switched to standby when not in use can have a significant impact. Giving the big resorts a miss and opting for small scale hotels, home shares or even 'ecotels' are an even better alternative. These eco hotels are making targeted commitments to being sustainable and environmentally friendly. Some famous eco hotels from around the world include: The Park Hyderabad in India, which has energy saving cladding surrounding the building; The Whitepod Eco Resort in Switzerland, which is made up of a series of contained pods that operate on reduced resource consumption; and the Hix Island House in Puerto Rico, designed by architect John Hix where the buildings are designed to harness natural wind energy and uses solar energy to power an entire guesthouse. Look out for the LEED accreditation which recognises the best resource efficient buildings and constructions in the world.
It is also worth considering booking smaller, family-run businesses or those with a specific focus on being eco-friendly. Smaller lodgings, particularly in remote areas, are often extremely resourceful with what is locally abundant. This in turn can give you a much better travel experience while you support the local economy and make sure that you aren’t contributing to the local iteration of international chain hotels’ enormous laundry bill. Small scale local food production will also be considerably less damaging to the environment compared to imported goods.
Make use of travelling women’s networks
This is one that’s responsible more in terms of safety than the environment, but being a woman in an unknown place can at times be dangerous and even just lonely. Maiden Voyage is an excellent resource for travelling working women. They provide meetups and networking opportunities for women abroad as well as guides to female friendly hotels (the best include double locking doors and a decent hairdryer!) The Facebook group Girls Love Travel is also a great place for ideas and help with your travels. They also facilitate a couch surfing service for women to help provide accommodation to other women on their travels.
Invest in a Mooncup
Particularly if you are travelling for several months at a time or if travelling around certain parts of Asia, sanitary pads and tampons can be extremely difficult to find. Invest in a Mooncup, a reusable silicone menstrual cup, and eliminate the problem of being caught off guard when your period comes, as well as the reducing the negative environmental impact by reducing the amount of waste you are producing. The Mooncup brand also supports charitable causes and has helped to fund the provision of sanitary products in countries such as Kenya, Uganda and Nepal. Mooncups are also an excellent sanitary product to use when you’re not travelling, and are worth being continuously used when you are at home.
Research companies’ environmental commitments
If you’re considering using a tour provider or agent, many companies are publishing mission statements on their ethical aims and commitment to responsible travel. Not only can you see whether an agent’s ethical ideals are compatible with yours, the most serious of ethical traders often provide updates on how they are doing and this public culpability is an excellent tool of holding tour providers to account for their actions. Here you may also be able to find any charitable interests a company may have. See if companies are supporting charities that help women worldwide, and know that your travels can positively impact other women. These mission statements may also give you some tips on how to make responsible choices on an individual level as well.
Written by Olivia.