Mindful consumption: Becoming a better traveller
A global survey taken last year found that as consumers, we have ‘dramatically evolved’. 60% of people surveyed said they were making more sustainable and ethical purchases than they were pre-pandemic. With conscious consumerism on the rise, there’s no denying that we’re more thoughtful about the impact of our purchases. But as we start to adjust our lifestyles, how do we apply those values to our travels?
While conversations around the impact of travel have been steadily increasing, it’s apparent that eco tips such as packing light and reusing hotel towels aren’t enough. What’s needed is a new approach to travel entirely.
We’ve laid out how we think that could look below — our guide to travelling as a conscious consumer.
Ask yourself why you travel
The first step to travelling more consciously is questioning why and how you do it. If you were a frequent flier before the pandemic, is it a habit that you need to pick up again in the future? When you’re trying to capture the perfect travel photo, is it for yourself or for your following? And are the things on your bucket list yours or are they just places that society has deemed as must-sees? By questioning the way you’ve done things in the past, you can cut out mindless habits and begin travelling with intention.
What you can do
Figure out what you’re looking for when you travel and then see if you can find an alternative closer to home. If it’s simply some time to switch off from work, then you can do that without flying. Or if you enjoy learning about other cultures, you could find a way to do so in your local city.
Start travelling less
Travelling less will come naturally once you start questioning your reasons behind it. But it’s also a vital part of being a conscious consumer. As we seek out ‘greener’ alternatives, we must keep in mind that the best option is always to consume less. The same rule applies to travelling. Though travelling less doesn’t sound exciting initially, you’ll find that it may enhance your love for exploring. By committing to travelling less often, you may start valuing the time you get away even more.
What you can do
Imagine that you’re only going to be able to take one trip abroad within the next few years. Think about where you would go and what you would do while you’re there. How does it look different to some of the other trips you’ve taken in the past? You may notice your imagined trip has far more meaning and excitement tied to it.
Consider how you engage with other cultures
Part of our growing consciousness has included how we engage with other cultures. Travel can and should be a powerful tool for learning about other lives and histories. But we’ve all been guilty of sticking with other Westerner’s while we’re away or even ‘familiar’ destinations that our family and friends have been to. When you do decide to travel abroad, make the most of the learning opportunities that travel can provide. Choosing under-the-radar places provides a more culturally-rich experience and lightens the burden for destinations suffering from over tourism. And by seeking out the stories that make up a country's past and present, you can be sure you’re getting an accurate and authentic understanding of a place.
What you can do
If possible, try to include tours and experiences with minority groups in the destination you’re visiting. Not only will it enrich your experience, but you’ll be supporting and hearing from voices that have been previously ignored. For instance, London and Paris have a number of Black history tours, and Morocco has female-led tours that support local women and share their experiences.
Go beyond damage control
Being aware of the negative impact you have as a tourist is important. But being aware of the positive impact that you could have is just as important. Travel is one of the most direct distributors of wealth. When you do go away, make sure that you’re putting your pounds to good use. This could include supporting regenerative tourism projects, social enterprises, local organisations and minority-owned businesses — basically anything that directly supports the local people and environment. Try to avoid chain restaurants and hotels that are internationally-owned, as the money doesn’t stay within the local economy.
What you can do
Look beyond minimising your impact with small changes such as reusing hotel towels. By switching your mindset to asking ‘how can I create a positive impact’, you could contribute towards making the destination better instead.