Leave No Trace: How to travel responsibly


A more sustainable tourism industry is imperative for the planet’s future health. As it stands, we are depleting the very resources we promote. Irresponsible tourism is damaging both natural resources and social systems, while air travel and energy and water usage have a large footprint.

Dr Sonya Graci, director of sustainability solutions business, Accommodating Green, told Salt: “Tourism cannot sustain itself in its current form for much longer. Destinations are losing the resources people are attracted to; beaches are disappearing, wildlife is dying, the oceans are becoming barren. The status quo cannot be sustained.

“The impact of travel on the social, environmental and economic aspects of a community can be extremely detrimental: 15,000 cubic metres of water would typically supply 100 rural farmers for three years or 100 urban families for two years, and yet the same amount only provides 100 luxury hotel guests with water for less than two months.”

However, there are now hundreds of examples of travel organisations leading the way in providing more sustainable options for tourists, and we can also expect national standards and certification, as well as increased political work, to start driving tourism in the right direction.

As individuals, we can also play a role. We can all make a huge difference if we plan our trips responsibly, creating more demand for sustainable projects that produce win-win situations. So take a look below at Salt’s guide to responsible travel:


  • Look at providers’ and hotels’ sustainability and environmental policies before booking. Support the responsible ones
  • Use social media to share positive experiences of sustainable organisations
  • Think about your water usage; direct water use in hotels ranges from 100 to 2,000 litres per guest, per day
  • Learn about the communities and environment you are visiting
  • Respect cultural differences and dress appropriately
  • Use local transport or rent a hybrid or electric car
  • Support local economies by buying handmade souvenirs and eating in neighbourhood restaurants
  • Reduce your energy consumption. Turn off lights and appliances if you’re not using them. Don’t use too many towels. Put a jumper on instead of turning up the thermostat.
  • When buying food, buy produce that’s been sourced locally to reduce food miles
  • Fly less or offset your flight if you have to. Fly direct to help reduce emissions



  • Drop litter; carry your own reusable shopping bag so you don’t contribute to the plastics problem, and refill water containers rather than buying bottles
  • Stay silent if you’re concerned about a business’ environmental impact. Complain and tell people about it
  • Feed wild animals, pick plants or wild flowers
  • Buy drugs or engage in sex tourism
  • Buy products derived from endangered or protected species
  • Foster a begging economy by giving presents or money to local children
  • Take pictures without first asking for permission
  • Let bargaining become a sport – pay a fair price that both of you are happy with
  • Rely on foreign-run establishments, tours or activity companies
  • Think that everyone is there to serve you, even if many people’s livelihoods depend on tourism
  • Take part in sports or activities that damage the natural environment, for example dune buggy driving




Photo credit: Jose Maria Cuellar from flickr