ECOLOGIC : Be a responsible vacationer

15-May-2019: Pavitra Sriprakash, Director and Chief Designer at Shilpa Architects Planners Designers writes a weekly column on Sustainability for The New Indian Express titled “ECOLOGIC”. This week she writes about how to reduce the vacation footprint…

Full article below: (Also available at The New Indian Express Website)

Be a responsible vacationer

As many of us gear up for a summer vacation – away from the heat and grime of the cities – it is useful to review some sustainable travel tips in order to keep our eco-footprint tight.

While planning a vacation the first eco-sensitive decision is deciding where to go. How far one travels often determines a bulk of your ‘holiday emissions’. Any travel that can be done by modes of transport other than by plane is generally more earth-friendly. Short haul flights, especially those less than 500 km are especially bad in terms of eco-footprint. While choosing airlines also, planes with higher occupancies or more efficient aircrafts with larger seating capacities are better from a carbon emissions per person stand point.

Another great idea is to look at eco-tourism spots. These holidays are part of a resort or community which supports sustainable development and does not negatively impact the environment. Some of them even go so far as to support local communities- so look out for a socially and environmentally conscious choice. It is usually advertised when a hotel or resort is ‘eco’ or ‘sustainable’ – whether they recycle, have effective waste management, use sustainable products or go to the lengths of using renewable energy like solar or hydroelectric power.

There are ways to remain responsible on your holidays, too. For starters respect the local environment. Do not remove or damage local plants and animals. It is also advised to not feed animals. Any recreation activity which could potentially harm the environment should also be avoided – such as jet skiing which leaks diesel onto the water or other sports which challenge man vs wild boundaries.

Wherever the location, remember to conserve water, especially in hill stations where water is already scarce. Take short showers and avoid filling up the tub. Use refillable water containers instead of consuming several small sized PET bottles. Minimize the use of personal care products that the hotels’ supply. Most of these are made of single use plastics, and carrying your own toothbrush and comb saves on the single, one use we will otherwise consume from the hotel. Similarly, for other products like shampoos and washes – carrying your own means less used, less used means more saved from landfills! Most hotels today have signs in their bathrooms regarding reusing the towels or on top of the beds with a note on linen change. By choosing to skip towel replacements and not changing the bed linens every day, it is possible to save water and energy while also increasing the lifespan of these linens, thus reducing replacement costs.

Reduce and recycle while you are on the go. Continue carrying a bag with you to cut down on plastics and always minimise the type of disposable plates, spoons and cups that you may use along the way. If you do have to use single use disposables- please do not litter and carry them back to recycle.

Last but not least, watch what you buy for souvenirs. Do not buy anything made from animal hides, body parts, bones, shell, ivory or coral – these could be unethically harvested, so when in doubt of their origin it is best avoided. Leave nothing but footprints- be a sensible vacationer this summer!