Surf and sustainability go hand in hand! Learn eco-friendly tips for your next surf trip, from avoiding over-tourism to eco-conscious travel choices and accommodations
The bond between surfing and the sustainability wave is undeniable and thanks to our ever increasing global connectivity Surfers now have unprecedented access to remote corners of the world in search of the perfect wave. Whether it’s a serene beach gateway in Indonesia or an undiscovered break on the Australian coast, the thrill of finding these hidden gems has never been more accessible. However, embracing a jet-setter lifestyle, (yes Kim K and everyone with a private jet, we’re looking at you) is one of the fastest ways to leave a significant carbon footprint. But riding the wave of sustainability can be easier than you think.
Aligning the urge to explore all the world has to offer with eco-consciousness seems challenging but not impossible. Here are my top tips for sustainable tourism for your upcoming surf tip.
Firstly, what is sustainable tourism? Tourism focused on sustainability extends far beyond the notion of merely reducing our environmental impact. It encompasses a holistic approach that aims for balance among economic growth, human welfare, and environmental integrity. The essence of sustainable tourism lies in mitigating the adverse effects of tourism while enhancing its positive contributions to communities, cultures, ecosystems, and the Earth. This concept not only considers the immediate repercussions experienced today but also takes into account the enduring effects that will shape the experiences of generations to come.
Take the Path Less Trodden
It’s no secret that one of the only good things about the pandemic was how certain tourist spots were able to recover some of their natural beauty and appeal. Pre-covid several destinations were faced with the unfortunate consequences of their own popularity. These victims of success were a result of what is known as ‘over tourism’. An alarming example is Maya Bay on Ko Phi Phi Lee, (made famous by a young Leo DiCaprio in The Beach), which has faced numerous closures over the years due to pollution caused by the frequent tourist boats—a stark reminder of a paradise damaged by its own allure.
The solution to this dilemma is quite straightforward: steer clear of the overly popular tourist spots. As a traveler, you can actively combat the resurgence of overtourism by bypassing these conventional tourist spots and venturing off the beaten path. While the temptation of Instagram-worthy destinations is powerful, the joy of exploring the less well known can be immeasurably more fulfilling. Admit it, when you envisioned your vacation, standing in endless queues for hours wasn’t part of the dream. Sadly, numerous tourist hotspots often fail to meet the hype. Just read about Paris Syndrome, and you’ll realize how many disillusioned tourists have experienced this over the years.
For a truly exceptional experience, consider exploring luxury hidden gems in Bali. Choosing the unexplored route allows travelers to indulge in a unique and authentic experience away from the maddening crowds. This definitely doesn’t mean roughing it out in the wilderness, but it does demand a bit of extra effort in research before your trip. Peer beyond the confines of popular “Top 10” lists, make use of Google Maps, or seek advice from locals and fellow travelers for hidden gems. Instead of residing in bustling tourist hubs, opt for smaller towns or rural landscapes. Such choices alleviate the strain on overburdened destinations, simultaneously spreading the positive impact of tourism to lesser-known local communities. If you do find yourself drawn to a well-known destination, consider planning your trip during the off-season. Exploring a new place becomes infinitely more delightful when you can do so without being jostled in a crowd, enhancing both your experience and the destination’s sustainability. For instance, if you’re considering the best time to visit Italy, opting for the off-peak season can provide a more serene and eco-friendly experience.
Embrace Eco-Friendly Travel Choices
Travel and tourism contribute to around 8% of the world’s carbon emissions, making them significant drivers of climate change, a major threat to both the future of tourism and our planet. Unfortunately, airplanes and cars, commonly used modes of travel, are among the least sustainability friendly options. While air travel is sometimes unavoidable (especially for landlocked surfers), opting for flights with higher seating capacities, direct routes, and environmentally conscious tickets or “greener tickets” can help mitigate the impact.
For vacations which are closer to home, consider traveling by trains or coaches to enjoy the scenery and reduced emissions, two key components of the sustainability wave. Traveling by train is easily my preferred choice, especially through destinations like Europe and Japan. Alternatively, when planning a luxury trip abroad, consider these greener options for a more eco-conscious and enriching experience.
Once at your destination, public transport should be your best friend if you’re looking to hang-10 in that sustainability wave. While it can be a little intimidating at first in a new location, many cities have designated apps which make the whole process much less stressful. Explore the sustainability friendly alternatives such as buses, trains, or bicycles instead of relying on rental cars or taxis.
If car rental is necessary, try choosing a hybrid or electric one if possible. Remember that the most sustainable choice will differ depending on location. For example, in Bali I have noticed a huge increase in the number of electric taxi bikes (Grab and GoJek) and requesting them is possible on the app. Taking the time to do some research about all your transport options empowers you to make environmentally informed choices.
Take Pleasure in a Leisurely Pace
When you’ve been working hard all year for your vacation, it can be tempting to try and squeeze every possible experience into a trip, especially if it might be your only visit to the destination. While a jam-packed itinerary may appear perfect in theory, in reality, it often leads to a rushed holiday, with little time to truly absorb the essence of the place. This hurried nature of ticking as much off your list as possible is a guaranteed stress inducer, leaving you exhausted rather than fulfilled.
By giving yourself ample time to explore your holiday destination, you’ll leave your holiday feeling more refreshed having had a richer experience. If you are able to, taking one extended vacation rather than multiple quick getaways will give you the time to take your vacation at a more relaxed pace. Resist the urge to constantly move from one spot to another. Settle down in one area for a while, granting yourself the luxury of slowing down.
This unhurried approach enables you to genuinely connect with the place you’re visiting. Without the pressure of time, you can fully immerse yourself in the destination’s unique culture, forge meaningful bonds with the locals, and uncover the location’s true heart and soul. Wander through town on foot or by bike, uncovering hidden gems like charming local coffee shops. Take the time to appreciate the building’s architecture from the street level. Sample the local cuisines and delicacies. By embracing a leisurely pace, you’ll not only enrich your travel experience but also create lasting and unique memories.
Seek Sustainable Accommodations
One of the most impactful ways to shape the sustainability wave is by supporting businesses committed to reducing their environmental footprint and enhancing the welfare of local communities.
Seek out eco-hotels or try out a homestay (personal favorite of ours). To minimize your environmental impact, prioritize accommodations certified by reputable organizations like Green Globe, Green Key, or LEED. These certifications guarantee that the establishment adheres to specific environmental standards, such as utilizing renewable energy sources, minimizing water usage, recycling waste, and actively supporting local communities. By being discerning consumers, we can encourage more businesses to adopt responsible and sustainable practices in the tourism industry.