At Emma Horne Travel we have always had an eye on sustainable and responsible tourism. How to travel with the least amount of impact, how to behave both as a consumer and as a guest in someone else’s country. In the post COVID-19 times ahead we feel this is going to be a more important consideration than ever before.
I would like to share with you some simple, but effective, ways you can be a conscientious responsible traveller. This includes both how to reduce your carbon footprint, and how to behave in a more responsible manner whilst travelling. Research proves that how we behave has an impact on the places we visit, both positive and negative.
Responsible Tourism is about “making better places for people to live in and better places for people to visit.” Responsible Tourism requires that operators, hoteliers, governments, local people and tourists take responsibility, take action to make tourism more sustainable - Cape Town declaration on Responsible Tourism
At Emma Horne Travel, we want to support this declaration with actions. So, we have implemented some initiatives to contribute to the positive trends in traveller responsibility.
One of the observations made by many visitors to the subcontinent, and India in particular, is the amount of dirt and rubbish they see in the streets. Look closer and you will realise much of this is single-use plastic waste. Although India does have an impressive informal re-cycling system it still lacks a formal system of rubbish collection and disposal. During my travels in recent years I have become conscious of the vast quantities of plastic rubbish, and more specifically plastic bottles, I see randomly discarded, even in the most remote regions. It is clear that one of major contributors to this waste is the travel industry.
Travellers to the subcontinent should drink treated water, and the vast majority of this comes from plastic bottles. Simple maths suggests that the average traveller to the subcontinent will use a minimum of 28 bottles during a 2 week trip, that is 56 per couple, or 112 if a family – the figures add up rapidly. One company even calculated that a group of 16 on a two week tour will use 1,000 bottles! A small percentage will be re-used but the vast majority will still be here in years to come.
Internationally there has been much focus on reducing single use plastics – a list of facts produced by Earth Day Organisation is enough to convince us of the importance of acting now.
My particular ‘favourite’:
Virtually every piece of plastic that was ever made still exists in some shape or form (with the exception of the small amount that has been incinerated)
So what can we do?
1. Travel with your own re-useable water bottle. If you re-fill & use this during your trip you will eliminate, or at least vastly reduce, your use of plastic water bottles.
All our travellers to India will be presented with a steel water bottle – a gift from Emma Horne Travel. This is something that we are hoping to extend to other countries shortly.
The truth about bottled water.
Almost all bottled water in the subcontinent is treated by Reverse Osmosis (RO) and UV filter to make it safe to drink. Very little is mineral water from crystal clear mountain springs, the majority is packaged drinking water. Today, most hotels & restaurants will serve RO/filtered water, so there is no longer a requirement to buy a bottle of water, if the RO/filtered option is available.
Further, many hotels in India are putting a jug/thermos/glass bottle of RO water in the bedrooms, even if they are still providing bottled water as an option. We recommend that you should use this RO/filtered water for drinking, teeth cleaning and topping up your EHT water bottle. If a hotel does not automatically provide RO water in the room do ask for it.
For topping up during the day our drivers will still carry bottled water, but we are asking them to only provide larger water bottles which you can use to fill up your individual bottles.
On all my recent trips I have carried my own water bottle and the system has worked well, I did not use 1 plastic bottle! Many of our group tours have also managed without using single use plastic bottles. It is possible!
It is worth noting that more and more properties in the subcontinent are subscribing to a no plastic policy and will simply not be providing drinking water in plastic, single use, bottles.
2. Other suggestions for reducing plastic usage during your travels:
a. Don’t use plastic straws – I am pleased to say many restaurants & bars have already switched to paper straws.
b. Bring your own bath cap – don’t use the one-time use caps provided in hotels
c. Increasingly hotels in the subcontinent are only supplying shampoos, shower wash etc in large containers. Consider bringing your own shampoo, conditioner etc. so you do not need to use the small bottles in hotels.
d. Bring a shopping bag – refuse to except plastic bags from shop keepers.
e. Bring your own toothbrush – consider buying a bamboo toothbrush.
f. Think how you dispose of rubbish – in very remote or rural locations it can be more difficult to handle waste management, if it is possible carry your waste with you until you are back in an urban area.
3. A few other facts you might like to consider:
a. International flights inevitably come with a large carbon footprint – but you can reduce your own footprint by reducing the amount of luggage you carry. Less weight equals less fuel used equals less carbon. It is worth bearing in mind that most domestic airlines in India only allow 15kg of free check-in luggage.
b. Begging; we generally do not encouraging giving money, sweets, pens etc to people begging, children especially. If you feel you do wish to contribute something, and there certainly is a need, we can recommend several responsible NGOs. Please ask us for more information. You may like to consider bringing supplies from your home country to hand over to a school or organization in India, and we can also give advice on this too. Please do not give such supplies to individual children, but via a local school teacher.
c. Be culturally aware in your choice of dress and behaviour. This is covered in our preparation notes.
d. Remember you are a guest in someone else’s home. Act as you would expect others to do in your residence. We encourage our travellers to get off-the-beaten track but this does bring with it a certain amount of responsibility. You may be visiting areas unused to foreign visitors, the local community may be more reserved then those with a higher tourist footfall. Think before you pick up that camera and point it in their face. Start a dialogue and interaction, ask if it is ok to take a photo, the photographic results are usually much better as a result and you will feel much more part of the communityand not just a voyeur.
When it is time to journey out, by adhering to some of the above points, you will be able travel with a clear conscience that you are doing your part for a sustainable world.
Emma was part of the Indian Responsible Tourism Awards judging panel, in 2016 & 2019 and gave a presentation during their 2019 Award Ceremony. www.responsibletourismindia.com