Modern travel has changed the way we interact with the world. We hop on flights, catch trains, and cross long distances in hours instead of months. Parts of the world that seemed unknown and remote can now be accessed with comfort and ease, thanks to a hospitality industry that leaves no corner of the world out of reach.
However, transport, tourism, and development don’t always benefit the local habitat, community, or economy. Alternatively, a more restorative and conscientious approach known as ‘sustainable travel’ has resurfaced to meet current needs without compromising the future. The idea of water-recycling, energy conservation, and waste reduction may seem revolutionary, but these practices are the kind of earth-conscious habits that have preserved our ancestors and planet for millennia. To make your jet-setting more environmentally and socially sustainable, let’s take a look at the critical questions to ask when planning your next trip.
Where to Go?
As with all travel, starting with your intention is important. What exactly we hope to obtain or experience should be a praiseworthy aim pursued in a principled manner. Don’t let the bucket lists of others influence your travel goals or destinations. Consider exploring your locality and region before crossing the planet. If a long-distance jaunt is necessary to fulfill religious duties, family obligations or business dealings, try to make the most out of your trip by achieving as many objectives as possible. Imagine a honeymoon that starts with hajj or a business trip that includes an extended layover to visit family. Feeding multiple birds with one piece of bread is the efficient way to go.
How to Get There?
While air travel is most convenient, it’s also the least environmentally friendly way to get around. If that’s your only option, consider direct flights to minimize the high carbon emissions of takeoff and landing. Some airlines have an optional surcharge to offset the carbon footprint of your flight by donating towards tree replanting or conservation efforts. Exploring travel options by sea or land will stretch your travel time but may also deepen your experience. Meandering through the countryside by train or bus gives you a glimpse of life outside of major metropolises and urban hubs. Also, consider using a personal car for road trips with family and friends to create unforgettable memories together.
Where to Stay?
Sustainable travel doesn’t have to mean camping and compostable toilets. Eco-friendly resorts and sustainable brands around the world have redefined luxury and routinely reduce the waste it normally entails. Partner brands of Halal Luxury Travel like Six Senses, Banyan Tree, and Anantara evidence that quality doesn’t need to be compromised for the cause of sustainability. Make sure the accommodation where you choose to rest your head actively seeks to protect natural resources, support local economies, and preserve natural habitats.
What to Do?
If you find yourself entering an unfamiliar country or culture, research the general beliefs and customs of the people and learn how best to tread respectfully in their land. Find restaurants and eateries that serve regional cuisine derived from locally available produce as opposed to relying on foreign imports. Participate in cultural activities that enhance your understanding of a country in a dignified way and compensate artists, professionals, and workers fairly for their services rendered. Be wary of zoos and attractions that use animals for entertainment and consider supporting the work of non-profit organizations that improve the long-term livelihood of the species, both human and animal, that they serve.
Sustainability is not just for environmentalists and minimalists. The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) modeled moderation and conservation in personal and public ways. Most of us know about the way he cautioned against wasting water and food, but our blessed prophet also reminded us to plant trees, cultivate land, be kind to animals, and tread gently upon the earth. Beyond faith as a motive, let us consider that we share a finite planet with more than seven billion people. Industrialization and overconsumption are damaging and exploiting the earth in unprecedented ways, resulting in air, water, and land pollution that compromises our global well-being and future. If you have the means to travel well, you should express gratitude for that privilege by also travelling ethically, sustainably, and responsibly.
This article was originally published in Rihaal Magazine, Issue 2, Summer 2017.
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