Southeast Asia is the perfect destination for your next green holiday. The diverse environment including forests, oceans and land make for a region that is ecologically abundant. In recent years, the governments of different Southeast Asian countries have taken an active interest in maintaining and sustaining their treasured environments, largely due to tourists’ increased interest in ecotourism. This comes as no surprise considering energy conservation is one of the technologies that hotels can’t afford to ignore in 2017, as stated by Joe Schapp, a leading authority in hotel software technology. Here are some tips on how expats can live and travel green in Southeast Asia, and make expeditions more fulfilling and environmentally friendly.
A lot of people think going green means giving up on transportation altogether. This isn’t the case. Getting around sustainably involves choosing the best possible option for your surroundings in any situation. Thankfully, most countries in Southeast Asia have relatively easy-to-navigate public transportation systems in place. What’s more, Southeast Asia is a walking friendly region – there’s something quite appealing about getting lost in the Indonesian rainforests, Thai fields, or Cambodian temple ruins. Walking is a great way to really get immersed in the local culture of a place, and see parts of it that you might have missed if driving by.
Another option is hiring a bicycle (perfect for keeping off the holiday weight) as this significantly reduces your overall emissions. If you are renting a vehicle, make sure to consider environmentally friendly options, so that it uses less fuel and decreases emissions.
Often it won’t be in your control, but if you are in the position to pick specific flights to get to and from your destination, then try and pick a non-stop flight as takeoffs and landings are what hurt the environment most. Countries within Southeast Asia are actually connected via ferries, and taking an overnight ferry from say, Thailand to Malaysia, is a more sustainable option as opposed to flying – not to mention a great cultural experience and easier on the pocket!
Disposing of your trash correctly is one of the simplest things you can do to make your travels greener. Unfortunately, a lot of developing countries do not have garbage cans on every street corner, something that is more common in other nations. With this in mind, it’s important to not leave litter lying about, or just toss it on the streets. According to these stats, an average backpacker in Asia buys two large bottles of water each day. If you’re traveling in Asia for 60 days, that means 120 plastic bottles! On leaving a country, it is the locals who have to deal with this waste, so it’s important to dispose of it in the right manner. Ask locals about recycling centres, or consult your hotel about their waste disposal techniques and try to follow best practice in terms of your garbage.
For activities such as hiking, bird watching and more, be wary of your environment and don’t encroach upon other species’ habitats. Southeast Asia is full of animal interaction experiences (think of cuddling tiger cubs in Thailand) that catch the eye of many tourists. In reality, by engaging in these interactive experiences, one is indirectly supporting an industry that promotes the capture and displacement of wild animals that belong out in nature rather than in petting zoos. Boycott these activities in favor of more natural ones, where animals aren’t forcefully domesticated just for the entertainment of humans.
More eco-friendly tour operators have been popping up all over Southeast Asia. When travelling, it might be a little more expensive to choose the eco-friendly option, but the positive impact on the environment is worth it. Eco-friendly tours are usually smaller, focusing on a reduced impact through the transportation they use, accommodation they choose, and food they source. Sometimes, they have an added component on local environmental awareness, which helps in terms of educating travellers on how to make their overall trip more sustainable.
Southeast Asia is known for its pristine beaches and coastlines, making it a paradise for water lovers. Scuba diving, snorkeling and surfing rank as some of the most enjoyable adventure activities in this region, and with the marine ecological abundance in and around Southeast Asia, this comes as no surprise. Taking up environmentally friendly practices while engaging in these activities is vital. This includes not touching coral while diving or snorkelling, purchasing eco-friendly equipment, and recycling gear once worn out. While participating in search and recovery dives, or diving with a metal detector, local guidelines and standards about what can be taken from the ocean must be followed. Deep sea fishing should be discouraged as this really harms the already fragile underwater world. Being aware of where and how seafood meals are sourced and consuming only sustainably-fished seafood is key to ending the practices that continue to destroy coral reefs around Southeast Asia.
Simple choices like the ones listed above, when put together have a huge impact in changing the way people travel. All it takes to travel green is a little effort and awareness, and ultimately, the environment will be so much better for it.
Akshata Mehta has a passion for traveling and exploring the world. She loves to scuba dive, and is always on the lookout for her next diving adventure. Being a foodie, she spends a good amount of time cooking up concoctions in her kitchen, recording her recipes and travel adventures on her blog, With Love From Akshata.