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5 Tips for Better Sustainable Travel in Big Cities

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5 Tips for Better Sustainable Travel in Big Cities

Date: Aug 3, 2021
Author: Sarah Valencia 171 No Comments

When we talk about sustainability and sustainable travel we usually think of the great outdoors, the beach, forests, and basically anything green. This does, of course, make part of sustainability as the term targets the environment, and thus we just think of nature. However, sustainability is really just the preservation of the planet in any of its ecosystems and biomes, and big cities, although they don’t look it, are a biome of their own.

To think of doing urban sustainable traveling, we must shift our focus from the reparation and conservation of nature itself to the conservation of what that specific city is offering us and make sure we support it as much as possible – you thought right: it’s all about staying local. Just because you are hitting up a big city, this doesn’t mean you can’t smuggle in a little bit of sustainable travel in your itinerary. Below we have put together a few steps you can follow so that your visit is as green as can be!

Sustainability is Art

One thing we can always rely on when visiting a city is interesting museums. From the big history, modern and contemporary art museums, to the smaller ones about local railroad tracks and historic landmarks specific to that city, all museums both enrich your experience and help the local economy. Some may be public while others are privately owned, but more often than not, they are directly supporting the artists or communities the museum targets, and of course the smaller the museum, the more direct impact its support creates in a community.

A visit to a museum usually never disappoints and should make for a very insightful stop during your sustainable travels in the city!

sustainable travel - museum with nature in it. tree in between concrete building
Chicago, Illinois, USA

Ride the sustainable wave

In a big city with so many things to do and activities to tackle, it is always tempting to want to move fast around it. Cabs, Ubers, and private drivers can do the trick, however, one way to stay sustainable is going the slightly slower way and taking public transport and shared rides as much as possible.

While, yes, buses and tramways will be taking longer to take you places, the upside is public transport will reduce your carbon footprint during your stay. Metros, for example, might actually take you to your destination inside the city in a much shorter time depending on the traffic that day, which is a big plus! Shared rides might not be all the rage at the moment given the current health crisis but is definitely an option to be considered in the future. This is to say: the more people taking your same ride, the better.

sustainable travel - people standing in public transport
Public transport is key

From the city, with love

One of the best and most sustainable things you can do while in a big city is ensuring you can actually enjoy what comes directly from it. It’s easy to be attracted by the big chain stores and restaurants, however, choosing them over a locally ran store would mean missing out on many latent aspects. To start, visiting a local restaurant directly supports local, of course, and will give you a true taste of the roots of the city, or at least those who inhabit it now.

Going to local shops also benefits the local economy and will make for much more meaningful souvenirs for yourself and others – it will be a real representation of what the city offered you at the time of your visit, and we believe it can accurately capture the trip’s essence for you, in a material tangent.

Many of these shops might also manufacture products whose revenue could support local charities and minority groups, which makes it even better to be able to help a good cause.

sustainable travel - souvenir store with craftsman
Souvenir store in Assisi, Province of Perugia, Italy

Going against the current

We did suggest you ride the wave earlier, but this is a different kind of wave we want you to go against. When in a big city, the natural thing might be to go to the usual sightseeing spots, and there is nothing wrong with that! One suggestion which might make your trip just a bit more sustainable is avoiding the main touristic spots to help the regress of overcrowding.

Unfortunately, overcrowding has been one of the main contributors to the deterioration of many touristic landmarks all around the world, as there is little to no sense of ownership for these places. This leads people to mistreat, litter, and overexploit these locations. By going to other places around big cities that might be just as fascinating as the more known ones (or perhaps even turn out to be hidden gems!) you could help lower the overcrowding of these sites, and therefore allow them to heal from the massive amount of tourists that visit each day. Sustainable travel is all about what you make it, wherever you go.

Asking around or befriending a spontaneous local will help you find the best unknown spots, which won’t be plagued with more visitors.

sustainable travel garden on top of roof
Green rooftops

A green stay

As tourism grows with the years, so do its options: there are more options than ever to choose to do sustainable tours with travel agencies. Some companies are even making sure they combat overtourism so that you don’t have to go it alone, this way you will fully enjoy your trip knowing you are being helped to make the best out of sustainability.

It is also key to ask questions regarding sustainability to the hotels and hostels you have been eyeing to stay at, such as what their energy sources are and if they help offset any of their carbon footprint. Although not all of them might be doing something about it, rallying and asking more questions will get more businesses on the sustainable wagon once they notice that the demand for greener options is growing.

sustainable travel - eco hotel with pool in a sunny day
Green Hotel

It might seem trickier to do sustainable travel in concrete jungles, however never impossible. We want to make sure you can both enjoy your stay as a tourist while also caring for the environment by avoiding overcrowding popular sites. With just a little change in perspective, you can take your trip from conventional to unconventionally entertaining and quite sustainable with these handy steps. We hope you can apply them on your next safe trip to a big city, and happy travels!

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