Although traveling is one of the absolute best experiences you can have in your life, it’s also important to travel in a respectful way. It’s easy to just go with the flow and not think of the impact we actually have when we visit a country. For example, you’re buying lots of bottled water instead of purchasing a sustainable metal plastic bottle that you can carry around and refill. We all know how plastic waste is bad for the environment and just changing an easy habit like this can make a big impact on the world. Here are a few other things you can do to make a positive impact while traveling in Vietnam (and everywhere else in the world!).
Booking sustainable tours with a tour provider who is one committed to ethical business practices and sustainability is one fantastic way to make a difference. Not only will you support local communities, you’ll also learn more about sustainability and get to travel in an alternative way that’s just as enrichening. Before booking a tour, you should read reviews carefully and ask around locally. Make sure that the tour you’re booking is, in fact, a sustainable tour with a guide that’s very well educated about this topic. There’s everything from trekking tours to voluntourism trips you can do, which promises to build local schools for example, or work with animals, for example.
Cut out plastic
As mentioned before, plastic is bad. Period. If you’re going shopping groceries, bring a reusable shopping bag and stop using plastic bags that will eventually end up in the ocean. Instead of plastic straws, why not bring your own bamboo straw? There’s many sustainable shops these days in the bigger cities such as Ho Chi Minh City, but you can also find them in smaller cities such as Hoi An. Do you research beforehand and save tons of unnecessary plastic. You will save money and also help the environment at the same time. Also, there’s tons of cool reusable bags you can buy, so you can also look fashionable while saving the planet.
Don’t support animal tourism
You’ve probably seen the many photos of people riding elephants, taking photos with wild animals, etc. While it may look like “fun”, the reality is much worse for the animals. The animals should, first of all, always be in their natural habitat, if they’re not rescued. And even if they’re rescued animals, the best way to admire an animal is not by taking a photo with it or riding it. It’s just by admiring it from afar. Also beware of the souvenirs you might encounter, such as a sea turtle shell which is very popular to purchase in Vietnam. But if you think about it – how did a sea turtle shell get to this stall? Was it poached from the wild? If yes, you should definitely not purchase this item and support the poaching industry. Be smart about your choices. Even if you’re going to an animal sanctuary, read about it before you go. What do other people say about this sanctuary and is it really for the animals best to be there? There’s been times when certain animal sanctuaries have proven to be a “fake”, since they don’t allow the animals to go in their natural habitat but instead keeps them at the animal sanctuary to profit from it.
Buy local products
Not only is this great for the environment, since importing products left and right is bad for the environment, it’s also a great way to support the local businesses, who often struggle when big chains take over. Locally made handicraft is also a much more valued souvenir to bring home.
If you’re going up north and want to trek in Sapa, why not stay at an ethnic traditional homestay? The Hmong people are many times relying on tourism to get an income, so by staying with the ethnic minorities and go with an ethnic trekking guide, you’ll be able to help alleviate poverty while also getting an authentic travel experience.
Buy sustainable clothes
It might be tempting to walk in to the closest H&M store and buy clothes, but the fast fashion industry is actually one of the most harmful industries to our planet. Although sustainable clothes can at times be a bit more expensive, it’s still worth paying a higher price to make a positive impact on the world rather than a negative one. The clothes tend to last longer as well and you can wear the garment with a good conscience.
Hopefully this article will help you on the road of becoming a better traveler and that it has helped inspire you to make a positive impact while traveling in Vietnam.