Sustainable Travel vs. Regenerative Travel: What's the Difference?
Let's look at these two methods of eco-friendly travel and find out what the difference is between the two.
Sustainable travel is a great start to helping us all reduce our carbon emissions, but regenerative travel goes even further. Sustainable travel means doing things like recycling, staying at eco-friendly hotels, and reducing waste. Regenerative travel, on the other hand, is about giving something back to the cultures and parts of the planet we choose to visit.
While you can have sustainable experiences while traveling (e.g., visiting a local farmers market instead of a big chain grocery store), regenerative travel takes this one step further by focusing on making your trip more immersive and experiential (e.g., taking hiking tours in national parks to learn more about nature).
The term sustainable travel is often thrown around to describe eco-friendly tourism. But does sustainable travel go far enough?
Sustainability is a great place to start when planning your next trip. It’s the idea of traveling in a way that reduces your carbon footprint and minimizes your impact on the planet. But sustainability isn’t enough to heal our planet—it needs regeneration.
Regenerative travel goes beyond eco-friendly tourism, which means it doesn't just minimize your carbon emissions but also helps heal the planet and its inhabitants by returning resources back from whence they came. A regenerative traveler would never:
Use plastic water bottles or single-use disposable containers
Rent a car when visiting smaller towns (walking, biking, or public transport instead)
What is regenerative travel all about?
Regenerative travel isn't just a better way to travel, it's also a better way to live. If you're like me, you want your actions and decisions to create positive change in the world. But if you only focus on sustainable practices without considering the bigger picture of our impact as humans on this planet, then what does that really mean?
Sustainable travel is one step towards regenerative travel, but for many, it doesn't go far enough. Sustainable travel practices like recycling and choosing eco-friendly hotels are great steps towards reducing our carbon footprint on the planet—but there's much more we can do to restore our health (both physical and emotional), build community with others who share our values and passions for sustainability—and restore peace within ourselves.
So what's an example of a regenerative travel experience?
A regenerative travel experience is one that has a positive impact on the community you’re visiting. By staying in a local home, eating local food, learning about the culture and history of your destination, supporting local businesses, volunteering in the community and taking tours to learn more about its environment, you can help make it a better place for everyone. Participating in an eco-project is another great way to give back while traveling sustainably.
What are the tangible benefits of regenerative travel, and how does it help the places and local communities we visit?
Regenerative travel is a way of traveling that is good for the planet, local communities, and the environment. It’s also good for your health and well-being.
When you make an effort to travel sustainably, you can help preserve and protect our natural world. You can also contribute to the well-being of local communities by supporting their sustainable practices and businesses. By choosing regenerative travel options—like staying in a guesthouse or renting through Airbnb—you’re choosing to stay at places where they care about being environmentally responsible as well as socially responsible (they support local communities).
How can I minimize my carbon emissions when I travel?
Use public transportation.
Fly less. If you must fly, choose a carbon offset program when you book your flight (you can also choose an airline that is committed to sustainability).
Choose a green hotel and/or tour operator. These are organizations that invest in sustainable practices, such as renewable energy sources or composting programs.
Eat locally-sourced food, and choose locally-run tours.
Sustainable travel is a great start, but regenerative travel goes even further to heal our planet.
The benefits are tangible: research has shown that when people visit natural areas, they feel more connected to nature and make decisions based on their desire for conservation rather than self-interest or convenience—and this can have lasting impacts on future generations.
The next time you go on vacation, don’t just think about how you can avoid harming the environment. Think about how you can help heal it. And if that sounds like too big of a commitment, then think small—at least start with your own travel habits and see what improvements you can make.
But ultimately, there is no one-size-fits-all solution for everyone. The best thing anyone can do is simply try their best and keep learning new ways to improve their own eco-friendly travel style!