Traveling with a Mission: How to Incorporate U.N. Sustainable Development Goals into Your Itinerary

A love of travel carries with it a love of meeting new people as well as a love for the earth and all the wonderful places you haven’t seen yet. And sometimes those twin loves – for both people and the planet – are hard to square with traditional styles of travel, which are often exploitative of both people and Earth’s precious resources.

Luckily, as we become more conscious of these uncomfortable truths, a lot of very thoughtful folks at the U.N. have put a lot of work into developing ways we can not only minimize the damage we do as we scratch our travel itch, but also how we can give back to communities we visit. One great road map for doing so is to implement some of the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goals into your travel itinerary. Here are a few ideas for how you can help!

Traveling with a Mission: How to Incorporate U.N. Sustainable Development Goals into Your Itinerary

1. Climate Action

With climate activists like Greta Thunberg and Extinction Rebellion pointing the way, more and more people are taking climate change actions into their own hands, handily illustrating ways to implement this vital U.N. Sustainable Development goal. First, travelers must minimize or eliminate travel by air from itineraries as best they can. Air travel releases mind-boggling amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere, whereas traveling by train is one of the most energy efficient ways to travel, with bus travel coming in second. Furthermore, do some advance research on the area where you’re going and reach out to local climate action groups to see how you can assist in their work upon your arrival.

Traveling with a Mission: How to Incorporate U.N. Sustainable Development Goals into Your Itinerary

2. Life Below Water

In addition to melting polar ice caps, rising sea levels, and a rapidly heating planet, another dire emergency we face today and which the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals address is life below water: ocean pollution, overfishing, unsustainable fishing methods, and the irresponsible use of drugs and chemicals in farmed fisheries just to name a few examples. One way you can make an impact when you travel is to be certain you and your group support only local, sustainably-farmed fish on the consumer level.

Traveling with a Mission: How to Incorporate U.N. Sustainable Development Goals into Your Itinerary

But there are tons of other ways you can make an even bigger impact when you travel with your group. Again, doing some advance research, see if you can’t find a local group where you’re heading that works to clean beaches, revitalize coral reefs, eliminate invasive species or provide other support to local maritime ecosystems. Spend a day working with the locals and give something back if you truly love the beach and the ocean!

3. Good Health and Well-Being and Gender Equality

No matter where you’re traveling, it’s a sure bet that there are underprivileged women and girls there who are in need of feminine hygiene products. A great way to address a 2-for-1 of the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals is to organize people within your group to purchase quantities of a variety of menstrual products to take with you. Arrange to spend a day working at a women’s shelter or with an organization that serves women and girls who are in need.

Traveling with a Mission: How to Incorporate U.N. Sustainable Development Goals into Your Itinerary

Travel is of course a great joy, but spreading joy is even better. Adding U.N. Sustainable Goals to your itinerary is a great way to start!

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