Protecting the world’s most treasured destinations by travelling sustainably and responsibly means they can be enjoyed for generations to come.
"Whilst on holiday in Thailand, activities like cycling and trekking offer an eco-friendly means of exploring the country’s spectacular natural landscape"
With a growing number of global travellers jetting off to increasingly far-flung destinations, responsible travel and a burgeoning awareness of sustainability are becoming ever-more important themes. It’s true that travelling green might take a little more research and effort at first – but the benefits far outweigh the costs. Essentially, travelling mindfully means that you’re doing your bit to protect the unique natural assets and the authenticity of the local cultures and surroundings, preserving them for future generations to enjoy.
In recent decades, extensive development on tropical Thai islands like Phuket and Koh Samui has stretched local resources significantly. With visitor numbers increasing year after year, a growing number of tourism operators and accommodation officials in Thailand are stepping up to preserve the natural beauty of the islands. Visitors are doing their bit as well. So what are the best ways to ensure that you can travel green with ease in Thailand?
"Baan Kilee is one of several luxury villas in Koh Samui that has made a commitment to boosting its green credentials by banishing single-use plastic"
When it comes to picking out your holiday accommodation, staying in locally run establishments as opposed to mega hotel chains is often a greener way to travel, as it provides a sustainable options for the accommodation’s owners and a direct boost for the local economy. Koh Samui and Phuket’s luxury private villas are a smart choice, as they tend to attract visitors who are keen to appreciate the tranquil charm of the natural surroundings. There are also a smaller number of guests putting a strain on resources than in other, larger destinations.
A significant number Koh Samui and Phuket’s private villas feature a range of eco-friendly features. For example, many of the villas are designed to benefit from natural airflow throughout the property, essentially using the sea breeze to keep occupants cool. This means you don’t have to rely on air conditioning all the time. Other eco-friendly features often include solar power, plus energy-saving light bulbs.
There are other simple steps you can take to make a stay at a Thai villa more sustainable. For example, don’t get your sheets and towels changed daily so you can save the water and electricity needed to wash them. You can also cut down on electricity use by turning appliances and lights off when you’re not using them.
Cut down on plastic
"Using refillable bottles instead of throw-away plastic bottles is one way to minimise the amount of waste you generate"
Waste is, unfortunately, one of the natural by-products of tourism. However, there are easy steps you can take to cut down the amount of trash you generate. For example, cutting down on single-use plastic goods is an important step. Investing in a refillable bottle instead of cracking open a new plastic bottle of water every time you’re thirsty will help to cut down your consumption. In fact, several of Koh Samui’s private holiday villas have made a commitment to increase their eco-friendly credentials by clamping down on the use of single-use plastic throughout the property. The villas that make up the Chai Talay Estate – Baan Kilee, Baan Ora Chon and Baan Puri – are examples of properties that are leading the way. Guests staying at these properties can refill their bottles or glasses from a filtered drinking water tank – and they won’t have any crunched up plastic bottles to dispose of afterwards.
"Invest in a re-usable shopping bag to cut down on single-use plastic that will just end up in the trash"
It’s easy to fall in love with exotic islands like Phuket and Koh Samui. The gorgeous natural scenery and friendly locals instantly make you feel at home. Doing your bit for sustainable tourism means putting some money back into the local community and area you’ve fallen in love with by supporting local, independent businesses.
Shopping local is easy to do in Thailand, especially with such an array of independent boutiques, souvenir shops and food stalls around. If you are enjoying a shopping spree in Thailand, one simple tip to be greener is to carry a canvas or fabric shopping bag that’s reusable instead of plastic. Also, if you come across any local charities whilst you’re on holiday, you can choose to buy gifts that support a worthy local cause.
"Koh Samui’s Green Market promotes locally grown produce"
In the same way that shopping at local boutiques can channel money back into the destination you’ve fallen in love with, supporting local farmers by eating fresh, local produce can make a difference, too. In addition, eating locally grown fare will also help you get a more authentic taste of the area’s typical cuisines. Keep your eyes peeled for restaurants that advertise the fact that they cook with local ingredients. Family-run restaurants are often a good choice as they tend to use local suppliers to put food on the table.
If you’re stocking up on supplies for your private villa, Samui’s regular Green Market places a focus on locally grown, sourced, crafted and brewed goods, and takes place every few weeks on a Sunday in Bophut Fisherman’s Village.
"Picking up your souvenirs from a local market, like the Phuket Town Craft Market, channels money back to local artisans and their communities"
In recent months, the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) has placed a tremendous focus on sustainable tourism. Part of this means delving into local experiences and getting to learn more about what keeps the economy ticking – and this could be anything from fishing to jewellery making. It’s also about buying souvenirs for your loved ones from sustainable sources, and purchasing those that have been made in Thailand means they won’t have the same carbon footprint of goods that have been shipped in from elsewhere.
If you’re in Phuket, the Phuket Town craft market is a good place to go. If you buy your souvenirs from a local artisan, you’re helping them to support their family and supporting the preservation of the local culture, too. The market is set in a pretty part of the Old Town amongst the colourful Sino-Portuguese shop houses. Stalls open every Sunday from around 4pm onwards.
CLOSER LOOK: GETTING FROM A TO B
If you’re an eco-conscious traveller who is keen to cut down your carbon footprint, try to use communal transport or even walk rather than using private cars or taxis where possible. As well as reducing pollution generated by private vehicles, walking down to the local coffee shop rather than driving will give you the chance to meet local people and experience Thai culture.