Traveling sustainably in India is not easy but manageable as with most places in the world these days. Single-use plastic waste is nearly impossible to avoid entirely and energy still comes mostly from fossil fuels. Having said that, India still has some environmental awareness happening in the urban areas, and infrastructure does exist in the countryside to cater to these eco-conscious clients. Some parts of the countrysides are fast disappearing though, as new developers rush in to build cottages and apartments for more economic development while in the process, nature continues to disappear in favor of buildings, roads, and bridges.
All hope is not lost however. Anywhere you go, you have the option to choose more sustainable ways of living, so first let’s cover the basics here, and then we can move on to the India specific ways to be a Eco Champion.
Always carry a sack, water bottle, and some cutlery (including straw).
I think this may be one of the most important ways to be sustainable while traveling, and a good habit to have even when you’re staying at your hometown. This will allow you to avoid plastic bags, water bottles, and single-use plastic cutlery and straws, which tends to happen a lot if you are traveling and eating outside. Still you cannot really avoid the plastic cups, plates, and other items usually found at touristy places, but at least you did what you could do to avoid it as much as possible.
Eat more natural and plant-based foods.
Choosing what and where to eat can have a a big impact in the long-run as it is something we do several times per day. If you choose to eat natural, plant-based foods, such as vegetarian meals, fruits, and water in the restaurants, as opposed to packaged foods such as chips, soda, and delivery food items on the regular, then you generate much less waste and energy, not to mention that it is much better for your health and your body will look and feel great.
Fortunately, India is a great place for vegetarian options and many shops sells good-quality food at affordable prices. Although it is tempting to order in from time to time, you can do so sparingly or choose restaurants that will use more sustainable form of packaging such as reusable containers or paper instead of plastic. Try to avoid plastic waste as much as possible, although I know that nowadays it is virtually impossible to do so 100%. Every action counts and forming a habit of sustainability will make it easier to make the right conscious choices in time.
Travel slow and by train or bus, not flight.
Plan to travel slow or go into depth with a few places, and not just zip around to see the most amount of tourist attractions in the shortest time possible. You can choose the general area you would like to visit in India, such as the jungly south, or the mountainous north, the well-populated center, or to more exotic locations in the west and northeast. Try to explore each region as much as possible before taking public transportation to the next destination. While bus and train rides in India are fun, they are not always available, and planes and taxis might be the only options to take. But with some careful planning and coordination with other travelers, you may be able to save money as well as CO2 emissions during your trip.
Choose eco-friendly places to stay.
When looking for places to stay, choose the establishments that have the keywords for sustainability, eco-friendly, etc. They should provide filtered water to cut down on plastic bottles, they might use renewable energy such as solar panels for some of their energy consumption, and they should have a good waste disposal system, such as recycling, or composting food waste, functional water treatment systems, etc.
Those were the ways that you can travel more sustainably in India, as well as anywhere else for that matter. Specifically in India, you could opt to go for a longer trip getting a 1-year visa or longer if possible, and avoid the very touristy regions such as Himachal Pradesh state near the Himalayas during the peak seasons or Goa during the winter months, which will be better for your wallet also. Explore less developed regions by going further than others and experience the real life in India whether it be city or village.