The impact that travelling has on the environment is an uncomfortable spectre that haunts many travellers. The simple nature of travelling from one place to another is problematic. Take a return long-haul flight and you’ll have used more energy than your allotted ‘share’ of resources for the entire year. Aviation isn’t the only industry that leaves travellers with a large carbon footprint – swimming pools, air-conditioned rooms, fully stocked bars and restaurants also take their toll. Whichever way you look at it, travelling hurts the planet. This has given rise to a new breed of tourist aligning themselves with the lowsumerism movement.
What is lowsumerism?
Lowsumerism is a movement that grew in reaction to excessive consumption and unethical spending. It invites people to consume less and think about the businesses and practices they’re propping up when they do spend money. Adopting the tenets of this lifestyle is to control your impulses and take personal responsibility for the impact you have on the environment around you. The process is simple. It’s about reducing your footprint. Instead of blindly following the cycle of Want > Buy > Dispose, you interrogate yourself every step of the way. Lowsumerism is consumption with a conscious.
Becoming a conscious consumer is relatively straightforward when it comes to daily groceries. It gets murky when it’s applied to travelling, an activity that is often, sometimes oddly thought to be inherently sophisticated and progressive. Perhaps we don’t think of it as a complex problem for no other reason than we really like to travel. But still, it’s an issue that can’t be ignored: the traveller’s version of ‘An Inconvenient Truth’.
There is good and bad news when it comes to lowsumerism and travel. The bad is that your holiday practices may have to change, especially if they currently involve indulging in unrestrained, hedonistic extravaganzas. The good news is the changes you make can lead to richer, more fulfilling travel experiences.
Take how you travel. When planning a getaway, your first impulse would be to look at flights. But what if you pursued other travel options instead? There are often more sustainable ways to get from A to B that don’t necessarily affect the enjoyment of your trip. In fact, there are few things more relaxing than a long train trip across a scenic landscape. Or more colourful than a midnight stop in a long forgotten town during a bus journey. And you start to get an idea of the lowsumerism mindset.
This approach to moving slowly from place to place also falls in line with another central principle of lowsumerism: the importance of being unrushed and engaging with ourselves, other people and our surroundings. A plane may get us somewhere quicker, but why prioritise speed? Why is travelling somewhere quickly the status quo? For decades we have been conditioned by advertisers to believe that new products and comfort, and more of it, is what we should want from life. But actually, those things can’t be what we want from life: as custodians of the earth, we have to support a sustainable level of consumption.
Leave no trace
You could be excused for thinking we’re banishing you to a lifetime of holidays involving little more than a swag for your bed and baked beans for dinner (not that there’s anything wrong with that!). That’s not the case. The hotel industry has responded to customer demand for more environmentally friendly stays. It’s never been easier to find a hotel that matches the ethos of lowsumerism without compromising on quality. In Melbourne, Sydney and other cities across Australia, you’ll find hotels advocating the ‘Slow Food’ movement, for example, serving local sustainable foods. Others intentionally exclude wifi from their list of amenities, believing instead that a technology-free ‘Slow Life’ is needed than 24 hour connectivity.
Book a stay at the Alto Hotel On Bourke in Melbourne, or the Epiphyte B&B Cape Tribulation, or Tasmania’s solar powered Lumera Eco Chalets or any of the other hotels championing the spirit of lowsumerism, and you’ll be protecting the planet as well as enjoying a more rewarding travel experience.
We are not designed to have absolutely everything we desire in life. If we are going to stay alive and thrive, something has to give. We’re fortunate enough to be able to make these changes. Choose a new path, one that prioritises moments over mementos, and fall in love with travelling all over again.