In this beginners guide to eco-friendly travel, you will learn about easy things you can implement that have a greater impact when visiting other countries.
Photo: Unsplash/Pricilla Du Preez
No matter where you travel in the world, you can see the negative effects humans have had on the natural world. Most people think that sustainable travel is either out of reach or too expensive. But that is simply not the case. No matter what kind of adventure you are looking for there is an eco-option. From rainforests and Safari lodges to eco-resorts, and even glamping set-ups, all offering a selection of organic foods, natural skincare amenities, recycling programs and more.
There are so many things you can do to be an eco-globetrotter! Here is a beginner’s guide to eco-friendly travel.
- Be Water Wise
Pack a reusable water bottle. Bottled water is expensive in many countries and if you’re traveling with a family of four, it’s going to cost you money, and it adds to the problem of too much plastic ending up in our environment.
If you are going to a country where the tap water is suspect then buy something like this. It will not only save you money it will reduce plastic waste. A win-win! If you are worried about the weight of the bottles you can always opt for foldable ones.
When you arrive at your location, think about water consumption. Ask the hotel staff not to change your sheets and towels daily, reusing your sheets and towels will save energy, water, and detergents.
- Be Energy Wise
Before you leave the hotel room, turn off the A/C (or heat) and don’t forget about the lights and TV too. Just because you are not being charged extra for electricity, doesn’t mean you should waste it!
- Don’t be a litterbug!
In many exotic locations around the world garbage left by tourists puts enormous pressure on an area and leads to impacts such as soil erosion, increased pollution, discharges into the sea, natural habitat loss increased pressure on endangered species and heightened vulnerability to forest fires.
Ask the hotel about their recycling programs and be mindful of your garbage and where you are putting it!
- Shop Local!
I love this concept when I am on vacation. You get to meet local artisans, support the local economy and ask important questions like “what is this made from?”, This is especially important when it comes to endangered species. Don’t buy items made from ivory or snakeskin as an example, and keep in mind if you do, they may be illegal in other places you are going.
Shopping directly from the artisans also ensures that the items you are buying are sweatshop free.
Elephant riding is popular in Thailand and the activity is spreading across Africa. In order for an elephant to accept a rider, it endures a cruel training program called the “crush” using pain, fear, and isolation. The trauma cased from this process can stay with the elephants their entire lives. Lion and tiger cubs used for selfies with tourists are taken from their mothers at an early age and typically kept in isolation. Many animals like monkeys are forced to do unnatural things through painful training methods and when not performing are usually kept in small barren cages. Don’t take a selfie with animals, don’t visit places where you can hold an animal or watch it do silly tricks.
- Ditch the car!
Biking, walking, hiking, taking a local bus or taxi are great ways to really get to see the place you are visiting. Walking and biking tours offer a unique, local perspective. You can stumble upon little shops and eateries that you would not see in a car. This will also help to reduce your travel emissions! If you have to rent a car, pick a hybrid. Also, make sure if you are hiking or walking you stay on the designated path!
- Eat locally, if you can!
I love going to different farmers market’s here at home, I can talk to the people who grow the food that I eat directly and now you can do it when you travel too. Eat Well Everywhere allows you to map a route of sustainable food stores, farmers markets and B and B’s, they have over 25,000 hand-picked restaurants, farms, markets and other sources of local, sustainable food.
- Plant a tree!
Planes, trains, and automobiles add carbon dioxide to the atmosphere and we certainly don’t need more of that! Consider planting a tree. Trees convert CO2 to oxygen, which we need to breathe. Find a program that works for you, this is a great place to start.
Keep in mind though that panting tress is one way to reduce emissions but should not be used as a way to make up for your emissions.
- Avoid one-time use plastic items
I am sure by now you have heard about the detrimental effect that plastic has on the ocean. There are over 8 million tons of it floating around right now as I write this. Plastic sucks but some of it is worse than others.
Items that we use once, like straws, are the worst offenders. They have a short lifespan and are normally discarded after only one use and end up in landfills. Like other plastic items, they don’t biodegrade; they last hundreds of years and end up polluting our soil and water as they slowly break down.
Did you know?
Plastic straws are in the top ten items picked up in beach cleanups
– We burn a ton of fossil fuels to make plastic straws
– They normally contain Bisphenol A (a known carcinogen)
The best way to get rid of plastic straws is to simply stop buying them! If you are out at a restaurant, just ask them to hold the straw!
Photo: Nature News
Let’s talk about disposable utensils, Nicholas Mallos, director of the Ocean Conservancy’s Trash-Free Seas Program says “Plastic utensils are an item that many people may not think of as posing a threat in a marine environment,” He adds that plastic forks and knives can harm marine life both when they’re whole and later when they break down into smaller, sharper, indigestible pieces. Traveling with your own utensils may seem weird, but you are doing a really good thing for the planet.
- Consider a staycation!
Become a tourist in your own city, visit local farms and museums, you never know you may discover a new favourite hot spot!
“Take nothing but pictures, leave nothing footprints”
Have you thought about being more eco-friendly when you travel? Do you have any tips to share? We’d love to hear from you.