Traveling can be incredibly fulfilling, but it can also come with a big environmental footprint. Here are 5 ways to go global trotting while still treading lightly on the environment.
1. Getting There - Low Carbon Transport
The number one contributor to your trip's carbon footprint will likely be the flights you take. Do your best to avoid them if you can and look for alternative ways to travel such as buses and trains. While land transport may take a little longer, it's a fantastic way to see parts of the country that you might never have seen otherwise. An added bonus is that they are often much cheaper.
Use Public Transport:
Once you get to your destination, figure out the public transport system. Taxis and car rentals are rarely worth the ecological and financial costs. Opt to take a metro, bus, rental bike, or walk instead. I love walking through new cities. You get a much better sense of the energy of the place
2. Say No to Disposables
You have to be on your game. It’s easy to forget to ask for no straw or stop the server from filling up that paper coffee cup before it’s too late. The two key opportunities to swap disposable for reusable while you’re on the road are when you’re eating out and when you’re shopping so be especially watchful when those moments come around.
You can’t say no to disposable things if you don’t have an alternative, so make sure you’re prepared! My three travel 'must-have’s are a reusable water bottle, washable eating utensils (avoid metal or you’ll lose it in the airport), and a tote bag. Armed with these three things you’ll never have to send another piece of trash to landfill again! Ok... maybe not quite, but they will help you take a significant cut out of the amount of garbage you leave behind.
3. Eco-Conscious Eating
This part can be a lot of fun! Travelling can be an awesome opportunity to discover new local dishes. Don’t be afraid to ask your waiter where your food comes from and learn a little bit. Remember that while homesickness might make you crave them, the fast food restaurants you recognize will tend to be more expensive than they are at home. In a lot of developing countries, fast food isn't a cheap meal, but instead an imported luxury.
Maybe you eat a vegetarian diet at home but maintaining that practice while you’re traveling seems daunting. Luckily, it may be easier than you think. Stay in a hostel or Airbnb. Hostels often provide you with access to a communal kitchen, giving you much more control over your meals. And cooking for yourself doesn’t have to mean missing out on local cuisine. Take a cooking class, go explore some local vegetable markets and get creative with new, local ingredients.
4. Staying Organized - Skip Paper Waste
Download your Documents:
Skip printing when you can. Most companies have entered the 21st century and will allow you to simply download your ticket to scan right from your phone. Not will it be easier to keep track of all your most important documents, but you can seriously lower the amount of paper you waste.
5. Find Responsible Attractions
Do your Research:
Unfortunately, there are people out there who are keen to make a quick buck off of uninformed tourists, even if that means crossing ethical lines. For example, companies that charge you to take pictures with wild baby animals, who are often taken from their mothers and sedated. To avoid those kinds of operations, it's important to do a bit of research before your trip. Actively seek out attractions connected to organizations who do good in their communities such as wildlife rehabilitation and research centers.
State your Concerns:
Don’t be afraid to point out issues when you see them. As a customer of the tourism industry, you’re in a uniquely powerful position to enact change. The industry depends on visitors leaving happy and giving recommendations to friends so what you think has a lot of weight. If people start seeing that tourists support responsible practices, it will be in their best interest to make changes.