Sustainable travel is here to stay. This big old world around is is struggling under the effects of pollution, global warming and over population and as more and more people strap on their backpacks to see the world, the impact can be devastating if we’re not consciously trying to counter it. Travel inherently leaves a huge carbon footprint – just think about the damage air fuel does to the environment – but there are adjustments we can all make to our travel habits to ensure that we’re doing our bit to travel sustainably.
Pick up after yourself
This might seem like stating the absolute obvious, but always keep room in your backpack for any rubbish you might need to dispose of. Particularly in remote areas, rubbish bins may not be around and dumping rubbish in these areas is incredibly damaging to the environment. Leave a place exactly as you found it and the environment will be ever so grateful.
Stop buying plastic water bottles
One for the everyday, not just when travelling. Sustainable travel habits MUST include bringing along a reusable water bottle. I love Waterwell’s foldable squeeze reusable bottle that comes with a filter to remove all the nasty stuff from your water. It’s the perfect compact solution! Plastic waste is one of the biggest epidemics of our time and the stuff just doesn’t biodegrade – the oldest piece of plastic ever created has still not broken down. Recently a sperm whale was found dead in Indonesia with its stomach contents containing 115 plastic cups, 25 plastic bags, 4 plastic bottles and 1000+ pieces of plastic. Gross, huh? We can and should do better.
Swap the pads & tampons for a menstrual cup
Girls, we all know that when its that time of the month, its a massive pain (literally and figuratively). However, let’s not make the environment suffer, too! Did you know that we each use on average 11,000 pads or tampons in our lifetime? That’s a lot of waste! Swap out your pads and tampons for a menstrual cup, which can be rinsed and reused throughout your period and then stored & used again the next month. Tips for first time users: practice inserting before you get your period, so you know exactly how to do it when ‘Aunt Flo’ shows up and keep a small bottle of water with you for public toilets so you can rinse quickly in the cubicle before reinserting. If you look after it, it is reusable for up to 10 YEARS. That’s a much happier environment and a much happier wallet, too.
Offset Your Carbon
Every time we hop on an aeroplane to explore a new destination, the environment pays a hefty price. Air travel, whilst being an amazing privilege our generation has access to, is very damaging for our planet. Airlines have carbon offset programs in place that allow you to contribute a tiny bit extra which is donated to programs around the world designed to reduce carbon emissions. According to Choice.com.au, if the aviation industry was a country, it would rank 7th in the list of CO2 emissions. And what’s the cost to you? Well, for example on a Qantas flight between Sydney and LA that costs $1600 AUD, it would cost you another $18 to give back to the environment. If you can afford to spend $1600 on a flight, you can definitely afford to spend the $18 to offset your CO2 emissions.
Skip the Housekeeping
A lot of hotels are now getting on this bandwagon and will proactively promote the option to skip the housekeeping service, but it is still worth mentioning. Avoid the harsh chemicals used in cleaning and who needs fresh towels and sheets every single day, anyway? Some hotels are even offering food and beverage credits or rewards points in exchange for guests foregoing their housekeeping service. If your hotel doesn’t promote this, then avoiding the housekeeping is as simple as popping a “Do Not Disturb” sign on the door and have a chat with the reception when you’re there to see if they’d consider promoting sustainable travel in future.
Avoid Animal Tourism
One of the things that breaks my heart most when travelling is seeing people riding elephants and taking photos with drugged up tigers. I have to admit, too, that one of my most regretted travel mistakes was riding an elephant back in Thailand before I’d learned about how damaging and awful the treatment of these beautiful creatures is. Think about swapping out a ride or a photo with going to help in an animal sanctuary for a day. You’ll still get to be up close and personal with the animals and you’ll actually be helping them, rather than causing damage. Being conscious of sustainable travel options helps our friends in the animal kingdom.
Shop & Eat Local
Sustainable travel isn’t just about being green. Its also about ensuring that we give back to local communities when we visit. One of the best ways we can do this is to avoid mass-franchises like McDonalds and Starbucks and shop and eat like a local. You’ll find fantastic, fresh and tasty food being sold by local street vendors in most places and the plus side is that street food is always cheaper than restaurant meals anyway. The experience of buying and eating from the street is all part of what makes travel so awesome. Consider buying from a local bakery for a walking breakfast in Europe or if in Asia, find a local market and sit down for some hawker fare with the locals.
Get On Your Bike!
Where possible, ditch the taxi or public transport to explore a city or destination by bike. You’ll get your exercise in (so you can justify that afternoon beer in the sun later on) and you’ll be helping the environment by using sustainable travel practices as you explore. Many cities now have bike share systems in place to encourage locals and tourists alike to ride more. In some cities, bicycles are part of the culture, too, so you’ll experience the city like a local. In Amsterdam, for example, bikes are plentiful and there’s no better way to explore than by peddling around town!
Getting Started With Sustainable Travel
So there you have it. A bunch of easy ways to adjust your travel habits to take into account sustainable travel. There’s plenty more ways to help our environment and local communities, but I find sometimes it’s easier to make habitual changes step by step. For example, I made a promise to myself this year I would never use a paper coffee cup again. I bought a glass keep cup for my coffee and focused on ingraining that habit. Once my daily routine included me grabbing my keep cup on auto-pilot in the morning, then I moved on to the next adjustment. The main thing is, we can all make a difference by making small shifts and by embracing sustainable travel. Our planet will thank us!