How To Travel More Sustainably

 

As an effect of the COVID-19 pandemic, the whole world stopped for a while (it’s hard to believe it’s more than a year and a half already!). Travelling was among many other things that have been halted. All travel-lovers, digital nomads, hospitality workers, and many more experienced this side of the “new reality” a lot.

Meanwhile, in the first few weeks and months, the media got excited about natural phenomena.

Shortly after the COVID-19 outbreak was announced, people could see the following clearly uplifting pieces of news:

· dolphins came back to Venice, Italy (which, btw. according to National Geographic, was fake),

· rare turtles were born on a Thai beach.

Yet, these beautiful pieces of information are not proof that nature got better because of the COVID pandemic. On the contrary, according to conservation.org the situation got far worse. As people have lost their jobs in cities, they were pressured by the economy to go back to rural areas. Deforestation, wildlife poaching, and illegal mining increased, creating a great danger to the environment but also to the indigenous people that were exposed to the lethal disease. The unguarded natural areas that were previously protected became exposed to illegal activities. Additionally, in some places where tourism was crucial to survival, consumption of wild animal meat increased.

Because of animal agriculture and the destruction of natural areas such as tropical forests, humans have closer contact with wild animals. Mining, deforestation, and expansion of human activity into natural areas have a bad influence on its inhabitants. Animals are suppressed from their natural territories and are more likely to get stressed and sick. As an effect, humans are more exposed to potential diseases animals might have. From there, the road toward another epidemic or even pandemic caused by animal-borne illnesses is pretty inevitable.

All of this inevitably leads to reflection on the way we live and the way we travel. There is no doubt that in the face of climate changes, of which effects we can experience almost anywhere in the world, a change in our lives is not only needed, but also crucial for survival.

If you are a conscious traveller or aspiring to be one, you should try to rethink the way you travel. Here are some things I apply or want to include in my journeys to make my life as a traveller more sustainable.

I believe in small steps and the power of community. I know that starting with huge changes can be overwhelming for many. This is why I divided this article into three parts:

· baby steps, with small changes that you can quickly improve while travelling,

· bigger helpers, where you can read about things that might be more challenging yet still pretty easy to implement,

· game changers, in which you can discover more advanced solutions that require much more effort but can bring mind-blowing results.

Baby Steps

Photo by Brian Yurasits on Unsplash

Say No to Plastic

According to scientists, more than 8 million tons of plastic ends up in the ocean every year. This is why every sustainable adventure should start with reducing plastic use.

It is never “just one plastic bottle”. Find a reusable bottle that you can use while travelling. You can find all types and sizes now, so you are going to find a perfect one that suits your travelling style. If you are planning to buy takeaway food, consider taking a lunch box with you in which you can ask to have your food.

You can find many brands that think about backpackers and those who have limited luggage space. Collapsible items might be just the right choice for you.

Change Your Cosmetics

Another plastic reduction that you can make starts in your cosmetics bag. Most airports allow just a small amount of liquid in hand luggage because of security reasons. Shops are full of travel-size cosmetics but avoid them. Smaller size cosmetics packed in a plastic bottle add more to plastic pollution.

Use reusable containers, which you can refill with cosmetics from bigger bottles or swap for solid cosmetics. I have been using solid shampoo and soap bars for two years now and can’t imagine swapping them for anything else. Additionally, you don’t have to worry about taking out your cosmetics bag for security control or experience leaking.

You can also consider changing your plastic toothbrush to a bamboo one. Some people feel uncomfortable using the toothbrush they use whilst travelling, so if you dispose of yours right after travelling, choosing a more ecological option is a must.

Photo by Globelet Reusable on Unsplash

Use a Reusable Cup for Beverages

I am a big fan of coffee. I can’t imagine a trip without checking out local cafés. However, for a long time, I thought that takeaway coffee cups are made from paper. Well, not really. Most of them are covered with a super thin layer of plastic. As an effect, they cannot be recycled. Let’s not even mention the plastic covers.

If you like to walk around with a cup of hot beverage and cherish the city around you, invest in a reusable cup. No space in your hand luggage, you say? Pick a collapsible cup that yo

Choose Your Transportation Wisely

A return flight from London to Rome produces 234 kg of CO2 per passenger. You probably don’t have that much time to travel from the UK to Italy by train. However, whenever you can, choose trains over planes. Even if it takes more hours, it’s worth it.

You can save the environment but also relax by reading a book or simply chilling out. If you travel in Europe, many trains have conditions to work on your computer, so you can use that time to do some productive things.

Whenever you have to choose, calculate your time. If the train travel takes 5 hours and the flight is 1,5 hours, add the time you have to spend to get to the airport, waiting time in the departure hall, etc., and think if it’s really worth it.

While exploring a city, try to avoid using a car. Whenever it’s possible, go on foot, use city bikes or public transportation. You can discover more while slowly strolling through a town than from the back seat of a taxi.

Stay Close to Home

If the pandemic taught something to fellow travellers, it’s that there are amazing places around us to visit.

People get excited about travelling abroad or even to another continent, but wherever you live, there are probably stunning areas around you to visit. The truth is that we are not so keen to focus on discovering places that we live in for most of our lives.

Search for some local adventures. Find an amazing spot in nature, even if it is just a city park. Discover museums or galleries in your town. Think about yourself as a tourist going to a place you have never been.

Photo by Luis Tosta on Unsplash

Conserve Resources

Use common sense. Would you take an hour-long shower at home? While you might think you use water and resources for free (included in the price of your room), the real cost of wasting water is unaccountable for the environment.

Don’t leave the tap running when you wash your teeth. Don’t fill a bathtub every day. You know, basic stuff that you would most likely apply in your household.

Some accommodations have a reminder about the wise use of resources. Don’t throw your towels on the floor so the service will wash them every day. Now, you don’t wash your towels at home every day, do you?

Do Your Research Before Deciding on an Attraction

Okay, I admit, this one needs a bit of extra work on your side, but it is really, really necessary if you want to travel consciously. Do it, especially when you want to participate in a tour in a country whose culture you don’t know much about or if the experience you want to get involves animals.

When you travel, you want to learn about new cultures, not disrespect them and add to the destruction of the planet.

Be aware of animal welfare and suffering to which you can contribute. Decide with your wallet what you pay for. If you read this article, it also means that you have access to the Internet. It will take you seconds to find out that riding elephants in Thailand is not a good idea. That petting a tiger means wild animals are being drugged. Run a search including an experience or destination you want and add “is it cruelty-free” or “is it wrong” and you will get the records that you need.

Try:

· Aruba Flamingos is it cruelty-free

· Climbing Uluru is it wrong

Bigger helpers

Photo by Brian Erickson on Unsplash

Share a Ride

Whether you travel locally or want to find a ride to another country, have a look at travel groups. Some places are reachable by car, so when there is no public transport, check if you can minimalize your carbon footprint by carpooling.

If you drive a car and have free seats, you can post on a local travel group on Facebook that you are going to visit some more remote places and you can share the ride. This way, you save the environment and money. Additionally, you can meet some interesting people.

Pick One Country/Area Over a Few and Discover It Better

Some people take pride in the number of countries they travel to. However, if you are 25 and have already “visited” 100 countries, your travels are most probably far from being sustainable.

Instead of rushing and checking countries or even cities off of your bucket list, try to focus on one place and discover it deeply. This way, you produce a lower carbon footprint and you can immerse yourself in local culture.

Photo by Jasmin Sessler on Unsplash

Don’t Waste Food

According to the European Commission, 88 million tonnes of food waste is generated annually in the European Union. In the USA, about 30–40% of the food supply is thrown away. That is a giant problem on so many levels, including the environment.

Discovering the cuisine of places is an important part of travelling for many. Do your best to enjoy it without generating waste. Think about your choices, don’t buy food that you might not eat.

I used to eat a very small portion of food, so standard portions in restaurants were always too big. This is why I was asking for slightly smaller portions and that was rarely a problem.

Support Local Economies

Many communities survive because of tourism. When you travel, be sure that your money goes to the locals. Staying in chain hotels, buying in supermarkets, and eating non-local food means that your money leaks from the community and sponsors someone from the outside.

So, what can you do? Try to avoid any chain places, whether it’s a hotel, restaurant, or souvenir shop. Choose smaller businesses that are owned by locals. You can search for artisanal shops in the area. If you like seeing places with a tourist guide, try to search for a person who lives in the area instead of booking a tour with a holiday agent.

Whenever it’s possible, avoid supermarkets and buy food at a local market or in little stores. When you’re back from your holiday, try to implement it in your own community as well.

Don’t Get Fast Fashion Clothing Just to Take an Instagram Picture

Instagram is full of beautiful pictures. Some of the most popular travel shots show a girl in a beautiful dress, in front of a spectacular view or stunning architecture. Don’t get me wrong: I love photography. However, remember that fast fashion is extremely destructive to the environment.

If you want to get clothing just to take a few pictures and never use it again, don’t do it. Especially don’t purchase it from fast fashion brands. Instead, you can search for second-hand pieces, borrow something from your friend, or simply use what you already have in your wardrobe. Get creative!

Game Changers

Ok, this part is much harder. Even though some of the mentioned things are not expensive, nor too complicated to perform, they might not suit everyone’s lifestyle.

Photo by Jan Padilla on Unsplash

Travel Slow

I love discovering areas around me and, as a digital nomad, I have the freedom to move around. I use this freedom to travel slowly. Without rushing, without changing places every few days. If you have a possibility like this, try to experiment with that lifestyle. It gives you a great feeling. You can be more connected with the community, nature, and yourself.

If you are just limited to your vacation days, you can try to do it in a simplified version. Pick one place in which you are going to spend your holidays, and enjoy its perks, culture, cuisine, and community to the fullest.

Volunteer

Being a volunteer can be a great way to do something good and discover places in the meantime. You can help to rebuild communities that were destroyed by natural disasters, enrol in programs such as ESC and do some social or cultural work.

You can also use websites such as Workaway or Woofers to seek people who offer some food and a place to stay for your help on a farm or babysitting.

But Be Aware of Bad Voluntourism

Voluntourism has been growing in popularity for years. Who wouldn’t like to travel and do something good for the world? The problem is, voluntourism can be a dirty business that instead of helping causes tragedies.

Before deciding on any volunteering program, do lots of research to be sure if you are not contributing to child labour, breaking families apart, animal suffering, and so on. When you find an opportunity, ask yourself: would I be allowed to do this job in my own country? Do I have the qualifications to do it? If the answer is no, that should be a red light for you.

Never forget that volunteering means helping for free. Some organizations might ask volunteers to cover their accommodation and food, but if you see a huge enrollment fee for becoming a volunteer, all your red lights should be blinking like crazy.

This post was previously published on Greener Together.

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The post How To Travel More Sustainably appeared first on The Good Men Project.


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