A Beginner’s Guide to Sustainable Travel | Guest Post
Today we have a guest post from Harriet of the Zero Waste Cartel. She’s written a guest post on sustainable travel and it’s fab!
As someone who recently went on holiday to New York City – and felt very guilty for the air travel – this was a brilliant post to read. And I’m so glad I get to share it today.
With the wealth of hidden treasures in the world, the allure of travel is completely understandable. We search the world for that “perfect” experience – a pristine white beach with crystalline waters, breath-taking views on mountain tops, or memorable interactions with friendly locals.
However, with this wanderlust comes a great cost. The cost to the environment. Many of the gorgeous landscapes that make travel so amazing are being destroyed by excess consumption – plastic pollution or carbon emissions. And that’s why it’s important that we travel as sustainably as possible.
So in this article, we’ll share exactly how we can travel sustainably so we can protect and preserve nature’s finest landscapes.
First things first, what actually is Sustainable Travel?
Sustainable Travel is all about travelling leaving the smallest footprint behind… visiting a new place without disrupting the land or culture.
There’s a big debate whether travel can truly be “sustainable” – after all, air travel is one of the major contributors to CO2 emissions. However, this is only one issue that affects the environment. It also comes down to plastic pollution, respecting the locals, and living ‘locally’.
And we can all implement a few things in order to travel a bit more sustainably.
So here are 13 simple things that you can do to help you travel more sustainably…
1. Be mindful of your mode of transport
Aeroplanes release huge amounts of carbon emissions, which contribute greatly to global warming.
Yes, it is the easiest and fastest, but is it really necessary all the time? When you don’t have to cross continents, maybe you can reach the same destination by bus, train, or boat.
Knowing your options is a great way to reduce your carbon footprint. It also most likely will end up a lot cheaper than flying.
2. If flying is unavoidable, fly direct
If you really cannot avoid taking an aeroplane, book a direct flight if possible. The majority of the carbon emissions are released during take-offs and landings – booking a direct flight without stop-overs cuts your carbon emissions by half.
It might cost a little more, but you’ll end up saving time (and the environment) too.
3. Try to offset your carbon emissions
Offsetting carbon emissions is one thing you can do to balance out your carbon footprint. While it doesn’t stop the carbon emissions totally, it’s still much better for the environment overall.
Multiple environmental projects (like My Climate or Reforestum) offer carbon offset schemes, which allow you to figure out how much carbon dioxide you produce and invest a certain amount in order to balance that out.
The funds go directly to supporting projects of these organizations, which aim to produce clean energy and reducing carbon emissions.
4. Pack light
The heavier your luggage, the heavier the plane. This means more fuel needs to be used in order to get off of the ground, therefore increasing carbon emissions.
Adopting a minimalist approach by bringing just the essentials and packing lightly goes a long way. Not only will your luggage be easier to carry – you’ll save a lot on excess baggage fees too.
Packing light also means you can have more space in your bag for handmade local souvenirs. Buying local is always a great idea, because you are extending support to local communities instead of the big commercial and fast fashion brands.
5. Be mindful of your toiletries
Yes, travel-sized portions for toiletries might be convenient, but it not only is more expensive, since you’re buying more little portions – it’s also horrible for the environment. You’ll need multiple sachets of soap, shampoos, and conditioners, which means that’s a lot of unnecessary single-use plastics that will take centuries to decompose.
For more sustainable toiletries, try replacing your shampoos and conditioners that are bottled and plastic-packaged for shampoo and conditioner bars. They usually last for around 90 washes and are easy to carry around. Since they’re solid too, you don’t have to worry about liquids in your hand-carried luggage.
Another possible sustainability tweak is switching to chemical-free and plastic-free sunscreen. Regular sunscreen contains oxybenzone, which kills reefs and other marine life. Not only that – when applied to our skin, it increases the chances of developing life-threatening diseases. Switch to this zero waste sunscreen, which will protect your skin without harming the environment. It even comes in a plastic-free tin that you can reuse!
Last tip – if you need to take liquid toiletries, decant what you already have at home into smaller bottles. You’ll avoid spending for those smaller travel-sized sachets, and you can utilize what you have at home.
6. Switch to bamboo toothbrushes
Swapping your plastic toothbrushes for bamboo ones will cut down on the plastics that you use. Plastic toothbrushes are one of the main pollutants of our landfills – sometimes, they even end up on our beaches and in oceans.
7. Take it slow
It’s common to have that urge to cram as much sightseeing as possible in a short amount of time, as you want to make the most out of your travels. However, this is extremely exhausting, and not to mention bad for the environment.
Travelling fast means you’ll end up using more transport and staying in more hotels, which means you’ll end up spending more resources – both financial and environmental.
Take it slow, and soak in the sights. This means more time to actually explore the hidden gems in the community, and more time to really get to know the place. You’ll really make the most out of your travels if you take it slow. You’ll be able to give back to the community, and who knows, you might end up befriending some locals and store owners, and get some really great tips that other tourists won’t get.
8. Don’t hotel-hop – set up a home base
Some people like the experience of going to places and switching hotels every day. However, each time you check into a new hotel, new sheets and blankets are set up.
If you switched hotels each day, that creates 7 times the amount of laundry for sheets, blankets, and towels, as compared with if you stayed in the same place for a week. Consider choosing one hotel as a base, and doing smaller day trips around the area. This way, you avoid checking into somewhere new every day.
It’s also okay to tell the hotel staff that you don’t need fresh towels every day and that you’re fine with just using one for your entire stay. This reduces water, detergent, softener, and energy usage due to excess laundry.
9. Don’t waste energy
Yes, when you are travelling, the energy you use is already included in your hotel bills. Even if you leave the aircon on full blast, or leave the lights on when you’re out, your hotel won’t charge you extra.
However, there is really no reason to do this. You are just wasting unnecessary energy if you do this.
Make sure you turn off everything as you head out for the day. It really is being wasteful if you leave everything on, just because you’re on vacation and you’re technically not paying for it.
Also, can you make do with a fan instead of using the air conditioner? If you have that option and you’re not somewhere with blistering heat, might as well just take it for the environment.
Bonus tip – make sure you switch off all your plugs and extension cords back home before you leave for your travel. This cuts down on your power bill, as it uses residual energy when you leave it like that. You also run a risk of starting a fire, so just turn it off!
10. Try to purify your own water
More often than not, if you travel to third world countries, the tap water isn’t really safe to drink. Yes, the easy thing to do is to buy bottled water – however, what if you try to purify water on your own?
There are filters and tablets you can use to ensure that the water you have is safe to drink, no matter the source. Most local pharmacies have this. You end up saving the environment too as you do away with the unnecessary plastic bottles.
Also, always keep a reusable bottle with you, and fill it up from clean water sources as much as you can. This way, you can be sure to have access to clean water every time you need it.
11. Don’t waste water
Long, warm showers do feel great – but you have to be conscious that this is not a luxury that most of the world can’t afford.
A lot of places around the world do not have easy access to water. Even if you’re in a modern city that doesn’t seem to struggle with water availability, you’ll never know if there’s a nearby place that water is siphoned away from, depriving the community that needs it.
Skip the long showers. Make sure to don’t leave the tap running while brushing your teeth. These small things add up.
12. Don’t support animal cruelty
A common activity for most travellers is to see and interact with local wildlife.
It’s really important that the animals are treated humanely. Don’t support animal cruelty just for that perfect social media post with that monkey, camel, or elephant.
Stay away from tourist attractions where animals are tied up, or who seem so completely chilled-out despite being a normally wild and feral animal. Be relentless, and don’t support attractions that are obviously in it for the money, at the expense of the freedom of these animals.
13. Support local
Travelling the world is the perfect time to experience what each place has to offer – it would be a shame if you missed out on it! There are so many interesting and incredible flavors from local produce that you cannot get back home.
Be sure that wherever you are, as much as you can, support local farmers and growers. Not only is it cheaper because you are not paying for importation costs, you can be assured that it’s fresher too. Local produce travels less to reach you, which means you also keep your carbon footprint down!
Check out your local food market stalls and explore what they have to offer. It’s also a nice opportunity to meet the locals and listen to their stories. This way, you get the full experience, and you truly share a part of their culture. Be extra sustainable and bring your own reusable produce bags to avoid any single-use ones they might give you!
Hopefully, this article has given you some ideas on sustainable travelling. Remember these few key points – keep your plastic use low, be mindful of your carbon footprint, be conscious of your decisions, and don’t waste anything.
It is completely possible to enjoy what the world has to offer without destroying it in the process!