Going traveling soon? Bet you’re excited! If you’re reading this, you must also be a bit worried about the environment and your carbon footprint though.
We’ve all heard about the damage traveling can do to our planet. So much so that some people are drastically cutting down their air miles, while others are cutting out traveling altogether. Sad 😔.
It’s the opinion of this writer that traveling doesn’t have to give us a guilty conscience. Not when there are ways to travel more sustainably, anyway.
In this article, I’m going to take a look at how you can travel sustainably from now on so that you get to see the world without, you know, killing it at the same time.
Let’s dive in!
Tip #1: Pick a sustainable destination
Where you go will have a huge bearing on how you feel about your environmental footprint. If you go to a huge city known for its pollutants (like Shanghai), you’re probably not going to feel too great about that.
It’s also not simply a case of choosing smaller towns, villages or rural areas over sprawling metropolises. How far you travel comes into play, too. For example, choosing to visit somewhere you can get to without flying for several hours on an airplane is always preferable.
Tip #2: Eat like a native
Remember when you were a kid and your parents dragged you halfway across the world only to go to McDonald’s for dinner anyway? I’m looking at you, dad.
It’s time to do things differently in 2020 — it’s time to embrace local customs and eat like a local.
Local people in any city, town or village in the world have their own delicacies. This is true in Greek islands, Italian ports, Japanese hamlets … It’s true wherever you go.
So adjust to the local cuisine, get a flavor for it, and really take it in. Eat local produce and get your groceries from the local markets.
Tip #3: Learn where to refill your bottled water
Water is the elixir of life, and we should all aim to drink more of it. One snag: Bottled water is made from plastic. And the more water bottles you buy while on holiday, the more damage you’re doing to the environment.
Wherever you go, take a bottle of water with you. Then, learn ways to refill it over and over again. Also, research whether you can drink tap water in the country or city you're going to.
Here’s one hack, for example: Each time you visit a restaurant or cafe, politely ask the staff to refill your water bottle for you. Or just do it yourself with the table water.
Tip #4: Cut down on souvenirs
Many of us are bad for souvenirs. But how many times have you bought a souvenir that no one really wants or uses?
Next time you buy a souvenir, think carefully.
That teddy bear draped in the German flag that I once got my mom? Yeah, I’ve no idea what happened to that.
Tip #5: Ask a tour operator for advice
Even if you’re not holidaying with a tour operator, you can still get in touch with one to find out more about the environmental practices in the area you’re visiting. It’s well worth asking if they know any causes that support things like cultural heritage or wildlife preservation so that you don’t miss out on any cool opportunities.
Tip #6: Research recycling situation
Different places have different recycling situation: in some places you will find those colored containers literally next to every house... And in some places it is way more complicated
Do some research before your trip (ask Google, your host, Facebook, or a Couchsurfing community): Where can you recycle stuff? Do supermarkets accept glass bottles for a store credit? Otherwise, where does glass go? What about paper and plastic?
Sustainable traveler's checklist
#1: Food stuff
Here's what to bring:
When we travel, we eat. Sometimes, we eat street food — and street food means plastic. Here’s what you can do to save money and the environment.
- Bring a water bottle — See above for how to stick to the same water bottle for most/the whole trip)
- Reusable utensils kit — Bamboo utensils are reasonably priced but you can just take your own utensils from home
- A lightweight lunch box — It won’t take up much room in your bag and works well for takeout food
- Cotton napkins — You’ll need to take a few but you’ll replace them less than you would paper towels and tissues
- Produce bags — Perfect for fruit and veggies)
- Tote/reusable bag
#2: Bathroom stuff
Bathroom stuff produces so. much. waste, but it's entirely possible to keep it to a minimum as you travel.
Here's what to bring:
- Reusable containers and bottles with your favorite shampoo, conditioner, lotion, etc. — Instead of buying travel versions of the same products you back have at home
- A block of nice, fragrant soap
- Reusable cloths instead of makeup wipes and cotton rounds
- Paper or bamboo Q-tips, or a reusable swab — It's safe and lasts for years
- Menstrual cup and/or reusable pads — They take virtually no space in your luggage and produce zero waste
- Safety razor
- A bamboo toothbrush, or the one made of any other compostable material
- Glass-packaged floss
- Toothpaste tablets packaged in glass or metal
The sustainable traveler takes a bundle of versatile items that can be worn in changeable climates.
Here's what to bring:
- Scarves — Can be used to dress up or as a cape and even a blanket
- Leggings — As comfy and versatile as it gets!
- Lightweight fleece — Light but warm, fleece isn’t too heavy and can be worn during the day and night to give you extra warmth if it’s chilly
- Ballet flats — Ballet flats are a solid second choice of shoes when you’re traveling. They don’t take up much room and can be worn on casual outings and nights out
Here's what to bring:
- Travel case — A bamboo travel case for your toiletries looks super smart
- Solar charger — Use solar power to charge your electronic devices so you never feel guilty each time it takes an hour or two to bring your MacBook back to life
- Headphones — We all deserve to listen to our favorite music without feeling bad about it. Stock up on a pair of environmentally friendly headphones for your holiday that are made of wood composite and bamboo
- Plastic-free sunscreen — Because no one wants to burn or indulge in a bit of sunscreen pollution on holiday
- DEET free insect repellent — I can’t tell you how many mosquitoes I’ve probably killed while traveling. I’m not proud of it but, hey, it happens. However, you can do your bit for the planet by using DEET free insect repellent from now on
Traveling sustainably is all about realizing that all travel is bad but having the awareness to inflict as little damage as possible on our planet as we have as good a time as possible.
If we stopped traveling altogether, the planet would more likely be in a better state, but on the flip side we’d be totally miserable. It’s important to find the balance.
Use the tips and checklist in this article the next time you go traveling so that you, in some small but not insignificant way, reduce your carbon footprint.
Do you have any sustainable travel tips of your own? Let us know in the comments!
For more sustainable tips and hacks, be sure to install NatureHub app. 😉