As a travel addict, I love discovering new cultures and adventuring through foreign landscapes. But as an environmentalist, I struggle with my carbon footprint while wayfaring around the world. Is there a way to travel with a “green” conscience?
Travel is a form of consumption, from jet fuel to trash. It’s up to you to determine how much waste you will produce on your voyage. For me, seeing the world has been an education on the environment and the challenges we face. Witnessing other cultures has inspired me to reduce my carbon footprint. Ironically, travel has made me “greener.”
In this article, I’ve listed a seven ways you can reduce your impact on the earth. Implement these easy tricks on your next getaway to travel with a “green” conscience.
1. Carry a water bottle with a built-in filter.
In many foreign countries, you cannot drink the tap water. Instead of purchasing dozens of bottles of water throughout your trip, bring a refillable water bottle with a built in filter. My bottle clips right onto my backpack and has saved me from contributing to landfills in several countries where recycling is not common practice.
2. Be aware of food packaging and waste.
Wasting food in some countries around the world is a sin, so never order more than you can eat. I try to order small plates, or appetizers, when eating out at restaurants to reduce my food waste.
As for packaging, to-go containers are made of Styrofoam, paper or plastic bags, which almost always end up in the garbage. Be conscious of your purchases. Street vendors sometimes offer delicious finger food, such as kabobs, which have little to no food packaging. Pack your own silverware. Refuse a straw in your drink. Every little bit helps.
3. Use a wash bag and hang-dry your clothes.
Laundry machines use a lot of electricity and water. I carry the Scrubba Wash Bag when I’m backpacking. It allows me to wash my clothes with minimal water and takes only a few minutes per load. I hang dry my clothes using this packable clothesline. My travel clothes are also quick-dry fabrics or wool, so they dry quickly.
4. Take public transport or carpool.
Public buses or trains are an eco-friendly option for getting around your destination. Many youth hostels have carpool sing-ups for popular trips, which is an exciting way to meet fellow travelers. On my first day in a new city, I get a map and start walking! Exploring on foot is great exercise and offers excellent people watching opportunities.
5. Be a part of the solution, not the problem.
As I backpacked through Thailand recently, I noticed that the majority of the trash littered on the beaches and in the streets was from tourists. It disgusted me. Why would you come all this way to see a beautiful beach, only to destroy it?
I began picking up litter when I saw it and disposing of it properly. When I go on a hike and see trash on the trail, I pick it up. A great way to be eco-friendly while on vacation is to spend an afternoon carrying a bio-degradable trash bag and picking up litter. You can help compensate for others by going the extra mile!
6. Turn off the air conditioning.
In many countries, only the rich have access to air conditioning. Challenge yourself to live like the locals. Book the train car without air conditioning. Stay in the bungalow that only has a fan. By skipping out on luxury, doors can open. You may have never taken that amazing cooking class unless you were willing to compromise your comfort-zone. It can be a blessing in disguise.
7. Consider the sustainability of the ecosystem.
Is tourism destroying the local land? In order to accommodate visitors, destinations will go to great lengths without considering the sustainability of their practices. A local delicacy may have been sustainable once, but when thousands of tourists decide to try it, that species could be in danger.
Before traveling to a new country, do your research. Are the waters overfished? Do they import their meat from another country? How much meat, fish, grain does they average local eat? How much water, gas, electricity does the average local use? This information can help you make educated discussions on your consumption.
As a green conscience traveler, you should strive to waste less and reuse more than the average tourist. Be aware of your impact. Challenge yourself. Do your research. Being eco-friendly will enhance your adventure.
Finally, allow yourself to be educated by your travels. Enhancing your eco-awareness will make you a better consumer at home and on vacation!
Photos by Guillaume Dutilh
In an effort to pursue an alternative nomadic lifestyle, Jenna Spesard built a tiny house on wheels and hit the road. Within the first year, her tiny house traveled over 20,000 miles around North America and Canada. Read about her travels at TinyHouseGiantJourney.com and follow her tiny house on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube. Read all of Jenna's MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.
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