How can I travel sustainably?
5 simple steps to eco friendly tourism
Travelling is something we all love and most of us could not live without. That feeling of being present in the moment. The excitement of finding yourself in a new place where there is so much to discover and explore. It's a bit like going back to childhood and having the chance to rediscover the world through new eyes.
But wait, there is a downside. Although unintended, travelling can harm the environment and the local communities around us. It can also generate pollution in many forms and feed inequality. So what can we do?
The most powerful tool is knowledge. The more we understand how things work, the easier it is to make better decisions. So here are a few tips about how we can reduce our environmental impact while still doing this thing we love, and even how to make a positive contribution.
1. Reduce your carbon footprint.
Moving from one place to another can have a huge impact on the environment. But it’s pretty necessary, right? However, we know that air travel is the most polluting way of transportation. So how can we avoid it and reduce our carbon footprint?
One way is to split your holidays into different types. For shorter trips, limit your destinations to places you can reach by train or car. Then plan one single big holiday to your dream destination.
Of course, not all methods of transportation generate the same amount of pollution. For example, there are no omissions at all associated with the use of bicycles, sailboats or anything else powered by the human body or the wind. I don't expect you will be sailing your way along the Baltic coast any time soon, however it could be something to take into account for your next day trip.
Check out these figures from TheNewEconomy as they break down some different types of transport by the greatest CO2 emissions per passenger.
2. Pack light like a minimalist.
The heavier something is, the more energy it takes to move. This applies to any means of transport, so travel light. Learn to live in a more minimalist way, and reduce the number of clothes, shoes, etc. you take with you.
Ensure that the clothes that you do take are neutral, practical and can be mixed and matched. This way, you can create many combinations with fewer items. Consider all the different temperatures you might encounter and don't be afraid to reuse heavier items like sweatshirts and coats.
Another tip, avoid carrying disposable toiletries. If you are only away for a few days, bring the amount of shampoo and shower gel you will need in reusable containers. If you plan to stay longer, buy those products when you arrive. You may think this would not make such a big difference. But every shampoo bottle counts.
In the end, packing lighter is just easier, so keep it simple and you will reap the benefits. And with millions of people travelling each year, you can imagine what a difference this makes in the amount of fuel used for transportation. Mother Earth will thank you!
3. Find alternatives to hotels.
Often overlooked, where you choose to lay your head matters. Especially on holiday. If you pamper yourself with the finest hotels, the bedsheets and towels are washed daily, shampoo bottles are thrown away half-full, and the lights and air conditioning are left on unnecessarily. A lot of food is prepared in their restaurants, but when the last customer leaves, the buffet is rarely empty.
So what is the environmentally friendly alternative? Live like a local! Rent a house or apartment and buy only the food you need, avoiding waste. You can also use the local systems for recycling garbage and open a window to cool down. Find a delicious place in the neighbourhood when you go out for a meal, contributing to the local economy.
If you want an even more sustainable option, try Green Pearls, Ecobnb or Mañana. These websites specialise in eco-friendly accommodation, authentic experiences and the protection of local culture.
4. Give back to the community.
Of course! There are plenty of opportunities for example, at Volunteer Travels. Or if you’d like to learn about organic farming, meet new people and work in a team, check out WWOOF. Not only would you be helping important projects, but often these can be cheap ways to squeeze some extra time out of your travels. And who doesn't want that?
Even without considering volunteering, creating a positive impact can just take a little change in mindset. It's important to remember that you are a guest, so taking care of your environment and cleaning up your waste should be a priority. What about making the extra effort of picking up litter you find on the beach or during your walks and runs? This even has a name. Plogging, a popular activity that comes from the word jogging and the Swedish verb "plogga" - to pick up - is a growing movement that encourages taking care of your environment whilst exercising. Even without considering that you are setting a great example to all those who see you, you will for sure leave your surroundings in a better condition than you found it.
5. Be a traveller, not a tourist.
Instead of rushing from place to place like you are collecting them, why don't you slow down and explore on foot or by bike? If you are by yourself, or even with friends, you could connect with local communities. Find meetups, check the boards or social media of community centres - do something you usually wouldn't. Or even, do the same things you love doing, but somewhere new. You might surprise yourself with what you find! This will give you much more than pictures in front of some famous landmarks - Insta is overloaded with those anyway.
Now, everyone has to eat right? And trying new food is surely one of the best parts of travelling. But with great eating comes great responsibility. Eating in small places run by locals is going to be much more beneficial to the local economy than corporate fast-food restaurants or takeaway food with all the packaging. Not to mention that it's usually much healthier and tastes better.
Lastly, it must be mentioned that often you don’t even need to go to the other side of the world to find an amazing landscape or somewhere new to explore. There are probably beautiful places just a couple of hours from your hometown and you never even gave them a second thought. Browse the internet with a little imagination, ask your friends and family, and you’ll be amazed at the hidden treasures you can uncover.