I originally wrote this post on responsible travel for Earth Day, but it’s really important year-round. I’ve decided to update the post to put the message back out there.
In light of it being Earth Day, I thought I’d share some of my favourite tips for being a bit more Earth-conscious while travelling. This list is not exhaustive and isn’t a full list of Responsible Travel tips – but below are some good pointers for helping to reduce the impact as you explore the Earth.
Reduce emissions: go overland – or by foot.
Travelling by public transport where possible helps to reduce your carbon emissions. When you’re looking at a tour provider or itinerary, see if you can find options that use local trains or buses. It’s also an amazing way to see more of a country and to interact with the locals – whether it be a great train journey like the Vodkatrain across Siberia, or something super modern like purchasing a JR Pass in Japan.
When you’re exploring a city, why not walk? Getting lost on foot is half the fun sometimes. Many cities, particularly in Europe, are made for exploring by bicycle… while places like Hanoi in Vietnam have traditional cyclos to get around in.
Think before you purchase.
There are so many reasons why you should head to the markets and buy souvenirs for everyone you know back home… Not only do you make all your loved ones happy, but you’ll support local traders too. But you can go deeper than that. Check that the products you buy are made by local artisans and ask about the materials used to make them. Are they sustainable? (It pays to do a bit of research on this kind of thing before you go). And of course, steer well clear of anything made from endangered animal products (such as the horns/tusks of rhinos or elephants), or shells or coral from reefs.
Often, particularly in markets in Asia, you’ll be given a lot of unnecessary plastic bags. It’s okay to say no to these – they contribute to so many waste issues and you’re just going to take your goodies straight out of them anyway.
Say no to bottled water and other plastic.
Many parts of the world have undrinkable water supplies, so hotels and tour providers are constantly handing out bottled water to tourists. Obviously, it’s a safety concern (read here if you want to know why you shouldn’t drink the water!) but there are ways around it that don’t involve “disposable” plastic bottles. Research options for filtered reusable bottles and stay in places that have filtered water where possible. For example, every villa I’ve stayed at in Bali has a water filtration system, as do many hotels across the region.
Also, rather than use mini toiletries, use refillable travel minis in your toiletries bag.
Avoid packaging and other waste
There are other ways to avoid packaging on the road, especially when it comes to food. Go for fresh options and say no to plastic and bring your own reusable bags. For example, you might head to a bakery in Paris: no need for a plastic bag for your fresh bread. A paper one is fine or just pop it in your bag: you’ll be eating it straight away! Shopping locally rather than in supermarkets will help reduce packaging.
Love your coffee? Always pack a keep-cup and say a big fat no to disposable coffee cups. And do you really need a straw? If yes, bring a reusable metal one with you.
Ladies: consider environmentally friendly sanitary options, like washable pads, menstrual underwear, or menstrual cups. Think of how much waste would get removed just by making that one change!
Leave No Trace.
Leave No Trace has seven principles of outdoor ethics: read them here. Essentially, Leave No Trace is pretty self-explanatory: it’s about ensuring the environment is left the way you found it (or healthier). Leave No Trace takes into account how fragile ecosystems can be and provides concrete guidelines for exploring the Earth in a way that reduces impact.
So Happy Earth Day everyone! Now, go forth and spread the word!
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