It’s been a long time coming, but the world is finally waking up to the impending global implications of our consumerist societies. Supermarkets are making an effort to reduce plastic, coffee chains are rewarding customers for bringing reusable cups, and people are taking part in beach clean-up events.
It is getting easier and easier to be eco-conscious in our everyday lives, but what about when we travel? Trying to navigate a new country and embrace all it has to offer while thinking about the World can be a little overwhelming, especially for first time travellers. So, should we just not bother? Enjoy travelling and worry about are eco-consciousness when we get home?! ABSOLUTELY NOT!
There are a number of ways to reduce your pollution and carbon footprint while still enjoying a rewarding travel experience. Often, the eco-friendlier you are, the cheaper your trip will be! Everyone is a winner!
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Living in Korea, I carried a metal water bottle everywhere. In the UK, businesses are only just catching on to this. However, almost every hostel I visited in Southeast Asia were able to fill my water bottle for free. While some used bigger water bottles to dispense, this is still better than hundreds of smaller 500ml bottles.
I did meet people who just refilled old plastic bottles, which is fine for a short amount of time. However, there are health concerns associated with this, so it’s best to avoid reusing plastic bottles where you can.
The joy of Swells is they hold their temperature for a considerable amount of time. Unlike plastic bottles and cheaper metal bottles, they will keep water cold for ? and hot for. This is something you’re going to really appreciate on a long, hot bus ride!
Straws are finally being banned, mostly thanks to the venerable David Attenborough. Images of dead animals caused by straws trapped in their throats are all over social media and the news recently. They are finally having an effect and plastic straws are soon to be banned in the UK and EU.
Sadly, this momentum hasn’t continued across the world. If, like me, you love drinking through a straw, all is not lost. Metal straws have arrived! Easy to keep clean, they come with a handy cap to keep it clean while you’re carrying it around. A great way to save the planet but not going without.
These have been around a long time, so they shouldn’t be anything new. I travelled with one way back in 2011. However, when I tried to buy one recently I really struggled to find them, so sadly they are yet to take off! If you are after one, Lush or iHerb is your best bet.
The obvious benefit to carrying a disposable shampoo bar is the disuse of plastic. The bar simply wears down through use so there’s no plastic container to dispose of. Another fantastic benefit is storage and size. Unlike bulky and heavy shampoo bottles, I found a bar much easier to carry in my rucksack, and much lighter! I am a massive hater of heavy bags!
Lush Shampoo Bars: https://uk.lush.com/products/shampoo
Avoid Flying, Embrace Local Transport
I have met so many people on my travels who simply travel from destination to destination by plane. Granted this makes sense if you are travelling across vast distances, but it seems a little excessive if you are taking an hour (or even 30-minute flight!). Yes, sometimes flying it the only option and I totally get that. However, I have found that so many people just book flights before they go, without even researching other options.
The sad reality is that one flight pretty much undoes all the good eco-friendly things you’ve been doing. You also have the added cost of the flight, as well as reaching the usually inconveniently located airport. Buses and trains are often a FRACTION of the price. Yes, they’re going to take longer, but you can usually plan it to include a night bus so no time wasted! It’s also one of the best ways to truly get to know a country.
You Can Live Without A/C
This is one of the biggest changes I have seen between travelling in 2010 and 2018. A few years ago, rooms standardly came with fans, and a/c was extra. I used to treat myself to a room with a/c after a long week of buses and hiking. Was it hot? Yes, fans are pretty rubbish. But guess what?! I survived! a/c is terrible for the environment and expensive. Fan rooms are still available in most places and a great way to embrace being a better eco-friendly traveller. I also found I rose much earlier, choosing to spend my mornings exploring or lying on the beach, which has to be better than lying in a dark, cold dorm!
Avoid Over-saturated Areas
We’ve all seen the photos of beaches that have been destroyed by tourism. Thailand and the Philippines have been the worst effects, and it’s heart-breaking to see how our consumerism is affecting tropical paradises all over the world.
Many of these beaches have been forced to temporarily close to allow the environment to recover. Hopefully this will motivate people to do a bit more research into their destinations. There are so many beautiful, quieter places out there waiting to be discovered! I visited Thailand and ended up camping on a marine island. We were the only people on the beaches and it was idyllic. Yes, it is a bit more work, but totally worth it.
People often dismiss travelling more ethically, lamenting that it’s just too difficult. However, with a bit more organisation and planning, it’s totally possible!
What strategies do you employ to travel more ethically?