Have you been recently thinking about how to do sustainable travel? Well, humanity is now going through one of the most challenging times in recent history. Amongst many other extreme measures, travel has been almost banned around the globe. With people isolating at home, many offices and industries shut, and pretty much all transport banned, there’s no doubt that the Earth is benefiting from this pandemic. COVID-19 has forced us to limit our carbon footprint by just staying home and watching Netflix! Pollution is going down, air quality is improving, climate change is slowing down, and compulsive consumerism has suddenly stopped. Maybe the Earth is trying to say something to us.
Sooner or later this pandemic will be under control and we will go back to our normal lives. So this is the time to see how we can improve our impact on the planet. It’s the time to improve the way we travel. Because let’s be real – humans aren’t made to watch Netflix every day. We love to travel. It’s our drug of choice! Of course, we still want to be mindful of Mother Earth and the future generations. So, the question is, how can we have our cake and eat it too? How do we pursue one of life’s most immense pleasures whilst not feeling guilty for destroying the environment? Here we’ll share a few pro tips for sustainable travel.
1. Be mindful when choosing your destination
‘Ok, so for my trip this summer I’d like to spend a week in Paris, then I’ve always wanted to check out Istanbul, so I’ll take another week there, then it’s off to Tokyo for some sushi and…‘
What are you thinking about?! Do you realise how many air miles you’re stacking up? Do you know how many parts per million of carbon all these combined flights will produce? Well… I don’t know the exact figure either, but it’s a LOT!
Always lean toward one continent at a time, and try to border hop rather than fly from spot to spot. Backpacking trails like the ones in South East Asia and South America are perfect for this type of travel as it’s almost exclusively done by public transport, which is not only waaaay cheaper, but also means less carbon emissions produced. Win-win!
Also, avoid destinations that are being harmed by the presence of too many visitors (Machu Picchu, Angkor Wat, Chichen Itza, etc.), because places like this are degrading FAST. Stay away from the other big carbon shitters: cruise ships, major resorts, and large beachfront developments.
2. Sustainable travel and water tricks
The sickest I’ve ever been in my life was in Goa. I had food poisoning so severe that I legitimately wrote a farewell note to my family as I lay alone in my hotel room slowly dehydrating to death. The culprit? WATER!
A few days earlier, I’d accepted a cup of hot chai from a friendly bus driver in Mumbai, not knowing it had been brewed with the local water supply. India is notorious for having bad water, and it’s not alone. Therefore, it’s highly impractical and woefully unfair to expect travellers NOT to buy clean, bottled mineral water.
However, you can still be smart about it. I myself always have a reusable water bottle. If I do buy water, I’ll usually keep my plastic bottle for several days or even weeks at a time. In any restaurant or bar, you can request filtered water refills for your water bottle. If you’re in a hotel, you can ask for a jug of filtered water for your hotel room and use that to refill your bottle at the beginning of your day to fuel your adventures. Or you can choose to buy a purifying water bottle, so you won’t have to worry about contaminated water anymore!
3. More reusables!
As we’ve touched on reusable water bottles already, let me Segway you into other reusable kit items that are essential for your sustainable travel; I have a metallic travel mug, a cloth shopping bag to carry new purchases, a metal straw, travel utensils, and even an army style mess tin for saving food leftovers.
All these things are cheap, convenient, and easily found online. Having them in your backpack means you’ll never need to use single-use disposables!
4. Dine like a local during your sustainable travel
Meat and dairy agriculture are the leading players in the food industry when it comes to climate change. That’s not just my opinion – it’s literally science. A reduced intake is always going to be more environmentally friendly no matter where you go, but it will also help you to avoid near lethal food poisoning incidents like the one I had in Goa.
My advice is to observe the way people around you are eating, without judgement or bias. If sticky rice with fresh mango is the daily staple, then lap it up with enthusiasm and gratitude! Visit the local markets – not those ridiculously flashy ones that have been set up exclusively for tourists. You’ll get much better prices, and you’ll also help to strengthen the local economy. It won’t seem like much in the short term, but this can make a world of difference to the locals in the wider scheme of things!
Coming home from a trip and telling your friends and family (and anyone else who will listen) all about your incredible life changing adventures is a real privilege. However, don’t waste this unique opportunity to spread the wealth and tell them how you travelled responsibly and had minimal impact on the environment. You want to inspire them. Show them your kit, share your water tips, guide them to take a more environmentally responsible approach to this shared passion for sustainable travel and adventure! Remember – never destroy what you came to enjoy!
What other tips for sustainable travel do you use? Share them with us in the comments below!