This is a Guest Post by Jess Signet… I would like to thank Katie for publishing this article. Her site is a great place for posts on travel, science and food—all with an eco-friendly slant to it. After reading this, I highly recommend you check out her article on rhino conservation for inspiration and great ethical travel ideas!
Traveling and wanting to save the planet regularly goes hand-in-hand. Once you start to see the incredible beauty and variation that the planet has to offer after your first few trips away, it becomes obvious why people should be doing more the protect and conserve it.
However, paradoxically, traveling is definitely not one of the most eco-friendly undertakings that exists, so it can be hard to weigh which is the most important. Luckily, there are a few steps that you can take that aim to reduce the harm that your adventure causes on the environment so you don’t have to worry about the repercussion that your trip is having on our beloved world.
Ways to be Eco-Friendly While Traveling
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Travel is undeniably a very paper-heavy pursuit. Whether it’s tickets, boarding passes, visas or travel insurance, most of us are guilty of traveling with a massive wedge of paper in our backpack. Although some bits of paper—such as your passport—are pretty much completely indispensable, our ever-growing digital age means that a lot of these things can be replaced with an online version.
Many airlines offer online check-in, and some are now even allowing you to scan your boarding pass from your phone itself. Similarly, while having a physical copy of your travel insurance documents might be handy in the case of an emergency, there are very few places in the world left where you can’t get access to WiFi and use an online copy instead. However, if you are accessing sensitive documents on public WiFi, then be sure that you’re using a Virtual Private Network (VPN) to secure your connection and protect your data. A VPN will also help you bypass geo-restrictions such as those placed on Netflix and Hulu when traveling abroad, so you can make those airport layovers pass by a little faster.
Take the Bus
Air travel is by far one of the worst culprits for its pollution, producing more carbon emissions than any other forms of transport by—quite literally—tons. Hopping on a bus to travel across countries or continents may be massively inconvenient and difficult to endure, but it’s by far the greatest way to reduce your carbon footprint while traveling. Plus, it’ll definitely save you money, and you’ll have a chance to see plenty of countryside and maybe even meet a few new friends on the way.
…Or The Most Direct Flight
Admittedly, bus travel is not always a possible option, particularly when there’s an ocean in the way. In cases where you have to go overseas and you can’t avoid getting a flight, the best way to reduce your carbon footprint is by choosing the most direct route possible. Most of the emissions from an airplane happen during takeoff and landing, so by avoiding any layovers, you reduce the amount of times this happens.
Plus, the general journey length is usually substantially shorter, therefore producing a smaller amount of carbon overall. Unfortunately for those on a budget, this may cost you a little more, but it’s a cost that’s definitely worth it in the name of saving the planet.
Eat & Drink Local
Just like when you’re at home, making sure you consume local produce is a great way to help the environment as you’re drastically reducing the miles it takes for the food and drink to get to you. This is a particularly poignant point when you visit bars abroad; instead of opting for the well-known brands that you know and love, it’s much more eco-friendly to chose a native drink.
This also applies to food shopping; rather than buying food from chain superstores, try to find the local markets and opt for homegrown, organic produce instead. As well as saving the planet, making choices such as this is a great way to experience and really get involved with local culture, and you never know, you might end up finding a dish or beverage that is better than any of the regulars that you would usually choose!
Home Rules Still Apply
So many of us are guilty of this one! We meticulously turn off lights and appliances and re-use material goods in an attempt to reduce our laundry loads, but then as soon as we check into a hotel or hostel, this all goes out the window. No matter where you’re staying, try to be vigilant in your energy-saving routines and encourage guests to be the same.
Simple steps you can take include turning off dorm lights when there’s no one in them or keeping the same towel throughout your stay in a hotel instead of picking up a new one every day. These simple actions, just as they do when you’re at home, will make a big difference to making sure your trip is as eco-friendly as possible.
Tip from Katie: ALWAYS bring a reusable water bottle. They save you money in the long run and save millions of plastic bottles from ending up in the ocean or landfills. You can even get one with a filter for traveling to countries that don’t have drinkable tap water. It’s been reported that by 2050, there will be more plastic in the oceans than fish (source). We must do our part!
Make It Worthwhile
So maybe there’s no way to avoid damage to the environment completely while traveling, so if you’re going to do it why not make an effort to make it worthwhile and spend some time giving back to the environment! There are plenty of companies that offer experiences to work or volunteer in restoration or conversation centers all over the world, so it’s really easy to give back as much as you take.
Whether you chose to WWOOF on an organic farm or help plant trees with the Trees for Life initiative, you’re bound to have an incredible experience while simultaneously doing some serious good! Another option is aiming for a carbon neutral holiday, a fantastic new craze is being pioneered by several companies, where you donate to different conservation organizations in order to offset the emissions you’ve created from your flight.
Although traveling may never be the most eco-friendly of activities, there are definitely ways you can improve the situation without taking away from the traveling experience. These are just a few tips to get you started as a green traveler, but there are many more things you can do. If you have any more ideas that you think should be added to the list, then be sure to leave a comment below.
About the Author: Jess Signet is an avid traveler and enjoys writing about her adventures. Knowing there’s more to the world than the bubble she lives in makes her want to travel even further. Traveling is her drug, and she’s addicted. (Please, no intervention!).