Eco-Friendly Travel is a huge deal to me but a few years ago I never gave it a second thought. The more I travel, the more I fall in love with the world. As a result, I can’t stand to see what a mess we are making of the place. I guess no one like to see something they love being treated badly.
Seriously, guys, we need to do better!
Plastic bottles floating in crystal clear water, drinking straws in the sand of otherwise perfect beaches, plastic bags tangled in branches of trees- it’s sad to see. Even more heartbreaking is the fact that so many people seem not to care. It is our responsibility to experience the world in a way which leaves little or no negative impact, and it’s actually really simple! By making a few small changes to the way that we travel we can make a HUGE difference.
Take your own water bottle
The average person uses 167 disposable water bottles every year. As travelers, we use substantially more. By carrying a reusable bottle (and steripen where drinking tap water is not recommended) it’s possible to cut out plastic bottles completely- that’s HUGE!
Take your own straw
We’ve all seen the video of the turtle who has a straw stuck up his nose, this is simply unacceptable. When I discovered glass straws I thought they would be impractical to travel with, I thought they would smash in my bag or be thrown away because I am too lazy to clean them. I was wrong. Now, I always carry one in my handbag, not just while traveling but at home as well. I haven’t broken one yet and they take next to no effort to clean. Don’t like the idea of glass? Bamboo straws are another great alternative, (they look cool too!) Paper straws are the next best thing, you can only use them once but they will leave no lasting impression on the environment.
Take your own bag
Tote bags are easy to travel with making them a great way to make a HUGE difference with LITTLE effort. A visit to any tourist market in the world will show you how many needless plastic bags we go through as we shop for souvenirs. Each friendship bracelet, new hat and bunch of bananas we haggle hard for is shamelessness stuffed into a plastic bag. Even handbags are put into plastic bags for the carry home, this is INSANE!! Carrying a small tote in the bottom of my handbag means I always have it handy for any impromptu purchases.
This may sound like a step too far, but bear with me! Yes, you may get some odd looks, and yes, some people may think you’re a crazy hippy but who cares? People who question your way will inevitably tell their friends about what they witnesses- our doubters can spend our message. Before we know it, traveling with foldable Tupperware will be the cool thing to do, then who will be laughing?! Eco-Friendly Travel is the way forward.
Hire a bicycle
Riding a bike is the best way to see a new city, the freedom to go at your own pace is priceless. By hiring from small businesses you are also helping the local economy. Try it once and tell me you didn’t enjoy it!
Share a cab
When you need a cab look for people who may be heading in the same direction as you. For instance, when I visit Bangkok I usually stay on Khao San road, the backpacker’s mecca. From the airport, I take the Skytrain to the end of the line and jump in a cab or tuk-tuk. Since hundreds of backpackers head for Khao San each day I nearly always find somebody to share a ride with. This halves the cost and means one less taxi driving to the same place and the same time. How do you know when someone is heading to the same place as you? You know your tribe, believe me.
Take the train, instead of the plane
Trains can replace planes on so many occasions. Your journey will take a little long, but what’s the rush?! When we travel by air we miss so much of the country that we are there to see. I always choose a train ride over a domestic flight where possible, the journey can become part of the trip, rather than just a way of getting from one place to another. Train journeys are a great way to meet new friends and the impact on our environment is substantial. For unavoidable and international flights I book though Fly-Eco, a flight search engine which offsets the carbon emissions of all flights booked through them by planting trees.
Thinking about what we pack can make a big difference to the impact we have on the places we visit. As a rule, I don’t pack anything I wouldn’t use at home. For instance, I use shampoo bars and biodegradable soap at home, so I don’t swap them for ‘minis’ when I travel.
Small actions, HUGE results!
Some of these points may seem too insignificant to make a difference, but together we can do great things. For example, every month around twenty thousand people attend the Full Moon Party on Koh Phangan in Thailand. If each of those people used just ONE less straw on their entire trip, that would mean twenty thousand fewer straws polluting the beaches and ocean EVERY MONTH. That’s 240,000 less straw on the beaches and in the ocean EVERY YEAR!
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