Travelling is a great opportunity to meet new people and immerse in different cultures. However, it can be quite a strain on the environment. But don’t worry, there are several things you can do to reduce your impact on your destinations, and still enjoy your trips!
First things first - what does sustainable travel actually mean?
Sustainable travel is all about finding a way of tourism that doesn't harm our natural and cultural environments.
While planes play a big part of this (due to their carbon emissions) - it's more about treating the environments with as much respect as possible. And this includes how we can look after our resources, and give back to the communities.
A lot of countries depend on tourism to survive so let's make sure we treat them with respect, in order to give back.
So here are 12 things you can do to help you travel more sustainably:
1. Consider your mode of transport
When it comes to travel, planes are probably the worst offender for how they harm our environment. They release a huge amount of carbon emissions into our air which contribute to global warming.
Some trips may always require plane rides, but if there are other options to reach the same destination via bus or train, then please consider them. This is a sure-fire way to shrink your carbon footprint.
And once you’ve reached your destination, try to utilize their public transportation instead of renting a car. Why? It saves you the money, it saves the environment from more pollution, and you get to be like a local and meet different people!
2. If you have to fly, offset your flight and book non-stop flights
If taking a plane is the only way to go, offsetting is a huge step, especially if you fly frequently. The funds proceed directly to supporting projects that produce clean energy and in reducing carbon emissions.
It's also worth mentioning that non-stop flights produce much less carbon emissions. Aircrafts create the most carbon emissions when taking off and landing, so if you can get a direct flight rather than stop-over, that will really help.
3. Pack lightly
The more luggage you bring, the more fuel the plane needs to transport everything. Thus, creating more carbon emissions.
Planning ahead of time makes a difference, as last-minute packing tends to include a lot of unnecessary stuff. Try to practice the ‘capsule wardrobe’ movement wherein you only pack a few items of clothing but can be worn in various ways.
This will not only save you some money on luggage fees, but you can also practice getting creative with your travel outfits!
4. Pick a centralized hotel for your trips or slow down your travel
Staying at different hotels every night might be a fun way to explore, but this also creates 7x the amount of laundry as opposed to staying in the same one for a week. Pick your go-to hotel that you can return to on subsequent trips, or slow it down and stay in one area for an extended amount of time. Who knows, you might even befriend the locals who own and/or run your accommodation and get some sweet tips few tourists know.
Oh, and it’s okay to tell the hotel staff that you’re fine with using one towel for your stay. This reduces water and energy usage on excessive laundry.
5. Swap single-use plastic for bamboo utensils
They’re called single-use plastics for a reason. Aside from the obvious reason of being cheap to manufacture, did you know that they can be harmful to your health upon reuse?
If you invest in a set of reusable bamboo cutlery, it will make a huge difference to the amount of plastic you have to use. Aside from utensils, avoid plastic straws when trying all those amazing local drinks like fruit smoothies.
And we've specially designed our Bare Vida travel utensil sets to be super slim so they take up as little space in your bag as possible. Including a knife, fork, spoon, pair of chopsticks and straw - they've got everything you could need for any cuisine, wherever you are. AND if that's not all, they should last 3+ years which will save you from using soo much plastic over the years. You can use them in cafes, markets or even on the plane!
And don’t forget your bamboo toothbrush! Even if you leave one behind, it’s biodegradable, so it won’t linger around our planet for years unlike the plastic ones. But do take care of them and use them as long as possible!
6. Decant your bottled toiletries (sunscreen, shampoo, skincare products, etc.)
Let’s be real, ‘travel-sized’ products run out fast. Again, plan ahead and estimate how much you’ll need of this and that, and bring just as much as you think you’ll need!
In this way, you won’t contribute to single-use waste, which just happens to be mostly small, plastic containers.
7. Invest in collapsible cups and water filters
The truth is, there are still places where clean water isn’t available. But instead of buying copious amounts of bottled water, keep your own bottle and water purifying tablets handy. Water purifying tablets should be available in most local pharmacies.
8. Don’t support tourist attractions at the expense of animals
Wild animals are called ‘wild’ for a reason. We don’t want to be tied down to things that we’re not used to, right? The same goes for them. Be relentless in your search for attractions to add to your itineraries, especially when animals are involved.
If you find an attraction where wild animals seem to be suspiciously tame and cuddly, they might have been sedated in some ways. Always choose to not support these establishments so they’ll discontinue these practices.
9. Go (temporarily) vegetarian/vegan
This is the best time to reminisce what our parents used to tell us when we were younger: “Eat your veggies!”
Going plant-based even for a week is not only a win for the environment, but it may also reduce your chances of getting sick on your trip.
There are places where access to electricity is difficult, making many locals unavailable to store meat in fridges. That’s a legitimate health risk to travelers like you. Not to worry, most tourist-friendly countries have very vibrant cuisines, and should have plenty of delicious and healthy veggie dishes for you to choose from!
10. Be conscious of your water consumption
Water is always an important issue and some places in the world continue to struggle with access to clean water. So please, be mindful and skip the unnecessarily long showers, and don’t leave the tap running while brushing your teeth.
Even if you’re in a modern city that doesn’t seem to be struggling with water availability, you never know if that use is being taken away from neighboring small villages.
11. Buy local goods
What’s the point of visiting all these different places if you’re not going to support local produce, right? Buy directly from the local market stalls, dig deep into the different colors and flavors of what they’re offering, and interact with the local characters.
Traveling this way will tell you more about how these products are part of their culture. And of course, don’t forget to bring your own shopping bag to avoid the plastic ones they’ll likely offer you.
12. Reduce your energy use while you’re not home
Lastly, be aware of the energy being used in your home while you’re away for a trip. You may have done your part for the environment from the previous 11 tips, but if you left some of your appliances at home turned on, then you’ve fallen short!
If you live alone, make sure that all your appliances or equipment at home are unplugged. That should also cut the power bill down for the month. If you live with others, then you can remind your housemates to maybe tone down the air-conditioning a little bit, or find other ways to lessen the energy use while you’re not around.
Now, how easy was that?
See, it’s totally possible to enjoy your trips while doing your part for the environment. Just remember: reduce your plastic use, be mindful of your carbon footprint especially when it comes to transportation, and take cues from how locals live. With these tips, you won’t just have more fun on your travels, but they’ll be all the more meaningful, too.
Finally, we hope you realize that these 12 ways aren’t just for travels, but are applicable to everyday life as well. So keep those promises and be ready for more sustainable travels! Off you go!