By Shilpa Bhim
Traveling is such a great experience, and sustainable, or eco-friendly, travel takes your experience to a whole new level. Not only do you get to take in all the sights, sounds and smells (of food, obviously) of the places you’re visiting, you also sleep better at night knowing that you’re doing your best to protect the environment from the damaging impact that hordes of tourists have on it.
Now, more than ever, consumers and brands are becoming more environmentally conscious – we have one life and one planet and it’s important to nourish both. Even hotels and resorts are getting in on being eco-friendly. So, with that in mind, here are six super easy tips that will make your next trip, or your ongoing travels, a bit more sustainable:
Say no to single use plastic
Do you shudder when you think about the amount of plastic bottles you’ve bought, or the number of plastic bags you’ve used while on holiday? A lot of travelers would probably have the same reaction. Reducing, or cutting out, your use of single use plastic is a great first step to making your trip more sustainable.
For example, take your own reusable bag (aka a stylish handbag or backpack) with you so you don’t have to use a plastic bag to carry the things you pick up while you’re out. Instead of buying plastic bottles on the go, take your own eco-friendly drink bottle. A lot of brands have eco and travel friendly bottles such as flat drink bottles, or ones that collapse for easy storage in your bag (whoever invented this one is pretty clever!).
To take your eco-friendliness to the next level, you may also want to take your own reusable takeaway coffee cup, or opt to sit in and sip your coffee slowly while taking in your surroundings. Taking a couple of reusable containers for carrying snacks during the day is another quick win. Nobody wants to be a hangry traveler, and a non hangry, eco-friendly traveler gets things done with a smile on their face!
Use natural products
They’re good for your body, soul and the environment too
Did you know that there are places in the world where regular sunscreen is not allowed because it’s harmful to the natural environment? That’s right, regular sunscreen contains Oxybenzone, a chemical that’s toxic to coral reefs and marine animals (and probably not so good for you either).
Of course, you kind of need to wear sunscreen to protect your skin from the sun’s harmful UV rays. Luckily, there are a ton of brands out there that sell mineral sunscreen – that is, sunscreen that only contains zinc oxide or titanium dioxide (or a mix of both) as its active ingredients.
You’ll sleep better at night knowing your skin is being protected from the sun’s harmful rays without having a ton of chemicals slathered all over it, and that your sunscreen choice is eco-friendly.
Other products where you might want to go natural (but not au naturel, that’s a whole other story!) include deodorant and makeup. Like sunscreen, deodorants and makeup can contain chemicals that are harmful to you and the environment – and let’s be honest, neither of those is a good news story.
Opting for natural or organic brands will mean you can spend more time doing fun activities out in nature, instead of worrying about how the products you have on might impact on the environment, and you.
Support local vendors
This is part of the travel experience anyway, right? However, according to the World Tourism Organization, only $5 of every $100 spent during a trip benefits the destination, so there’s some room for improvement here!
Supporting local vendors who have sourced their products from the place you’re visiting is eco-friendly as it reduces the environmental impact of importing goods. Another thing to consider is the actual product you’re purchasing. Is it something gimmicky (hello, typical tourist souvenir!) that seems cool right now, but you know you won’t treasure forever?
Don’t buy it! Instead, invest your dollars in something local that has some meaning for you and will hold a place in your heart or home for many years to come.
Avoid long hot showers, and reuse those towels!
After a long day of exploring a shower is a must, obviously. But, as tempting as it may be, try and avoid standing in a hot steamy shower for hours (or minutes) on end, and try and remember the little things, like turning the tap off when you brush your teeth. The amount of energy and water that these activities use is enough to support a village of about 500 people for a month.
Reusing towels is another easy way to be more eco-friendly. Most people don’t wash their towels everyday at home, so why do this at a hotel? Remember to hang your towel up after you’ve used it so it’s not taken away for washing – many hotels post signs around suggesting you do so anyway, and these signs highlight the amount of water and energy that is saved through this small act.
The 2018 Environmental Performance Index found that air quality is the leading environmental threat to public health. Which means it’s time to consider how we travel – cue: good old fashioned train travel. Traveling by train generates up to 10 times fewer carbon emissions than an airplane (winning!). Plus, it’s a relaxing way to take in the sights and sounds of the place you’re traveling through, and often an easy way to meet locals.
Of course, it’s not always possible to get to your destination by train. If you have to travel by plane consider booking with an airline that uses sustainable aviation biofuel or one that offers a carbon offset program, and try to travel direct as much as possible (catching less flights = leaving a smaller carbon footprint, aka kicking goals!).