Unless you have lived under a rock for the past few months, you will have heard about it: climate change is a reality and its consequences are inevitable. If we want to minimize its negative impacts, we must adopt (and quite urgently!) some changes in various areas of our lives: the energy sector, the food sector, and yes, also the tourism sector.
The fact is that, although many travelers claim to be concerned about climate change, only a small percent would change their lifestyle to avoid it. They don’t consider adopting a green travel lifestyle and, in many cases, because they don’t know what this means! So, here are some tips for you to become a responsible traveler. The first step is to become aware that taking care of our beloved planet is also on you.
Reduce your carbon footprint
Okay, okay, maybe following Greta Thunberg to the point of not taking planes to pollute less, is not possible for us all to do. But one thing you can do is choosing the flights with the lowest CO2 emissions. In many flight search engines, this option is indicated among all the search results!
We also know that work is already being done on the creation of sustainable fuels – relating to the amount of waste – but until that time comes, the most eco-friendly way to travel would be to do it with companies that invest in sustainable projects within their strategy. For example, EasyJet will compensate each of one of their carbon emissions with investment in renewable projects.
But choosing one company over another is not the only thing in your hands: direct flights will always be better than flights with layovers. Why? Because airplanes use most of their fuel during takeoff and landing. Luggage also effects fuel usage: the more luggage, the more the plane will weigh, and the more it weighs, the more fuel it will need, therefore, pack light!
Finally, when possible choose to travel by train, as it’s more environmentally friendly, producing less pollution. And always, find out what public transportation you can use in the destination you visit, less private transfers and more shared transfers!
Be mindful on the environmental impact of your actions
Although you think that the impact of some of your actions is small, the sum of many actions of several travelers can have large consequences in the places you visit:
When it became trendy to place padlocks on bridges, the lovers did not think about the least romantic part of the matter: the weight would endanger its structure. In Paris, for example, the authorities have not only had to remove the padlocks of the Pont des Arts, but also protect them with glass panels, to avoid having them put back on!
Stacking pyramid-shaped stones imitating Buddhist and Taoist cultures is another practice that generates a negative impact on the environment. This ritual, that has spread through several beaches and natural environments, alters the flora and fauna of these places. It prevents, for example, some plants from growing or some native species from nesting.
On the other hand, the tradition of touching certain parts of bronze statues seeking luck, causes them to wear out and deform in record time. The foot of the apostle Saint Peter in the Vatican, Juliet’s chest in Verona, the testicles of the Wall Street bull, or the nose of Greyfriars Bobby, the most famous dog in Edinburgh, are some of those affected. And let’s be honest, touching them does not ensure you have more or less luck in your life, but it does assure an extra expense for the government every time they have to restore them. Avoiding to touch them would be the most eco-friendly way to travel!
Credit: rosepapacreative (Pixabay)
Invest in local communities
If you don’t want to end up living in a world dominated by department stores, supermarket chains, food franchises – fast or healthy – and international fashion stores, etc. … then start supporting small businesses! In addition, we already know that big chains don’t always respect the human rights of their workers …
Wherever you travel you will always have the opportunity to support local people, if you shop in a small store, if you choose locally grown or manufactured products, and if you eat in smaller restaurants. Not to mention how exciting and challenging it is to try new things – and not things you already have in your country!)
To create a positive impact on the community, you can also donate what you no longer need. It is possible that on a long trip you will accumulate things (souvenirs, memories …) so leave what you no longer want to other families or to a charity shop.
Finally, bargaining is an obligation in some cultures, and you can be comfortable doing it in countries like Morocco or Egypt. But in other countries you may be doing more harm than good, so do not abuse bargaining. What for you means a minimum saving during your trip, for them, the fact that several travelers throughout the day play and ask to reduce their prices, can make a big difference at the end of the month.
Change your habits
If you are still one of those who leave the faucet on when you brush your teeth (ahem, ahem) become aware of the waste of water involved in doing so. Many accommodations already have a timer in their showers or sinks so that water does not unnecessarily run but, try to be conscious enough and start saving water whenever you can. Another way to do this, for example, is to use short washing options when you have to wash your clothes.
Other ways to be energy eﬃcient: turn off the lights when you’re leaving the room, especially in shared dorms where we think we are not responsible of it because it’s everyone’s responsibility! And also, don’t take too much advantage of the air conditioning or heating. If you are one of those who, when it´s cold, prefers to turn on the heating before putting on a sweater (again, ahem, ahem), begin to be a responsible traveler. It´s very easy to turn on or ask for the heat or air conditioner to be turned on, especially when you think you´re already paying for it. But folks, that would not be travel sustainable!
In this line of “all paid”, many people also abuse the breakfast or food buffet, and in many cases, this translates as a waste of food. When you have the possibility of serving everything you want, you don’t skimp on anything, and most of the time you don’t even finish everything that has been served on your plate – or dishes -. Where does this food end up? In the trash, of course.
Learn to recycle, and always ask in your accommodation where the recycling bins are. In many cases they will be visible. If you have the possibility, choose an eco-friendly accommodation!
Say goodbye to plastic
In countries where water is potable, take your own stainless-steel bottle with you to avoid buying plastic bottles. This material is more expensive than aluminum, but it does not release toxic components, and it´s also very resistant and does not give off bad odors.
If you travel to a place where the water is not potable, it will always be better to buy a larger bottle and refill your bottle when you go outside, than to buy several plastic bottles.
Another small change that makes a difference is to stop using plastic straws. Seriously, what else are they for besides decorating your Instagram photo? Many places will automatically give you on, so remember to ask for them to NOT put on in your smoothie, juice, or cocktail!
Carry a reusable bag in your bag or backpack. They do not bother anything – especially those that can be folded well – and will prevent you from buying plastic bags – where you already know where they end up.
The internet is filled with travel practical tips for anyone who’s interested in a plastic-free living. So, do some research if you really want to take it to the next level!
Avoid over tourism
Does not only affect residents of large cities that are, for example, forced to move from their homes due to excessive rent increases, or the appearance of uncontrolled tourist accommodation. It also affects rural areas where more buildings are being built after a series or movie has made it a ¨cool spot¨.
Luckily, in some national parks like Machu Picchu, there is a limit on the number of daily visitors, thus mitigating the effects produced by thousands of tourist footfalls. The “Venice syndrome” is a documentary that tells the ravages that excessive tourism has done in one of the most romantic cities in Europe. Unfortunately, this term is already used to refer to other places that are suffering from these same consequences. The world is wide and large, try to diversify!
Looking for the perfect Instagram shot isn’t the most eco-friendly way to travel either. Photography on social networks has changed our way of perceiving and planning trips. Not only is it bad because it seems that one has already seen practically everything before arriving, but because it makes the places that become trendy on the network, massify. What’s worse is that some local residents see their routines disrupted by travelers following the insta-trends!
To make your trip as much of a friendly travel one, you should also respect the animal kingdom, that is avoiding activities that uses animals as entertainment. Each person will set the limits where they want: for some it is not to visit a zoo, for others is not to climb on the backs of an elephant or a donkey, for many, to not photograph themselves with sedated animals.
You may not be aware but many of the selfies with animals hide a cruel truth: Owls who have had a tendon cut in their wings so they cannot fly, lions that have had their claws cut so they can play with they, lemurs that have had their teeth removed so they don’t bite tourists, or just young ones that have been separated from their mother too soon.
Many travel snapshots with animals are apparently innocent, but the World Animal Protection alerts us to the mistreatment of some wild species such as kangaroos or sloths. Physical contact with them – hugging, touching or taking them in the arm – can subject them to high levels of stress.
The most eco-friendly way to travel is to embrace the “good selfie” practice: the one made without direct contact with animals that are not kept in captivity or used as an accessory for a photo.
Credit: Instagram @feedthatblonde