Eco Travelling is all the rage these days and rightfully so! The planet is under stress from all the Carbon emissions and we must do our part to leave our future generations with at least the planet in its same condition if not worse. I thought I’d share some tips on Eco Tourism as well as Responsible Travelling. Both are equally important.
Eco Tourism refers to travelling in a way to avoid leaving a carbon footprint. It mainly includes not using planes or modes of transport which run on fossil fuels as well as use of single-use plastics. Responsible Travelling on the other hand relates more to the country you are visiting and how your travel benefits the local communities positively. Here are some of the things I do to reduce my environmental impact:
Ditch the planes
Don’t take planes everywhere! (DUH! I hear you say) whenever possible I switch to trains or use public transport even if it means a few hours more. Ditch non stop flights and choose direct flights because it is the landing and take off that creates most greenhouse gases.
Use Public Transport
I know this can be tricky but I have always found a way to travel using public transport and even when it is not the most convenient or luxurious part of the trip, it is amazing to see how locals travel and also gives you a chance to talk to people and find out about daily lives of the country you have come to visit. Carpooling is another great tool and I love using BlaBlaCar. It goes without saying, if you are using cars, take the hybrid or electric version.
Eco Friendly Options
Since some flights are unavoidable, choose more eco friendly flights, you can see greener options in Skyscanner and I always prefer them over other options. Another great option is to choose airlines that have programs to offset their emissions. You can get the list here.
Offset your Carbon Footprint
Donate to plant trees to offset your carbon footprint at Treedom. It supports local farmers, food supplies , local communities and helps environment and you can see the progress of your beloved trees on its own live page. It is a certified corporation and fully trustworthy.
Ditch Single Use Products
Keep a bag and a refillable bottle with you and always buy bigger packages of water bottles where you must, to refill instead of single use plastic bottles.
Pick up litter! I know you are on holiday and think it is not your responsibility but picking up a few plastic bottles from a beach and putting them in a bin not only makes you feel better, it also makes the locals embarrassed. This has happened to me multiple times where locals went along and before we knew the place was in much better condition.
Instead of big chain stores go to smaller stores and shops and buy your stuff from there. It helps small businesses and communities and the money stays within the local communities instead of chains which take it out of the country especially in poorer countries.
It is different from buying local because it means eating at smaller restaurants and eating local produce that’s within the season. It takes a lot of effort and transportation to supply food to other parts of the world which requires fossil fuel burning. You will find some of the best food in small cafes and restaurants that work more locally.
Support Local Industries
Do you really want to remember a country or a city by a magnet that was made in China or Malaysia or Vietnam or Brazil? I think not! Buy smaller souvenirs from local shops that support local artists but more importantly buy souvenirs that speak to you. I usually keep ticket stubs as souvenirs at no added cost.
I cannot tell you how many problems are caused because you wanted to take your whole wardrobe for a trip. It also has a carbon footprint along with other problems. Pack light and wisely.
Towels and Sheets
I know it is tempting to throw the towels on the floor because it you have paid for the hotel but next time control the instinct and re use your sheets and towels, it makes a huge difference. Getting your room cleaned every single days leaves a lot of chemical footprint which is not good for environment.
Look at how much resources of your hotel come locally and how much staff they hire locally. Big chains often bring people from outside and create barriers for local population for local resources like beaches. I am strongly against this as the locals always have the first right on these resources.
I know it i enticing to take selfies with animals and there is the desire to go ‘of the beaten path’ but you should be careful not to disturb local habitat. For example the small shrubbery takes 100’s of years to grow in Iceland which can be easily destroyed by your shows or tires. Take the marked roads or trails and do not disturb animals. It goes without saying, you shouldn’t buy anything that’s made from endangered species , be it plants or animals.
Antiquities and National Treasures
A lot of places in the poorer countries you will come across the ‘antique’ sellers. Buying them or even showing interest gives them an incentive to sell some priceless artifacts for cheap. Most of them are fake and aged using tricks but taking antiques out of a country is not only morally wrong, it can get you in a lot of trouble with authorities especially if you are caught at the airport. Never encourage these people because it depletes the national treasures.
Want a selfie with the tigers or want a show of dancing elephants? It looks great, you are supporting locals and getting some holiday fun but you are supporting animal cruelty. These animals are beaten mercilessly or drugged for your entertainment. Please stay clear. This includes some of the so called ‘sanctuaries’. Basically anywhere that sells you animals doing anything other then being animals is a no-go. A good example where this doesn’t happen are safaris, you are the observer not the spectator.
This is probably the most important thing you can do. Respect the locals, their customs, traditions and way of life. You have come to observe and learn not to offer advice, improvements, challenge or make fun of them especially when you are in poorer countries; they make best of their resources and are usually happier than developed world.