It’s not secret that the world is becoming dirtier, more polluted and harder to save. This is because of livestock production, heavy-energy transportation (including airplanes), oil-polluting and environmentally-unfriendly businesses, and much more.
But thankfully, today people are more environmentally and socially conscious about the decisions they make by buying and supporting small businesses, purchasing fair trade and whole and being everyday activists.
But one area that I’ve noticed tends to get overlooked in both environmental circles and travel circles is the environmental consequences of traveling, which are important to people like me who try to live as low-impact and positively on this planet AND also love to travel and see the world. Sounds like cognitive dissonance, right?
Well… while it would be the most eco-friendly if I (and everyone else) would stop doing things like flying and using big gas-eating transportation, it’s just not realistic or likely to happen. Just like it’s impossible for everyone to eat plant-based, sort their rubbish into a bunch of different piles and stop using products that harm the planet. It’s idealistic and while it would be nice, it’s just not going to happen. I myself find such great pleasure traveling, seeing more of the world and meeting the people that come along with that. It’s such a wonderful opportunity that I would otherwise not be able to do had I lived in a different era, grown up in a different place or had the special opportunities I’ve had in my life. The benefits for me outweigh the cost, although I ALWAYS try and practice being eco-friendly, especially when traveling.
Here’s what I do…
- First off, before going into the long-distance traveling, consider traveling locally. This means getting to know the ins and outs of your city (the little alleyways, hole-in-the-wall pub and libraries) as well as different cities and towns in your country that you can get to via train or bus (my favorite modes of travel).
- While I will almost always go for the cheaper option, I try to book non-stop flights given that the most harmful parts of using airplanes for transport is the take-off and landing. Thus far, I haven’t had to choose between the two as the cheapest flights I have found have been non-stop.
- I don’t print my boarding pass, take receipts or check in luggage because it’s a waste of paper, the ink isn’t good for our skin and because checking in luggage is a waste of time and space.
- One of the best things to do to be eco-friendly is to plan ahead, which for me means bringing my own utensils, handkerchiefs (for wrapping food) and water bottle. These have saved me so many times, like when I want gelato all of a sudden or find a really yummy vegan sandwich at a store.
- Don’t use plastic. This means when being serves water or juice (if your airline offers it free) which will most likely come in plastic, refuse it. Instead, bring your own camper cup or traveler’s coffee cup (I have both — Keep Cup for life!). Even though it’s not plastic, don’t accept napkins or wash your hands with the paper towels in airports or on the airplane –that’s what your second handkerchief is for.
- Most airlines have an option to offset the carbon being used when you fly which requires you to pay a little extra. I’m always for giving to good causes!
- When in your destination, buy local food (use your utensils if they offer you plastic ones) and dine in. Try the local fruits and veggies, learn how they’re made and make that a part of your travel experience.
- Book your stay with AirBnB or use Couchsurfings — I’ve done both. Not only do you save money by not staying at a BnB or a hotel, but you’re also helping the planet because individuals tend to be way more environmentally conscious about their homes (check the references/reviews, though). Moreover, it’s a way to make your travel experience more unique. Friend me on Couchsurfing here.
- Rent an eco-friendly car if you need to or else use a ride-sharing app like Uber but… when possible, walking and biking is the best way to explore a city (lots but not all cities).
- Skip the souvenir shopping… unless it’s from a small, local business, is fair-trade/eco-friendly and useful to you or your gift receiver. I always opt for a good ‘ol postcard from a local merchant (I prefer hand-drawn or cartoon made on recycled paper) or a good polaroid picture that I will later mail with a letter or give in person. Food is always a good option too (just minimize the plastic, pleeze)!
- Don’t let people bring you down who tell you you cannot be an environmentalist or love the planet if you travel. Of course it’s the best thing for the planet but it makes you happy and makes your life worthwhile (at least for me it does). Plus, who are they to be judging you? Serve them a dish of positivity on your reusable food container– that’ll show ’em
- And lastly… I will always suggest people consider eating plant-based. I can’t tell you how wonderful that is for the planet, for your health, for your mind, and for everyone! But don’t feel pressured because we are all different, have different dietary restrictions, live with different cultures and norms and are unique beings. Just be the best you that you can be.