There sure is a lot to think about when you’re traveling. Where are you going to go? How will you get there? What will you do for accommodation? Where will you eat? Who will you go with? And so on and so forth.
But one thing that’s becoming ever clearer is that we can’t just care about ourselves when we travel – we also need to take care of the environment.
So how can we be greener as we travel? Make sure you pay attention to these aspects of your trip:
It's no secret that aircraft isn’t exactly great for the environment. Therefore, the best way to not do too much damage is looking for transportation alternatives. Try taking the bus or, even better, the train if you can. Both these forms of transport produce a great deal less pollution than planes do.
That’s not an option? Then try offsetting what you put out. There are many programs online where you, for example, plant trees or help the community you’re visiting to go greener.
In many countries, you can’t drink the water from the tap. That’s a big problem if you don’t want to drink from bottles. But it’s not insurmountable. One easy way to get yourself drinking water is boiling the water that does come from the tap. Note that water has to be on a full boil for at least a minute for it to be safe.
Of course, boiling water can be a hassle as then you have to wait for it to cool down again. In that case, why not take a water filter with you? They’re often not all that expensive and even better, they’ll earn themselves back in no time!
If you're traveling in Asia, you can also download an app called Refill My Bottle.The RefillMyBottle map shows you nearby locations where you can refill your water bottle for free or for a minimum fee. Plus, the stores that offer this service are often very interesting places that you wouldn’t have found otherwise.
Plastic bags and food containers
Make it a habit to always have shopping bags in your carry-around bag. After all, you never know when you’re going to find something that you want to buy on the road and need something to carry it in!
If you're in a store and the staff automatically put what you've purchased into a plastic bag, don’t be embarrassed to simply take your items out of the bags again and give it back.
Another place where there is a lot of plastic waste is in the food and beverage industry. Of course, you often won’t see it, as they don’t bring out the plastic with your meal, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t still there. Your best bet is to try to eat locally as much as possible, as the shorter the distance they transfer the foods, the less packaging they need to get it there. If you do want to take food away with you, consider bringing your own containers.
When you’re abroad you’ll most likely want to check your cell phone or use your laptop. And of course, within limits, that’s all fine. But do note that different countries generate their electricity differently. So, make sure that you check how the country you're visiting generates their power.
Do they rely on renewables? Do they burn a lot of coal? Or do they use back-yard petroleum generators? The more they use the latter, the more you should try to avoid using electricity while you’re there. Better wait till you get home to upload your pics on Instagram.
Where you stay
Another thing to pay attention to is where you stay. If you can, try to stay eco. Of course, you do want to check the credentials of the place first. Lots of places now promote an eco experience, but how do you know if they are genuinely focused on making a positive impact on their environment?
One way to verify a place is to ask if they have been certified by a serious outfit like EarthCheck or a local variant. Another option is to email through some questions to find out more about their practices and whether they align with your values.
It is important that we go green as much as possible – especially when we’re traveling. Why? Because if we don’t, then the generation after us won’t get to travel like we do anymore; there will be nothing left to see.
For that reason, take whatever care you can to reduce your footprint and keep the plastic out of the oceans. It’s the least we can do. After all, we didn’t get the planet from our parents, but we’re borrowing it from our children. Let’s all act responsibly!