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. That’s because, in many places, they don’t have a great record in that department.
For example, the five worst countries for dumping plastic into the oceans are China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam, or as it turns out, there are 50 power plants in the US polluting more than many countries other combined. So, maybe we should avoid going to retreats that contribute to this disaster!
How can we be greener as we travel? Make sure you pay attention to these aspects of your trip:
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.
Also, consider the airplane model that you’re flying. Newer models are lighter and emit less CO2.
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 to drink 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 hot countries warm water is the last thing you want to drink). 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!
For some reason, in many countries, they still insist on packing everything in ten million plastic bags and using far too many plastic containers. Seriously, often they’ll put plastic bags in plastic bags. That, as you can probably guess, isn’t exactly environmentally friendly.
For that reason, 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!
Sometimes the people at the store can be incredibly persistent with wanting to put things in plastic bags. Don’t be embarrassed to simply take your items out of the bags again and give it back. They will probably give you odd looks (and it won’t help much as all the people before you and after you will still accept those bags) but you have to start somewhere.
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 Tupperware. Yes, it’s plastic, but if you use it often enough it ends up saving a huge amount of containers that you’d otherwise throw away –that’s not too bad.
Also, try to go vegetarian as the footprint for vegetables is much smaller than for meat (and it’s safer). Or you can even adopt a raw food diet to avoid using the oven.
When you’re abroad you’ll obviously 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 these countries generate their power.
Do they rely on renewables? Do they burn a lot of coal? or (worst of all), 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 go back to upload your pics on Instagram.
Another thing to pay attention to is where you stay. If you have the money, try to stay eco. Of course, you do want to check the credentials of the place. After all, anybody can say they’re ‘eco’ even if they draw their power from a petroleum generator and dump your sewage untreated in the river. Often, ‘eco’ just seems to be a synonym for ‘overcharge’.
Don’t let that happen to you by checking their actual credentials. Have they been certified by a serious outfit like the International Ecotourism Society or a local variant?
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!
Luisa Brenton is a passionate traveler and environmentalist. She had made a switch from a marketing career to freelance writing. Luisa is also a contributor at Tripaneer.com.
Roger is a little obsessed with travel. He has been to over 40 countries, broken 3 suitcases and owned over 10 backpacks in 12 months. What he doesn't know about travel, ain't worth knowing!