Among the many perks of globalization, traveling is by far the biggest one. You can now fly for as cheap as $50, book an affordable 2-night stay at the close-to-the-airport hotel, and order room service if you don’t feel like going out to eat. Sounds too good to be true? That’s because it is.
You might not realize from the get-go how detrimental to the environment traveling is, and that’s to be expected. The travel industry isn’t accustomed to showing you the real-life image of the impact every zoo visit and a souvenir purchase has on the ecosystem. This means that you have to do your own research before embarking on your next trip.
Here’s the good news – we did it for you. Below, find our best tips aimed at helping you reduce your environmental footprint.
OFFSET YOUR CARBON FOOTPRINT
When traveling by plane, consider offsetting your carbon footprint. Check for carbon emission programs airlines offer and pick the one that offers a more sustainable traveling option. Those with zero stops should always be your top choice.
You also can donate online to organizations like Myclimate or Cool Effect that help you calculate and offset your flight emissions. Your money goes towards a good cause – forestry projects and the construction of renewable energy sources are just a few examples.
PACK YOUR OWN ECO-FRIENDLY ALTERNATIVES
Bringing your own plastic-free utensils is a tried and tested method of lessening the waste you make during the trip. You don’t have to DIY anything – Amazon has plenty of travel-friendly toiletry options that will easily fit in your carry-on.
We recommend you pack a reusable water bottle, a portable solar charger, and a quick-drying Turkish towel too. They make a world of a difference when staying in guesthouses or hostels where a good chunk of the amenities is absent.
BRING ECO-FRIENDLY SUNSCREEN
This is very important since most people do not pay much attention to the type of sunscreen they use. Every year tonnes of sunscreen from tourists all over the world washes into the ocean, altering the chemistry of the water. It can cause a viral infection in corals, for which they have no natural defenses and they end up eventually dying over time.
One thing you can do to help the planet next time you visit any coastal area -especially near coral reefs- is to avoid using sunscreen that contains oxybenzone. There are many biodegradable sunscreens available on the market, and they really do make a difference. It’s always good to buy it before arriving at your destination since it’s likely any sunscreen sold there will contain oxybenzone.
BOOK YOUR STAY AT SUSTAINABLE ACCOMMODATION
Apart from booking an airport shuttle that’s considered to be eco-conscious transportation, you should also book sustainable accommodation. To ensure you’re not being greenwashed, do an inspection yourself.
See if the accommodation has eco-certifications that are backed by the commitment to non-toxic products, green energy sources, and recycling practices. Still not sure? Consult with the Green Leaders Program by TripAdvisor that stores a good number of environmentally-conscious stays that range in price and facilities.
SUPPORT LOCAL BUSINESSES
There’s no doubt that you’ll be tempted to book a city tour from a travel agency booth located right near the airport exit. Don’t do it. Not only are these agents foreign more often than not, but they also rarely offer sustainable ways to explore the city (think animal-exploiting activities that lead to the extinction of many species).
Instead, seek local, smaller-scale operators who know their home country like the back of their hand. They are likely to offer you some insider sightseeing tips without ripping you off. A great example of a local business is a diving school that organizes cleanup dives – an activity where you dive to collect as much trash as possible.
EAT WHERE LOCALS DO
This seems like a no-brainer, but for some reason, it isn’t practiced among tourists nearly enough. Eating where locals do is perhaps the most underrated eco-conscious activity that’s beneficial for the environment and for your pocket alike. Not to mention the authenticity it adds to the experience.
It stems from supporting local businesses and means supporting food places where ingredients are seasonal and locally-sourced. Make friends with locals and they’re guaranteed to show you the restaurants with exquisite cuisine that are hidden from the eyes of tourists.
SAY ‘NO’ TO ANIMAL ATTRACTIONS
Animals belong in the wild – so, help keep them there. If you’re longing for tigers, bears, and the likes, plan a trip to the park where you can safely watch them from afar. Use binoculars for a better view and maintain a distance from them.
Don’t be a victim of advertising that promotes direct encounters with wildlife. It’s a [literal] trap that implies capturing and keeping animals in unfavorable conditions. You don’t want to contribute to the mistreatment of the living beings that aren’t meant to be tamed.
SHARE SUSTAINABLE TRAVEL INSIGHTS WITH YOUR FRIENDS AND FAMILY
The dedication to reducing the environmental footprint while traveling shouldn’t stop when you come back from your trip. It should multiply. By sharing addresses of eco-lodges and sustainable street food places with your loved ones, you bring the movement into masses. And that’s how the ripple effect starts.
Educate others about the consequences of using plastic on the road, use real-life examples to show them [don’t tell] how unethical animal attractions are, and give them the required resources for making green choices from there onwards. It’s about time we jump on this bandwagon of environmental mindfulness together.
Torben Lonne is a dad, a scuba diver and an ocean lover who is deeply concerned with how we are treating our oceans. He runs Divein.com, an online magazine about scuba diving and about how divers can make a positive difference for the environment.
Author Torben Lonne
Photo used with permission from photodesosit.com Credit: Mopic