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You may have noticed that things have been a little quiet on the blog front over the last couple of weeks. Truth be told, I have been struggling to keep my head above water, and with such a busy schedule, writing has, unfortunately, fallen by the wayside.
But then a couple of days ago, I came across a website which inspired me to pick up my virtual pen. The website in question is Make Holidays Greener, a campaign site encouraging travellers to make positive, sustainable and environmentally-friendly changes to the way they travel.
Making sustainable changes to the way we travel
With everything that’s been in the media lately about the state of our planet, this topic is definitely on people’s minds, including my own. It’s easy to get bogged down in life, making bad choices purely for simplicity and quickness. But ultimately, every single choice we make has the potential to impact our beautiful planet.
I don’t intend this post to be ‘preachy’ at all, as I’m definitely no expert or perfectionist when it comes to sustainable living. But I guess it’s never too late to start making positive changes to the way we live, work and travel.
Make a pledge
Make Holidays Greener is currently running a campaign encouraging travellers to register a pledge between 7th June and 30th September. This year’s theme is ‘say no to plastic’, although you can also make pledges like taking part in beach clean-ups or using public transport more often. And what’s more, by making a pledge, you enter yourself into a prize draw to win a GoPro camera with waterproof housing.
While looking through the various pledges, it struck me that some of the things on the list I already do without thinking, while others have never occurred to me. And that got me to wondering about other ways to be a sustainable traveller. So, ease your impact on the planet with these ten suggestions:
10 simple ways to be a sustainable traveller
Take the train over the plane
I love flying, I love airports, and I love the adventure of landing in a new country but, unfortunately, air travel is one of the biggest contributors to global warming. According to this website, and research by Eurostar, you can reduce your carbon footprint by as much as 90% by opting to take the train instead. While it’s impossible to avoid flying completely, it is possible, and often cheaper, to travel by train in Europe. So, if you do just one simple thing, check train fares for your next trip and see if you can swap out damaging emissions for a relaxing train ride instead.
Say no to plastic
Man’s relationship with plastic is unsustainable. Distressing images of the ocean littered with plastic have been rife in the media lately, causing many people to make a concerted effort to use less plastic in their daily lives. While it’s definitely more difficult to do this when travelling, it’s possible to make small changes to the way we consume plastic in the following ways:
Bring along a reusable water bottle with an inbuilt water filter and drink tap water as much as possible. Of course, in some countries, it is not advisable to drink water from the tap, so buying plastic bottles is unavoidable in some situations. I’ve been using this Sundried Water Bottle for the past few months and can’t recommend it enough.
Carry a fabric tote bag with you at all times rather than using plastic bags for food and souvenirs.
Say no to plastic straws, plastic cutlery, plastic cups and any other single-use plastics.
Pick up rubbish when possible
Whether you see plastic on the beach or litter in the street, pick it up and recycle it or put it in the appropriate bin. Not only does this make the area a nicer place to be in, it also prevents children and animals from injuring themselves on rubbish that shouldn’t be there. It’s a simple thing that doesn’t cost us anything.
Get involved in a beach or park clean up
If you want to take it one step further, why not take part in an organised beach or park clean up effort? If you can’t find one, organise one yourself. With the use of social media and a little effort, you can easily set up an event and gain traction. It’s also a great way to meet locals, make new friends and make memories. And, if you’re travelling with kids, it can be a fantastic way to teach them a lesson about sustainability.
Support local businesses
Choose authentic souvenirs and delicious, homemade food over mass-produced, imported goods. By eating local food and buying local souvenirs, you get to truly experience the culture and help local businesses too. Many people around the world rely solely on tourism, but if we repeatedly choose to eat at large food establishments and buy from well-known, international brands, we are unknowingly restricting their ability to earn a living.
Cycle, walk or take public transport
There’s no doubt about it, getting around on a bike or on foot is one of the best ways to really get a feel for your destination. When we travel, it’s easy to default to hiring a car simply for the convenience of it, but often this is one of the most stressful ways of seeing the sights. Unless there really is no other option, reduce your carbon emissions by walking, cycling or taking public transport.
Turn off electrical appliances
I don’t know about you but I tend to run out of my hotel room/apartment/villa without checking that everything is turned off. Maybe it’s because I’m not paying the bills but this is really something I need to work on! Simple things like turning lights off before you leave and making sure the TV is not left on standby can make a big difference to the environment.
Avoid unethical animal tourism
As an issue that is close to my heart, I’ve written about the negative effects of animal tourism in the past. I know it can be tempting to take a selfie with a tiger or ride an elephant, but just stop for one minute and question how that particular establishment treats the animals. Are the animals doing something that is outside their normal nature? If they are, treat this as a warning sign and avoid at all costs. Even better, see animals in the wild or research ethical animal sanctuaries and spread the word to inform other people about this important issue.
Use a bamboo toothbrush
How many toothbrushes have you used and disposed of during your lifetime? Now imagine that every single one of those toothbrushes is sitting in a landfill site, or in the ocean, and will be for the next 4 centuries. It’s shocking, isn’t it? Something as simple, and affordable, as using an eco-friendly, biodegradable bamboo toothbrush over a plastic one can have a significant impact on the environment.
Use a menstrual cup
Ok, this is one for the girls. Although I haven’t made the move from tampons to a menstrual cup just yet, I keep hearing about how great they are for travelling. Never again will you have to dash from shop to shop in some random country looking for tampons and never again will you have to carry a gazillion tampons in your carry on just in case! And what’s more, a menstrual cup is much better for the environment as you can wash and reuse again and again.
At the end of the day, it falls upon us to be a part of the solution. The earth cannot sustain this level of abuse and we need to make practical, consistent and active decisions to do our bit.
It’s time for us to take responsibility. I’m starting today.