If there is one thing I remain incredibly conscious about, it is the carbon footprint of travelling. Sure, it’s heaps of fun, incredibly educative and mind-opening, but travel does not go without an environmental cost. Although I don’t support the “Stop flying, stop driving cars and go vegan.” movement, I’d like to develop or see carbon-neutral alternatives for these instead, I am still of the opinion that with a little caution and minimal effort, it’s more than possible to let your itinerary leave less of a trace. Follow these 7 tips for a hassle-free, more sustainable solution. But most importantly, just enjoy your holiday and use your common sense when making decisions 🙂
- Take Public transport
If your destination is not within walking distance, it is often habitual to take a taxi. Instead, try take a tram or a bus (if you’re travelling far, going by train might even be faster than by car!). They give a good image of daily life at <insert name of travel destination> and are often much cheaper, too! No hassle trying to bargain either 😉 In most European cities, it is now possible to rent bikes for a day, week, month,.. for a very good price. They’re a fun and fast way to explore a city and can often reach to places where cars cannot. Examples include OV-bikes in the Netherlands, Velo bike in Antwerp (Belgium), BikeMi in Milan and Velib in Paris.
- Don’t eat at ‘all you can eat’ buffets
Local restaurants are often way less wasteful compared to bigger chains. In many bigger cities you’ll find All You Can Eat Sushior BBQ restaurants, but a huge amount of the food goes uneaten and is thrown away. Additionally, the food is often of dubious quality and salmonella contamination is not uncommon in these places. Smaller restaurants often offer food that is fresher, more delicious and more resemblant of the local cuisine. You’ll also support local economy! 🙂
- Supporting local economy
It’s not only good for the people, but smaller hotels run by locals are often less wasteful and require relatively less energy to run. A 5-star resort spends tons of energy on heating long corridors, having a 24/7 kitchen, keeping lights on at all times, etc. Additionally, they often use a lot of harmful chemicals cleaning pools, ensuring dishes are sterile and they throw away a lot of food, similar to the “All You Can Eat” restaurants. On top of that, supporting local companies and/or families in their small businesses gives them more purchasing power to invest in more sustainable solutions for their own homes and surroundings.
I really do not know why people still throw plastic or packaging on the ground. It doesn’t look good, ends up in the ocean or in animals’ bellies (!) and at some point, it will end up in your mouth too. Governments have to spend millions to keep the streets clean and to clean out the gutters, just don’t be one of those people who doesn’t care. Throw your garbage in a bin, clean up after you went camping and don’t throw things out of the car window.
- Keep your plastic bags with you
You get them everywhere, with everything. Plastic bags. Most of the time people discard them and they end up in rivers, sewage systems, nature reserves and the ocean. In the most ideal situation, they are burned. Neither of these options is very attractive and there are alternatives. When travelling, plastic bags serve a multitude of new purposes: separating different types of clothing, laundry bags, bags for dirty shoes and a very cost-effective rain cover for your DSLR. I’ve also used them to hide my most important belongings (and keep them together) in my backpack as extra protection. Think out of the box and use those bags 🙂
- Use a portable bottle with water filter
Water isn’t potable everywhere. You’ll most likely find plenty of shops to buy water bottles, but that isn’t the most sustainable option and often an unnecessary expense. Luckily, there exist a multitude of different filters you can either pour in a bottle of water or that are fitted in the cap. Simply fill them with tap water, attach the cap and drink. The water will be filtered.
-IMPORTANT: if you are in an area where water is extremely contaminated and where the risk of developing infections and/or disease through drinking it is real, please do buy regular bottles.-
- Invest in good equipment
Sure, that backpack from vendor x is only half the price of vendor y. But will it last as long? Sometimes it’s better to invest in a piece of equipment that will last you 20 years than to buy a cheap variant that will only last you 2. Better brands often use more durable and more sustainably-sourced materials. When worn out, consider donating or repurposing it. I leave a pair of sneakers on almost every trip and have made someone else happy with it every time.
Did you find these tips useful? Or have you had positive experiences with a particular brand? Person? Agency? Let me know in the comments 🙂