If we’re being honest with each other, we can agree that travel isn’t the most eco-friendly thing in the world (long-haul flights, I’m looking at you). However, there are some easy ways to reduce your carbon footprint while traveling.
We’ve compiled a handy list for the keen and conscious adventurer to reduce their environmental impact whilst checking countries off their bucket-list.
1. Offset Your Carbon Emissions
Many travelers aren’t even aware of the impact that international travel has on the environment, let alone attempt to do something about it. If you’ve got the money – which let’s face it, you do because you’re travelling – a really simple way to reduce your carbon footprint while traveling is to offset your CO2 emissions.
Visit MyClimate.Org and input your travel details. The nifty algorithm will calculate how many tons of carbon waste your journey will create and allow you to donate money to a sustainable project of your choice. You can specify where your donation goes to, whether it is a project in a particular country or aiding specific groups of people (eg. women or local farmers).
By contributing monetary donations to these sustainable projects, you can help to spread the resources available and reinvest into the environment. While it doesn’t completely reduce the global impact of travel, it’s great to know that you can provide support to projects that are focused on reducing the negative impact of climate change. Plus, it feels really good to make an impact!
2. Refuse Straws
Have you seen that awful video of a sea turtle with a straw stuck in its nose? (If you haven’t yet, you can see it here). If that doesn’t inspire you to ditch plastic straws for good, I don’t know what will!
Technically, straws can be recycled, but most recycling banks refuse them because they’re thin, bendy, and small. And guess what happens to them all? They end up in landfills, on beaches and inside the stomachs of hungry animals. Therefore, it’s much better for the environment to refuse plastic straws outright. Make sure to ask local cafes and restaurants when you place your order to not include a straw with your drink. This is one of the easiest ways to reduce your carbon footprint while travelling.
If you have to use a straw, there are many eco-friendly alternatives that you can carry in your luggage that won’t take up any space. You could use sustainable straws made from stainless steel, glass, or even bamboo.
3. Carry Cloth Bags
Including a reusable cloth bag in your luggage is a great way to reduce your travel footprint. Remember to pack your reusable cloth bag(s!) in your day bag so you can easily whip them out on your adventures. Eliminating the need for plastic carrier bags is a super simple way to boost your positive impact on the environment.
Many European countries charge a small fee at grocery stores for carrier bags, so you’re better off not using them at all, saving yourself a few cents, and bringing your own produce bags. On the flip side, some parts of the world such as South East Asia, plastic bags are excessively handed out to customers. Literally with every transaction. Instead of relying on environmentally unfriendly carrier bags, you can circumnavigate it by making it a habit to carry your own. Pick up a cute cotton tote, a more robust jute bag, or even grab a set of those adorable muslin bags that come in a multipack for all your daily needs!
4. Responsible Sightseeing
Whilst it should be common sense to not go around touching wildlife and disturbing delicate ecosystems, it definitely needs to be reiterated. Always remember to take rubbish home with you and dispose of it responsibly. Leave it as you found it.
According to The Economist, a fifth of the world’s coral has died in the past three years. This is largely due to littering, global warming, and people touching coral. Responsible tourism can help prevent further degradation of our ecosystems.
Opting for “green” and eco-friendly tours and guesthouses will also help reduce your carbon footprint. Choose tour companies with a proven track record of doing more good than harm. We like Responsible Travel because they clearly outline the kinds of tours they refuse to do, mostly anything that has a negative impact on the environment or lives of animals.
Other easy ways to be a responsible traveller include turning lights/heating/air-conditioning off when you leave your accommodation and taking public transport rather than taxis.
5.Reusable Water Bottles
Switching from a plastic water bottle to a reusable bottle is a great way of reducing your carbon footprint while traveling. No longer will you be contributing to plastic waste and you can also relish in the fact that you’ll be saving yourself stacks of $$.
For instance, in England, all licensed premises (such as bars, cafes, and restaurants) have to legally required to provide “free potable water” to their customers upon request. In most European countries, it’s perfectly acceptable to ask staff to refill your water bottle if you are a customer.
Drinking from plastic water bottles can never be 100% avoided if you’re travelling in countries where potable water isn’t available on tap. Like in South East Asia for instance. Yes, you can always ask cafes if they don’t mind refilling your bottle or use reverse osmosis machines if possible (Thailand has heaps!)
However, there will be a time where no matter how good your intentions are, you may get caught having to buy bottled water. It’s unavoidable, so don’t beat yourself up about it. Staying hydrated and ensuring your water source is safe is a huge priority on the road. Just do your best to ensure that bottle gets to some sort of recycling facility if you can.
6. Eat Locally
One of the reasons I love to travel so much is the opportunity to try out new delicacies and traditional cuisine. There’s nothing better than tucking in to a mouth-watering local dish after a long day of sightseeing.
If you’re eating from local restaurants, you know that you’re helping the local economy. Choosing to eat from vegan restaurants, social enterprises, or businesses run by local people will reduce your travel footprint. Not only is it cheaper to eat local, you’re less likely to be consuming food that has been imported from other countries.
If you’re cooking your own meals, try and purchase from local markets and avoid purchasing any goods in plastic packaging.
7. Switch To A Menstrual Cup
One for the ladies! Many tampon users flush their used tampons down the toilet, which is a complete no-no. Not only do they clog waterways, they also end up in oceans and cause sea life to die. Over the course of a single day in 2015, The Ocean Conservancy collected 27,938 used tampons and applicators on beaches around the world. Switching from a disposable period product to a reusable product will reduce your global impact in a huge way.
Plastic tampon applicators are often disposed of irresponsibly, whilst period pads are made from 90% plastic. They are made from polyethylene, which takes centuries to degrade. Menstrual cups, like Zero Cup, are made from 100% medical grade silicone, contain no nasty chemicals, and are much better for both your body and the environment.
Read: How Menstrual Cups Make For A Sustainable Future
Plus, when you’re travelling around, you don’t want to be wasting precious resources, such as time and money, searching for tampons or pads. Zero Cup can be worn for up to 12 hours and is reusable for up to 10 years. They create no period waste (simply empty your flow down the toilet and rinse the cup clean). If you’re new to menstrual cups, why not learn more?
Buy: Zero Cup is offering 25% off all orders (use the promotional code TRAVELOFFPATH at checkout, or simply click here to redeem your discount).
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About The Author
Rebecca Da Silva is a small business owner (seriously, she’s very tiny) and freelance writer. She enjoys long-term travel, drinking earl grey tea, and has a penchant for learning new things. Follow her journey on Instagram .She is also proud to be the founder of Zero Cup – a reusable menstrual cup that provides an eco-friendly alternative to pads & tampons.