Whether for business, visiting family, or much needed holidays, travel – especially flying – is an important part of many people’s lives. But it’s no secret that travel can take its toll on the environment. While terms like ‘eco-travel’ can conjure up images of off-the-grid rainforest lodges with no running hot water, there are easier ways to counteract your carbon footprint. In celebration of Earth Day on 22 April, here are our top tips for eco-friendly travel, so you can explore the world and feel good about it!
1. Book a direct flight
Did you know that it’s take-off and landing that creates most of your flight’s carbon emissions? So while you may save a few dollars by going the long route with one or two stopovers, it’s much better for the environment if you just book your flight directly to your destination.
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2. Eat local produce
Food that’s been locally grown and produced not only gives you a more authentic taste of local cuisine, it’s also cuts down your carbon footprint as the product hasn’t gathered food miles by being shipped long distances. Ask local restaurants where they source their produce from, or visit local farmers’ markets for fresh fruit and vegetables.
Handy hint: Do a little bit of research to find out whether local foods are sourced ethically. Yes, the eggs the café down the road uses might be sourced locally, but if they’re caged eggs rather than free-range, they’re likely doing more harm than good.
When eating out, make an effort to find out if the restaurant uses locally sourced ingredients. Photo by Brooke Lark on Unsplash
3. Invest in a decent water bottle
It’s no secret that plastic water bottles are wreaking havoc on our environment, so ditch the crude-oil made, flimsy plastic bottles and invest in a BPA-free or stainless steel bottle that you can keep refilling. Not only will you save plastic bottles from ending up in landfill and our oceans (Australia alone buys over 118,000 tonnes of plastic drink bottles each year), you’re also saving water (it takes on average 3 to 7 litres of water to create one litre of bottled water) plus you’re saving money, as tap water is overwhelmingly cheaper than purchasing bottled water.
Handy hint: Worried about the purity of your tap water? Invest in a SteriPen – a handheld water purifying pen that will purify water in a matter of seconds using ultraviolet light.
4. Buy quality, eco-friendly souvenirs
Ditch the cheap, plastic souvenirs. Instead, consider buying handmade products made by locals – you’re more likely to find something unique that you’ll treasure (rather than simply throwing it out the next time you spring clean your house), plus you’re supporting local businesses and artists.
Handy hint:Souvenirs that use any kind of animal product are generally a big no-no when it comes to ethical travel choices. Think ivory, anything with turtle shells, alternative medicines that use parts of endangered species, or corals and shells. The treatment of animals to create these is usually cruel, and bone products like ivory encourage illegal poaching of elephants.
For more information on ethical souvenirs visit Tourism Concern.
When purchasing souvenirs, avoid bone products like ivory, as it leads to the illegal poaching of elephants. Photo by Larry Li on Unsplash
5. Limit your luggage
Every extra kilogram counts when you travel, whether by car or plane. If you’re flying, the more a plane weighs, the more carbon emissions it will produce. Limit the size of your bags by packing only what you need, to reduce your carbon footprint.
6. Put one foot in front of the other
Yep, the way to explore a new place is to walk! Ditch the tour bus and spend the day walking around your new destination. It’s a fantastic way to meet locals (who can give you the best local tips on where to eat and what to do), experience a new culture and notice the smaller details, like the pub down an alleyway that you never would have found otherwise. Not only is it cheaper walking around everywhere, you’ll also burn off the calories you’ll consume at said hidden pub.
7. Book a shared shuttle from the airport
Airports are one thing you generally can’t walk to or from, so to get to your hotel with ease while also reducing your carbon footprint, book an airport shuttle on Jayride.com. By sharing the ride with others, you’re reducing your impact on the environment. It goes without saying that one car on the road is better than four.
8. Don’t buy travel-sized toiletries
It’s so much plastic for such a small amount of shampoo and conditioner. Instead, take larger bottles with you and pack into your checked baggage, or if you’re flying carry-on only, purchase empty containers that comply with airline liquid regulations and fill them up with the shampoo and conditioner you already have at home. You can then keep reusing the bottles for other trips.
9. Look for green-certified hotels
When booking your accommodation, check for hotels that clearly make an effort to reduce their environmental impact – think using renewable energy like solar, environmentally friendly cleaning products, a good recycling program and guests having the option to not wash towels and sheets every day.
Handy hint: Staying in smaller, locally run hotels and bed and breakfasts are a great way to make a more direct boost to the local economy.
10. If hiking, keep to the trail
Hiking and trekking are very popular activities, especially for people travelling to Australia, New Zealand and the US, but to ensure you’re making a minimal impact, always stick to the marked trails. By wandering off, you may pose a threat to fragile ecosystems, or endangered animals and plants.
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If you’re hiking or walking, make sure you stick to the designated paths
11. Invest in good-quality travel gear
Buying cheap luggage, backpacks and clothes may save you some money in the very short term, but poor quality travel gear will soon fall apart and simply end up in landfill. You’ll then buy more cheap gear to replace it, and so the cycle continues. Instead of buying cheap, flimsy products in the first place, invest in good quality, ethically made products that will last you a very long time. As they won’t need replacing, you’ll save money in the long term, too.
Hand hint: We love Tortuga backpacks that are the perfect size for carry-on and have lots of extra pockets and space for laptops, shoes and everything else you’ll need on a trip.
12. Don’t feed wild animals
It might be tempting on your trip to Australia to feed the oh-so-cute kangaroos some of your sandwich, but visitors are strongly discouraged to feed any wild animals. Not only do foods like bread make wild animals sick (as it’s not part of their regular diet), but animals soon become dependent on humans for food, and in some popular tourist areas, wild animals have been known to become very aggressive as they demand food from humans. By not feeding animals, you’re helping keep wild animals just that – wild.
13. Take a reusable coffee cup with you
Are you a coffee aficionado? Planning on a few brews while you’re away? Ditch the take-away cups – the paper cups are usually lined with plastic and thus can’t be recycled, creating a huge amount of unnecessary waste all around the world. Instead, take a reusable cup with you – it won’t take up much room in your bag and they are easy to wash. Plus, they’re not just for travel! Use them when you get home, too, for extra environmental bonus points. Otherwise, choose to indulge and savour the moment by ordering your coffee to have in rather than take-away, so that your cup can be washed and reused.
14. Take only photographs, leave only footprints
This age-old eco travel mantra is a good one to live by. By minimising our environmental impact when we travel, we can make a positive difference to the places we visit. They may be simple steps, but collectively we can make a huge impact.
What are your eco travel tips? Let us know in the comments below.