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Whether it’s budget backpacking or luxury travel, we all want to experience something new and tick those dream adventures off our bucket lists.
Travel is a gift which allows us to learn about different ways of life, it introduces us to new tastes in food, new styles of fashion, new traditions and new stories about history, that allow us to become more connected to the global family of mankind.
It also allows us to meet new people we otherwise might not have met in our circles at home.
With the gift that is travel, comes the responsibility to ensure that those who come after us will also get to have the same experiences. With a passion for minimalist living, sustainable travel and authentic experiences, here are a few tips for sustainable travel.
Sustainable Travel Tips for Backpackers
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Avoid long haul flights
Long haul flights are the greatest contributors to our individual carbon footprint, so introducing a culture of flying less would help make each of us a little more eco conscious.
In Europe for example, it’s easy to take a flight across the border from one country to another and be across the continent in a matter of a few hours. Just imagine how much is being emitted, with some people making these trips at least every week, if not more often for business.
And I get it, time is money, and this is more convenient than spending an entire day on a train or car, but at what long term cost…
For the idle and leisurely traveller, why not consider taking a train instead of a short haul flight. Not only can you offset your carbon contribution but you’ll get to see the landscapes you go through and can avoid the hassle of security, baggage check and long airport lines.
Dan Kieran in his book The Idle Traveller talks about how travel in our time has become too focused on the destination, and how the real value is to be found in the journey to get there.
If you’re going on a holiday and you have a car, consider driving. Sure this may mean you have to wake up earlier to avoid that traffic but what an adventure!
Live like a local
More often than not, especially in developing countries, the local cultures and way of life are more in tune with nature and the environment than most of the tourist based activities and tours.
The indigenous cultures have traditions that involve living with the Mother Nature because of an age old understanding that she provides for us if we take care of her.
Speak to locals and find ways to integrate yourself into the culture. This will allow you to understand how they live off the land, how they care for their environment, so that you can imitate them and maybe even take some positive practices back home.
Eat like a local
The above point fits in well with the topic of eating when travelling. Although you are allowed to have your dietary preferences, you shouldn’t enter a country with preconceptions about what people should and should not be eating or doing in their country.
Try locally grown fruits and vegetables and avoid asking for things that would have had to be imported. This acts as an offset in some ways for the carbon footprint you may have accumulated in your journey so far.
Shop at local markets and eat at small family restaurants. You’re also guaranteed to get the real taste of the food in that case anyway, straight for grandma’s hands!
Instead of buying snacks on the go, prepare ready made sandwiches and snack mixes beforehand to avoid buying single use plastic pre-packaged snacks on the road.
Reusable travel essentials
We don’t realise just how much single use plastic we’re using when we travel, simply because we’re lost in the moments. But if we prepare ourselves beforehand, and pack reusable travel essentials then we’ll be able to enjoy ourselves guilt free and help the environment.
My reusable travel essentials include a compostable bamboo toothbrush, my own metal cutlery set, menstrual cup and more! Check out my ultimate list of reusable travel essentials!
Avoid buying souvenirs
Avoiding souvenirs can be a good way of saving money when traveling but it can also be a small way of being more eco conscious. A lot of tourist souvenirs are mass produced, you can get them anywhere and they’re made with cheap plastics.
If you want to buy a souvenir, look for local gift or craft makers and invest in something you know is locally made like art, textiles like cloth bags or sarongs, or ceramics.
Don’t buy local wildlife products like ivory, animal coffee or anything made from animal skin or animal produce. You don’t know the conditions the animals are treated in and whether or not the product has come from illegal trades.
Choose ethical local tours
If you’re going on a tour, be sure to research the company you’re going with so that you know
a) where your money is going and
b) that the people and animals possibly involved are treated in an ethical manner.
You want to support local family run businesses, and ensure that your money is going towards the locals. A lot of the time, many of the tour companies are run by international coorporations and only a couple of cents end up in the local economy.
Do not support companies that involve mistreatment of animals, like elephants, and donkeys. Ensure that any sanctuary you visit is ethical, like elephant sanctuaries in Thailand.
Be sure that any riding companies for horses or camels treat their animals well or that the zoos, sanctuaries or sea worlds you visit have a policy for environmental protection and animal care.
It’s often hard to tell on the face of things especially in the moment but talk to locals and look for online reviews to help you make eco-conscious choices
Look for eco conscious accommodation
A lot of hostels and hotels are increasingly being more open and transparent about their environmental initiatives and policies because they know that this is something people are looking out for.
Look at your accommodation websites to see what they’re doing in terms of recycling, energy conservation and contributions to the local communities and surrounding natural environment.
Be water savvy
Take showers instead of baths when travelling. This can help reduce water consumption in countries where droughts and water shortages are common.
Wait until you have a lot of laundry to put a batch in. This saves water and can save you money too if you’re backpacking and need to use a launderette. Hang up towels to dry so you can use them a few times and wash intimates by hand and hang them to dry too.
Pick up your (and other people’s) trash
Carry a little rubbish bag to put all your rubbish in, in case there isn’t a bin easily available. Make an effort to sort your recycling if the country or your accommodation has facilities for it.
Also, don’t be afraid to pick pieces of rubbish that aren’t yours on the beach or on a hike and put them in your bag to dispose of properly. We all have to play our part and be responsible for each other when it comes to the environment.
You could also research any volunteering activities like beach clean ups that you can get involved in.
Do some research about your destination
It’s good to know in advance what your destination is known for in terms of its positive environmental initiatives, so that you can help be eco conscious when you visit.
It’s also good to know if your destination has a poor environmental policy and is known for having a poor eco conscious travel culture so that you can be extra responsible and careful when you visit. Maybe you may not want to visit a place simply because you don’t want to add to the problem of over tourism and its effects.
The less you carry with you when you travel, the more your impact on the country you’re visiting is mitigated. Firstly, for air travel, lighter bags means the plane weighs less which means less fuel is used and less carbon emissions on your trip. (Not to mention heavy bags cost more to check in on smaller flights, so packing light is cheaper too!)
With smaller and lighter bags, you’ll be able to catch public transport easier, hoping on and off trains and buses with ease, which means a smaller carbon footprint on your part.
Now get ready to book your next amazing trip, knowing that you’ve got the tools to be a sustainable traveller too!
Have you got any tips that you think I may have missed? Leave them in the comments below! Happy travels!
Sit back, grab some Oreos, and I can’t wait to see what life has to offer us next.