Travelling abroad is not considered to be the most eco-friendly practice by any means. Most forms of transport, especially those used for long distance travel, like airplanes or boats, use fossil fuels which are harmful to the environment and to public health. Plus other actions travellers might do at home that cause harm to the environment, like littering and throwing away recyclable materials, could also be continued abroad. These damaging actions affect our planet and therefore all of us too.
However, travel is important to many people, whether it be for work, leisure or self-discovery. Completely stopping all travel would help the environment but this is hardly realistic. Instead, the jet-setters among us must come up with ways to look after the world, whilst experiencing wanderlust.
These are the steps you can take towards becoming a sustainable traveller:
Choose Carbon-Free Transport
Using modes of transport like bikes, kayaks or walking requires no fossil fuels to function, only your own energy. This means you are simultaneously doing something good for yourself and the environment. They are, however, ways of getting around a destination once you have arrived, especially if your destination is a long-haul flight away.
Offset Carbon Emissions
If travel to your chosen destination is via a flight, then there are ways to offset the carbon emissions created. Many airlines allow you to pay a little extra when booking, which is then donated to different types of offset projects. Two examples of these would be forestry projects, where the money is used to plant trees, or energy projects, where the money is invested in renewable energy. Or, if you want to control where your money goes, you could decide to donate to one of the numerous environmental protection agencies or charities.
Use a Digital Boarding Pass
As most airlines give you the option to check-in at home a day before your flight, you can control what type of boarding pass you get. The most environmentally-friendly option would be to not print it out and waste paper, but instead, download it on your mobile phone. The majority of people have a smartphone and travel with it, so this is a no-brainer. Plus, this means you will have more than one copy – one on your email and the one in your wallet – so no worrying about protecting this one sheet of paper!
Bring a Solar-Powered Charger
The only downside of having your boarding pass on your phone is if your phone should run out of battery! But the way to solve this issue, and make sure you never run out of battery throughout your journey, is by using a solar-powered charger. This means that even if you are travelling off the beaten track, you can still keep all the batteries of your gadgets topped up and have access to your essential documents, like boarding passes, whenever you need them! You don’t need to be in a bright, sunny place either for the charger to fill up, daylight will work just fine!
Carry a Reusable Water Bottle With You
Having a reusable bottle with you will stop you from buying plastic bottles of water all the time. Many airports have water fountains throughout their terminals, meaning you can have a full bottle ready for the flight. Coffee shops and hotels also offer free bottle refills in many places. There is a helpful app you can download called ‘Refill’, which shows you the nearest free water refill station on a map, which can be used all over the world.
Follow Local Recycling Rules
If you do want to drink something other than water, then you will need to purchase a (probably plastic) bottle. After you have finished with it, make sure you have disposed of it properly. Many countries have specific bins for different types of recyclable materials or schemes for recycling. For example, in Germany, they have a bottle deposit scheme for glass and plastic bottles. You pay a little bit extra for the bottled drink, but when you return it in store, you are given a voucher with the money back. It is almost like you are renting the bottle, so there is an incentive to return it as you will get your money back.
Leave No Trace
Travelling is fun and the memories stay with you forever, but just because the experience has had an impact on you, doesn’t mean your impact should be felt in the local environment. Limit your impact as much as possible. Do not litter, do not harm animals, and do not cause damage to the environment. Be an ally to nature and to the area you have visited; show them the respect they deserve. As a common phrase amongst travellers says, ‘take only photos, leave only footprints’.
Travel is an important part of life for many people, but the impact it has on the world affects every single person. Minimising our effects on the environment in general and the local communities we visit is essential. To discover all the places the Earth has to offer, we must first be an ally to it and strive to protect it.