First things first, we all love to travel.
Most of us love nothing more than plotting to escape the humdrum of everyday life. To explore the world and all it has to offer is truly something to be treasured. However, treasuring it is something we haven’t been doing a lot of lately, or, if we’re being honest, for quite some time. But we live in a different world now; one where we’re starting to question our travel methods and seeking ways that will improve the state of our planet. It should come as no surprise that in ‘the good old days’ quite a few things were indeed better. So, here are 10 tips for travelling more sustainably, old school-style!
Planes, trains and automobiles… (oh, and boats too!) We all know that planes are a huge cause of emissions, but did you know that cruises are even worse? Not only do these ‘floating cities’ apparently destroy reefs every time they drop their anchors (and they’ve been guilty of dumping oil and rubbish too), they also release around three times more CO2 than their airborne counterparts. There are some smaller vessels emerging trying to lessen the impact but good old fashioned sailing boats are far greener, more romantic plus you’ll feel more connected with nature, and isn’t that what it’s all about? Sometimes flying really isn’t negotiable so consider going economy and if you’re travelling long distance try and fly direct — most of the carbon emissions happen during take-off and landing! If you need to rent a car on your trip, ask the rental company for their most eco-friendly options, and take friends — not only will it be more fun, but just like flying economy, reduces the overall carbon footprint. Trains on the other hand give off up to 80% less emissions than cars, plus you can kick back and relax as you pass the drivers stuck in traffic!
Staycation staycation! Yes, it’s seriously tempting to want to jet off to greener (or beachier) pastures across the other side of the world, but do we really need to go that far, that often? We know many travel bloggers seem to be jetting off to a new destination every day (and often wearing a new, ‘fast fashion’ outfit to match) but it’s not great for the planet, so take time to appreciate what you already have all around you. Ever noticed how tourists often know more about where you live than you do? We spend so much time admiring the greener grass of our neighbours that we often overlook what we have on our doorstep. It’s not about never travelling again… just creating more balance and discovering what already exists around us.
Ok, so we have a passport and need to travel. How about choosing an eco-friendly accommodation at your chosen destination? There are so many eco hotels popping up that are not only fabulous to stay at, but fabulous to their environment too. Seehotel Ambach, in South Tyrol, has once again been awarded the EarthCheck silver certification, thanks to its sustainable luxury, and careful integration with its environment. The Papaya Playa Project in Tulum is one of the most sustainable hotels in Mexico, on a mission to achieve both a zero emissions and zero contamination community, whilst also retaining 93% of the original jungle. Alila Villas Uluwatu was the first resort in Indonesia to obtain the highest level of certification from Green Globe for Environmentally Sustainable Design.
Not only do these eco retreats take sustainability very seriously, they’re a dream to stay at too.
Travel lightly they say — it’s not something we can all do easily, but it goes without saying that the more weight we carry, the more fuel will be required to get us from A to B, so let’s learn to pack smarter. Pack clothes that coordinate well, and toiletries (which are often the items most harmful to the environment) that are as ‘clean’ as can be, preferably in reusable containers, and if they’re multi-purpose, well, that’s an added bonus! Coconut oil is an excellent example — it can be used as a cleanser, moisturiser, hair treatment and blood pressure reducer all in-one — heck, when in doubt just apply it all over.
Not so fantastic plastic. Unless you’ve been living under a rock recently, chances are you know all about the problems of single-use plastics — so it’s time to start thinking about how you can plan accordingly. How about packing Tupperware and cutlery (sustainably made) so you can eat on the go, especially from outdoor vendors! Bring a reusable coffee cup, straw, and even a water filtration system (along with a water bottle), particularly useful for countries that don’t have safe drinking water… and of course reusable bags. There are simple ways to help leave our destinations as beautiful as we found them.
It would seem that ‘cloud’ storage will soon take over aviation as a top source of greenhouse gas emissions. Researchers have found that streaming music services alone emits anything between 25,000 – 40,000 tons of CO2 into the air every year, and that’s just in the US. Turns out the ‘cloud’ isn’t that white fluffy thing in the sky after all, but massive buildings filled with hard drives, guzzling a crazy amount of energy; which in turn create a ton of heat, which then requires high powered air conditioning units to keep them from overheating and so on, ad infinitum.
So, how about going old school on your next trip? Take a camera — a real one. Invest in a retro flip phone so you can still make calls and texts while you’re away, but without having to use the ‘cloud’. But, if leaving your smartphone at home isn’t possible or sends a chill down your spine, save any photos and files to the device itself instead of ‘iCloud’ if possible, and switch off your apps when you’re not using them. Being on holiday is the perfect time to disconnect, and give your frazzled brain a chance to unwind, so allow yourself the opportunity to do so, instead of worrying what your next social media post is going to be. Elton John, Vince Vaughn, Sarah Jessica Parker and Tom Cruise are amongst the many celebrities who’ve chosen to go mobile-phone-free. Lose the ‘nomophobia’ (yes there’s a name for our addiction) and the selfie stick with it, and actually enjoy your holiday through your own eyes.
If you’re going to take your phone or need to, how about packing a solar-panelled charger. Whilst not quite as effective or quick as regular chargers, they do get the job done; it just takes a little longer… but that’s OK, because you’re going to be too busy disconnecting and tuning into utter bliss to notice!
Can’t stand the heat? Did you know that for the most part, air conditioning units use hydrofluorocarbons which are even more powerful and harmful than CO2. And they use a lot of energy! If that’s not bad enough, they’re not particularly great for our health either — they can lead to breathing problems, chronic fatigue and even headaches and spread air-borne diseases such as Legionnaire’s. If you want that holiday ‘glow’, remember that air con dries the skin too, so you’ll need to slap on extra creams. They also make you less tolerant of the heat. So if you love the sun, you might want to do things the old fashioned way and turn on a regular fan, or as Philippe Starck commented when asked to design an air conditioner that actually looked good –
“Open the window. We forget simple solutions because it’s not good business.”
If you absolutely must have your hotel room set at arctic temperatures, maybe turn it off when you’re not in the room, or visit Alaska.
Eat local. Not only does eating from local vendors give you an opportunity to get a real taste of the local cuisine, you’re supporting the community too — so stay away from the big chains. Chances are you’ll probably find the food you’re feasting on has been grown locally, more organically and is in season — all of which are better for you and the environment.
Lastly, be kind and mindful, and enjoy; try to avoid participating in the blame culture that is circulating around sustainability. Remember not everyone is going to be as informed about these matters. Be patient. Give credit where credit is due and if you notice areas which could be improved, speak up and educate. After all, we’re all in this together. Let’s do what we can to make sure we enjoy this beautiful planet as long as we can. And find comfort in knowing your efforts are helping maintain the vitality of this planet.
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