Eco-friendly tourism, sustainable tourism, green travel, the list of buzz phrases we’ve developed to describe a more responsible, more attentive way of experiencing the world is pretty lengthy. All of these have become hugely popular and hotly debated. The impact that travel has on the environment, cultures and wildlife are issues that have come to the forefront of people’s’ minds as they choose how and where to travel. There are also often differing views on what these buzz words mean, how they should be implemented and what it really means to ‘travel responsibly’. It can be expensive, time-consuming, confusing and frustrating to sort through and choose an option that feels right and many times people just avoid it altogether.
6 Things Every Traveller Can Do To Make A Difference
While we don’t have all the answers and certainly muddle our own way through our efforts to travel with the most positive impact possible, we’ve come up with a few things that every traveller can do to make a difference while they travel. These six ideas can be easily incorporated, are inexpensive and only really require a little extra effort and some thought.
Just Say No To Straws
This is something we’ve been trying to incorporate into our everyday experience when we dine out. When we found out that in the US alone, approximately 500 million straws are used per day, we were astonished. Add to that the fact that:
- they aren’t always recycled,
- contain BPA,
- contribute to the 8 million tonnes of plastic that enter the ocean every year,
- are harmful to animals,
- and are one of the top ten items found as litter on beaches
The list could go on but it’s pretty clear that straws are really cylindrical tubes of destruction when it comes to the environment.
What would happen if we all just did away with straws? Next time you go to a restaurant while travelling, or at home, make sure to ask for your water or drinks without a straw. For us, this is the hardest thing to remember as that initial interaction tends to happen fast or, if we do remember, we are inevitably brought one already opened anyway.
If you stop at a fast food restaurant, take your drink without a lid and drink from the cup. Wherever you find a straw imposed upon you, find a way to prevent it from happening the next time. And if you really need to use a straw? Get an alternative like a compostable, stainless steel or glass straw to take with you when you leave the house!
Something like the SipWell Stainless Steel Drinking Straws or Green Heart Stainless Steel BPA Free Reusable Straws are great alternatives to the disposable plastic ones we see everyday!
Waste Not, Want Not!
At this point, you may be asking, “So, I’ve gotten rid of the straws, but what do I do with the disposable cups and lids I’m always holding?”. There’s a simple answer but this time it requires more than just thought and effort, it requires a little cash.
If you’re inclined to fork over a bit of dough to help the cause, buying and bringing a tumbler or water bottle whenever you travel can make a huge impact. In certain countries where clean water is hard to find, this may get a bit tricky. Our advice is to find out how the locals source clean water. For example, in Thailand, there are larger bottles that are refilled regularly with drinkable water. We used these extensively while there and it cut down not only on waste, but also cost of water.
If you’re travelling light, or are concerned about the weight and size of a bottle, you can always go with the collapsible kind – like these Collapsible Silicone Water Bottles – which work great even when you’re at home and going out for the day.
You may find you can’t, or won’t, use one in all scenarios and destinations but by incorporating it as much as possible, you’re still reducing your footprint and eliminating a significant amount of plastic waste.
Want A Clean Beach? Help Clean It Yourself!
We all love going to a beautiful beach so seeing trash along the shoreline or in the sand is not only an eyesore, but also frustrating. We’ll trudge our way through the sand, carrying our towels, chairs and coolers and grumble under our breaths about how inconsiderate people are as we nudge discarded pieces of trash to the side.
Not only are these items blights on a beautiful sandy landscape, they are also incredible harmful for wildlife. Garbage can be mistaken for food and can be especially harmful to sea turtles who nest on beaches and their offspring who are born there.
A brilliant way to do your part? Bring a bag with you when you go to a beach (or a park or other outdoor destination where litter is often seen). All you need to do is pick up the garbage from your car (or drop off point) to where you choose to sit and back again. If everyone were to do that, think of how garbage-free and wildlife-friendly beaches and other outdoor areas would be. Of course, spreading the word and recommending this to others increases the amount of garbage pick-up that will go on, the number of beautiful outdoor spaces that are clean and the amount of wildlife saved!`
Leave The Paper Trail & Take Photos
We recently saw a brilliant concept at the Brevard Zoo in Florida where the focus on conservation and education was evident in almost every aspect of the property as was their dedication to the environment. What we thought was especially inspired was their lack of paper maps. Instead, visitors are encouraged to take a photo of the main map (’cause who doesn’t have their phone or camera with them?) and use it to navigate. At the start of each of the larger exhibit entrances, another map specific to that area is displayed to look at or snap a photograph.
While this would be an amazing thing at many of the attractions around the world, it realistically won’t be happening overnight. So why not play your part and take a photo of the large maps most sites have displayed at the entrance and skip grabbing one of the handheld paper ones? Encouraging those in your group to do the same could even start something down the line.
If Your Body Says Yes, Walk Or Cycle
This may not be for everyone depending on their physical abilities but it’s something to consider if you’re able. We often forego taxis, driving or other forms of transportation while we explore a destination and opt to use our own two feet. Whether we’re walking (which is the majority of the time for us) or cycling, we find we can really get a better feel for local life and even spot some hidden gems we otherwise would have missed.
Not only does this allow you a different perspective, it also keeps your heart healthy and saves you from using more environmentally harmful transportation methods.
Though the saying “it’s like riding a bike” is popular, we’re not sure how easy it is to hop on a bike after an extended period of time without riding and navigate the streets of some of the crazier cities, but walking at least some of the way is a good way to cut down on your footprint.
End The Shame. Pee In The Shower
It’s something that few people talk about. It’s a closeted practice that few admit to and yet it could save gallons of water every time you do it. Yep, that’s right. Peeing in the shower is one of the most environmentally friendly things you can do and it’s even got benefits for you too!
While there doesn’t seem to be any sanitary risks (urine should be basically sterile in healthy individuals) there could be potential health benefits with respect to cleanliness. In fact there are a whole host of potential benefits of peeing in the shower!
But we’re talking about the environment right? Not only will you reduce toilet paper consumption but you’ll also be saving up to several gallons of water per flush you avoid by letting the shower water do the job. There has been criticism that doing this prolongs shower time thus reducing the benefit, but calculations have shown it’s a small reduction and the water-saving benefits of peeing in the shower are still huge.
Imagine how much you could save on a daily basis, not just when you travel? But in countries where water processing is not as developed, where water is hard to come by or where water usage is conserved, going number one while you are showering can be considered doing your part to helping the environment and cutting down on your footprint!
All The Small Things
Really, we believe it’s about the small things. It’s about changing the way you think about the environment and your role in it. Small things add up and can add up large. Once we eliminate the detachment most people feel to the environment and start changing the apathy people have when it comes to their own pollution and creating waste, we’ll find that the destinations we travel to will be kept cleaner and safer for longer.
It’s a group effort and it takes time. It doesn’t have to be a trip dedicated to environmental cleanup. It doesn’t have to be a volunteer opportunity that you sign up for. It’s about making a point to contribute in ways that you can, wherever you go and as often as possible.
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