Traveling is a beautiful option for people who want to explore this wide world and further their education by encountering different ways of living, cultures, histories, and stories. However, travel in modern times creates a lot of unnecessary waste–spending money on snacks with wrappers, plastic water bottles, gear that falls apart after one or two trips, and even magazines or quick-fix toys to keep the kids occupied on a long plane ride. While going from one destination to the other, we often travel with too much “stuff” and forget to immerse ourselves fully in the community around us.
These observations led us to explore more eco-minded travel options and ideas that would enable us to continue exploring the world, while also striving to protect and sustain it. The following tips for the eco-conscious traveler can be applied no matter where you are going–to the market, to a nearby state, or to a country half way around the world.
1. Efficiently use non-renewable resources
More specifically, choose to minimize your need for energy resources. By doing this, you are conserving fossil fuels, reducing air pollution, and eliminating the need for batteries, which are not recyclable. If you must travel with a tablet, phone, laptop, and all of their chargers and batteries, consider purchasing high-quality solar-powered gadgets that are dependable, inexpensive, and can be taken anywhere. You may be surprised to find that there are various solar backpacks and laptop bags that recharge batteries and electronics, including iPods, phones, MP3 players, and other portable electronic devices. Eliminate your need for plastic water bottles by purchasing solar water bottles/night lights that serves dual purpose – water-tight storage and an LED lantern.
2. Preserve Physical Environment
Rob Greenfield is a beautiful example of a man who travels the world barefoot on a bicycle. He only showers in natural waters–springs, lakes, rivers, or waterfalls. He uses organic soaps to not harm any wildlife, and he drinks directly from natural sources as well, purifying it with Katadyn Pocket filter. (More about him here.) Purchase goods produced by the local community to reduce pollution and unnecessary wastes. Preserve natural habitats and educate yourself about the ecosystem and ways to keep it in balance during your stay. Volunteer for an environmental conservation project with local guides, biologists, and community leaders. Slow down and feel your surroundings. Take in all the sights, smells, and sounds. Smile at people walking or riding down the street with you, and learn from the community you are living among. Understanding the native people and their environment will add to your own travel experience.
3. Re-think Transportation Options
When traveling far from home, most of us fly in an airplane. Flying is one of the more difficult ways to offset our environmental footprint. However, innovators are developing alternatives such as inventing solar powered aircrafts (how incredible is that?). A more practical solution is to fly in the winter, and use online tools to calculate the emissions of a trip. A traveler can then pay an offset company to reduce emissions elsewhere in the world for the same amount, making a flight “carbon neutral”. TerraPass offers an online carbon calculator and option for purchasing offsets for your air travel. Several airlines have their own carbon offset programs as well. Once you arrive at your destination, choose to take public transportation, rent bicycles, or walk. If you’re lucky enough, you might even test out a solar-powered vehicle!
4. Support Local Economy
Think carefully about where you want to spend your money. Remember that money is an investment, and when we travel to places away from home, we should be mindful to invest in the local economy. This is a way to thank the people who have received you into their community, and to show them that their ways of life are recognized, received, and appreciated. Shop for your meals at a local market, where ingredients are fresh. Learn how to prepare them using local or traditional recipes, which will expand your culinary experience- something we all love about travel! You are also reducing pollution because the food you purchase was not grown and shipped from another part of the world. It was grown by hand with purpose and love. Money that farmers earn from their harvests directly feeds and impacts their families and a community.
5. Sleep With Purpose
You may choose to forgo the all-inclusive hotels, and opt for more green accommodations. There are thousands of options all over the world that offer a profound, unique perspective sure to maximize your travel experience. You may check WWOOF, where you may trade services like farming in exchange for a room to sleep, or you may check into sleep sharing options, such as Couchsurfing. If you still prefer to stay in a hotel, you can ensure that your accommodation has eco-certification by a reputable accreditation organization such as Rainforest Alliance.
Do you have any favorite tips for eco-conscious travelers? Have you discovered a solar-powered solution that you benefit from? Is there something specific you are mindful of as you explore other places in the world? We would love to hear from you!