Travel and Tourism is inherently destructive to the environment. Transportation is carbon-emitting, hotels can have damaging effects, and even seemingly harmless activities like diving and trekking can take their toll on the earth. If we can’t stop traveling, at least we can try to minimize our impacts. Here are some ways to travel greener:
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Flying is the most carbon-emitting method of travel. Night flights are even worse. Take as few flights as possible and if you can take a high speed-train instead, do it. By the time, you travel to the airport, go through security, board, fly, and travel in from the airport, it might have taken as long as the train. If you’ve got the time and patience, consider the overnight bus. One problem is that it’s hard to resist the cheap flights of European and Asian low-cost carriers.
Be mindful in hotels
Use as few towels as you can. More loads of laundry, means more soapy water and electricity used. Also, staying as many nights in one hotel helps minimize loads of laundry too. Remember to turn off the lights and AC/heater when you leave your room. Bringing your own toiletries helps avoid wasting all the plastic bottles of soap and shampoo. Often times, the hotel won’t change your towels unless you put them on the floor. Patronize hotels that are committed to environmental sustainability.
Refuse Plastic bags
Say “no” to plastic bags. I’m offered one at almost every shop in almost every country I visit. Carry a reusable bag with you. Plastic bags will usually end up on the roadside, or worse yet, in our rivers and oceans. Virtually non-biodegradable, plastic lasts for centuries, and can be harmful to animals. With a little bit of foresight, plastic can be avoided.
Eat local—Drink local
Extra shipping fuel can be avoided by eating and drinking local products. Simple things like eating fresh meats and vegetables will not only be healthier for you and the environment, but will support the local economy. Avoid imported liquor, wine and beer. The local tipple is usually satisfactory and almost always cheaper. As a traveler, you’ll want to be trying the local food and drink anyway.
Use fewer taxis
The temptation to use taxis, especially in Asia, where they are exceptionally cheap, is high. Use the airport shuttle, local buses, or you can just walk. Both are great ways to learn about the local area and bump into people you might never have met. And walking is a good way to keep fit if you’re a long-term traveler.
Stay Longer—Slow Travel
Whirlwind tours are not good for the environment. Plain and Simple. Traveling slower is not just better for the planet, it’s better for our travel experiences. There is so much more to learn about a place if we stay longer. You’ll get a different perspective of a place if you aim to become a temporary resident than just a tourist.
More weight in your pack requires more fossil fuels for buses, trains, and planes to move it. Pack less and you’ll not only save fuel, but it will make it easier on you back. Packing light is a refined art. It took me years to master, but hope you can learn more quickly. Here’s what I packed for three months in Southeast Asia.