Looking for ways to be kind to the planet as you explore more of it?
Here are some easy tips to travel greener and have a positive impact on all the places you go.
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Prepare Your Home
Have you ever heard of vampire power?
Also known as phantom energy or standby loss, this refers to the fact that devices and appliances leech energy even when they’re turned off or in standby mode.
Basically, if it’s plugged into an outlet, it’s consuming some amount of electricity.
So before you pack your bags, unplug everything you can. This includes things like your TV, Wi-Fi router, microwave, washing machine and music system.
If you’re going to be away for an extended amount of time, you may even want to empty, defrost and unplug your fridge. For shorter trips, this may not be worth the hassle. But do remember to take out any food likely to go bad before you get back.
Save energy, save the planet!
You can cut down on a lot of waste during your trip by packing just 2 essentials:
- A reusable water bottle.
- A cloth bag.
Is it safe to drink the water in your destination? If not, you can either also take along a filter or purification system, or simply buy large jugs of water to keep in your accommodation and pour some into your water bottle each day. That way, you’ll use much less plastic than you would with individual plastic bottles.
As for the cloth bag, fold it up and tuck it into your day pack so you can politely refuse plastic bags when they’re offered.
Another good thing to pack is shampoo and toiletries (put them in your checked luggage so you take normal-sized bottles). This way, you won’t be consuming the tiny, individually wrapped options commonly offered in hotels.
Less plastic, less waste!
Speaking of which, if you pack any newly bought items, don’t forget to remove all the packaging first. This will be easier to recycle at home, where you are familiar with how recycling works.
Use e-tickets and e-visas, and don’t print out reservations unless you really need to.
Less paper, more trees!
Pro tip: For your electronic documents, don’t count on having internet access.
Download and/or take a screenshot of important documents so you always have a copy that’s easily accessible.
Keep in mind that in some cases, a paper copy is necessary.
It’s always a good idea to keep a physical copy of your passport with you when you travel. Some countries even require that you keep it on your person! It’s also recommended that you keep copies of your credit cards and travel insurance policy in a safe place just in case.
Some e-visas have to be printed before they can be used, so be sure to read the requirements carefully. Learn more about e-visas here.
Luckily, with things like hotel reservations, attractions tickets, guided tours, and transportation, an electronic copy is usually enough.
Reduce Your Footprint
Quality is better than quantity.
Busier doesn’t mean better.
Less is more.
You’re familiar with these nuggets of wisdom, but have you put them into practice when travelling?
Instead of cramming in the highest possible number of countries, cities, sites and restaurants into each itinerary, slow travel encourages us to relax, be present, and connect with the place and people around us for a deeper, more satisfying experience.
Instead of skimming across the surface of a destination, snapping a photo and charging onto the next thing, slow travellers sit back, relax and stay awhile, giving the experience time to sink in.
Plus, the longer you spend in one place, the less you’re travelling, effectively reducing your carbon footprint.
And when you do move from place to place, take it slow. That could be walking or biking around town, or using ridesharing, busses or trains for longer distances.
The fewer flights you take, the better for the environment.
Environmental responsibility goes hand in hand with social impact travel.
They are 2 pieces of the same puzzle: sustainable travel.
Tourism is a vital source of income for many developing countries, but how much of the money spent actually stays in the local community?
Each time you open your wallet, you have an opportunity to create a positive ripple effect in the community.
You can support small local businesses wherever you go, whatever you do. Keep this in mind when you decide where to eat a meal, buy a piece of fruit, spend the night, do an activity, or buy a souvenir.
Eat, shop and stay local.
Leave No Trace
When you don’t have a positive impact to make, leave no impact at all.
Don’t contribute to the negative effects of overtourism.
This includes some no-brainers, like not littering (including love locks), learning how to recycle in your destination and staying on trails and marked paths.
There are also things that are only now coming into the general consciousness, like the importance of:
- Leaving natural and cultural objects in their environment. This means not collecting rocks, seashells, sand, plants. (Take a photo instead!)
- Thinking critically about animal tourism and animal exploitation.
With some activities, it is clear to see when animals are being exploited, such as elephant riding or performing dolphins. Other times it may be less obvious, such as posing for photos with animals that suffer abuse and cruelty behind the scenes. Do your research and be aware that some organisations call themselves wildlife sanctuaries or rescues but are not ethical in reality.
A rule of thumb to use as a starting point: if visitors can ride, hug, touch or take a selfie with an animal, the animal’s welfare is not the first priority.
Leave No Digital Trace
Be conscious of the correlation between posting photos of beautiful places on social media and the number of visitors that place receives, especially if you have lots of followers.
This goes double for natural, outdoor spots and small places without the infrastructure to support a sharp increase in visits.
If you do want to intentionally encourage a healthy and sustainable amount of tourism, consider tagging a general region or park rather than geotagging a specific location and risk turning it into a hotspot for overcrowding.
Sometimes the best way to show your love for a unique place is to keep it a secret.
We hope these tips help make your next trip greener, cleaner and more sustainable. The planet is counting on you!