No matter where you travel in the world, you’ll witness the human footprint on the natural environment. Most people think (if they think about it at all) that sustainable travel is either out of reach or too expensive. I chatted with Eco Expert, and owner of the Eco Hub website, Candice Batista to bring you her top 10 tips on eco-globetrotting!
- Be Water Wise
Pack a reusable water bottle. Bottled water is expensive in many countries and if you’re travelling with a family of four, it’s not only going to cost you money, but all of the bottles contribute to excessive environmental waste.
If you are going to a country where the tap water is suspect then buy something like this. It will not only save you money it will reduce plastic waste. A win-win! If you are worried about the weight of the bottles you can always opt for foldable ones.
When you arrive at your location, think about your “other” water consumption. Ask the hotel staff not to change your sheets and towels daily, which saves energy, water and detergent.
- Be Energy Wise
Before you leave the hotel room, turn of the A/C (or heat) and don’t forget about the lights and TV too. Just because you are not being billed for electricity doesn’t mean you should waste it.
- Reduce, Reuse & Recycle!
We’re taught these three key words in elementary school and traveling is a perfect opportunity to gently remind yourself of those important Rs. In many exotic locations around the world, garbage left by tourists puts enormous pressure on an area, potentially resulting in soil erosion, increased pollution, discharges into the sea, natural habitat loss, increased pressure on endangered species and heightened vulnerability to forest fires. Use receptacles when provided and be sure to ask hotel staff about their recycling programs
Sometimes, something as small as putting garbage in the right place, is all you need to do to help a foreign area.
- Shop Local!
Not only is this a great way to submerse yourself in different cultures, but you’re supporting local economies. You’re also able to ask important questions, such as, “what is this made from?” This is especially important when it comes to endangered species and products that are often derived from them. Don’t buy items made from ivory or snake skin as example, and, keep in mind, if you do purchase these products, they may be illegal in other places you’re traveling too.
- Be Animal Friendly
Support sanctuaries that rescue wild animals. Wildlife tourism is worth up to $250 billion (USD) annually and its estimated that about 550,000 wild animals are kept in attractions around the world. 110 million people visit these wildlife attractions as tourists each year, unaware of the cruelty that often goes on behind the scenes.
When looking for a sanctuary to visit, keep an eye out for a place with:
- professional accreditation
- access to veterinary care
- natural habitats and social groupings for the animals
- restrictions on having direct contact with the animals; allowing the animals every opportunity to behave naturally
- restrictions on public viewing; allowing animals privacy when they want it
- no breeding programs
- a not-for-profit business model
- a good visitor education program about animal welfare and conservation
Candice recommends avoiding “ride wild animals” activities, staying away from selfies and don’t watch animals doing “entertaining” things. Elephant riding is popular in Thailand and the activity is spreading across Africa. In order for an elephant to accept a rider it endures a cruel training program called the “crush” using pain, fear and isolation. The trauma cased from this process can stay with the elephants their entire lives. Lion and tiger cubs used for selfies with tourists are taken from their mothers at an early age and typically kept in isolation. Many animals like monkeys are forced to do unnatural things through painful training methods and when not performing are usually kept in small barren cages. Tourists rarely see the “ugly” side to the business of animals of entertainment. The creatures may appear happy in the moment, but that’s all part of their training.
- Ditch the car!
Biking, walking, hiking, taking a local bus or taxi are great ways to explore your new environment. Walking and biking tours offer a unique, local perspective. You can stumble upon little shops and eateries that you would not see in a car. This will help to reduce your travel emissions! If you have to rent a car, pick a hybrid and/or select the smallest option available. Also make sure if you are hiking or walking you stay on the designated path!
- Eat locally, if you can!
Eat Well Everywhere allows you to map a route of sustainable food stores, farmers markets and B and B’s. They have over 25,000 hand-picked restaurants, farms, markets and other sources of local, sustainable food. You’ll also start to recognize that restaurants around the world are moving away from mass production and going more toward “farm-to-table.” Even hotels in popular tourist areas, like Orlando, Florida, are starting to grow their own food, on property, and visitors can even tour the gardens and farms.
- Plant a tree!
Planes, trains and automobiles add carbon dioxide to the atmosphere and we certainly don’t need more of that! Consider planting a tree. Trees convert CO2 to oxygen, which we need to breathe. To find a program that works for you, this is a great place to start.
Keep in mind though that panting tress is one way to reduce emissions but should not be used as a way to make up for your emissions.
- Avoid one-time use plastic items
I am sure by now you have heard about the detrimental effect that plastic has on the ocean. There are over 8 million tons of it floating around right now as I write this. Items that we use once, like straws, are the worst offenders. They have a short lifespan and are normally discarded after only one use and end up in landfills. Like other plastic items, they don’t biodegrade; they last hundreds of years and end up polluting our soil and water as they slowly break down.
The best way to get rid of plastic straws is to simply stop buying or using them! If you are out at a restaurant, just ask them to hold the straw!
Let’s talk about disposable utensils, Nicholas Mallos, director of the Ocean Conservancy’s Trash-Free Seas Program says “Plastic utensils are an item that many people may not think of as posing a threat in a marine environment,” He adds that plastic forks and knives can harm marine life both when they’re whole and later when they break down into smaller, sharper, indigestible pieces. Travelling with your own utensils may seem weird, but you are doing a really good thing for the planet.
- Consider a staycation!
Become a tourist in your own city, visit local farms and museums — you never know you may discover a new favourite hot spot and you’ll save a ton on transportation costs! For tips on how to book a budget-friendly vacation
“Take nothing but pictures, leave nothing footprints”
From rainforests and Safari lodges to eco-resorts, and even glamping set-ups, you’ll find incredible vacation options that offer a selection of organic foods, natural skincare amenities, recycle programs and more.
For more from Candice Batista, please visit her website. She shares everything from healthy, safe home ideas to incredible eco-friendly recipes. You can also find her on social media and engage in her daily journey to save the planet and educate.