Being aware of the environmental impacts of travelling is something that most people overlook when going on a trip. The unfortunate reality is that travelling can be an extremely un-sustainable activity if we aren’t careful of our actions.
There are many simple ways that you can make your trip an eco-friendly one. The best part is that many of these tips are also great ways to save some money!
Always bring a water bottle with you
Buying bottles of water can get expensive, and this simple travel hack is such a smart way to save money and reduce the amount of plastic that you use. Most airports these days have water filters where you are able to refill your bottle for free, and most hotels or restaurants will happily also fill up your bottle if you ask.
Pro-tip: Instead of using a plastic bottle, opt for a stainless steel one as this way, you can even fill it up with hot or cold beverages!
Pack reusable tote bags
This is a great way to utilise those bags you’ve accumulated from the grocery store back home, and these light-weight bags are so handy while you are travelling! Many supermarkets and established stores will charge you for a plastic bag, so this is a perfect way to save. Get creative in the way these are used, as they can multi-function as either a laundry bag, a storage bag or even double as a beach bag or picnic bag.
Say NO to single-use plastics
Did you know that 44% of seabirds, 22% of cetaceans, all sea turtles and a growing list of fish species have been documented with plastic in or around their bodies? That means we, as seafood consumers, are probably eating bits of plastic without even realising it.
Single-use plastics such as straws, stirrers and food packaging are one of the biggest contributors to plastic pollution. We throw them away after only being used once and it takes years to degrade. Though it can be difficult to completely stop using plastic (especially in Asia, where for some reason plastic is given out for EVERYTHING), saying no to that straw or switching from using a plastic toothbrush to bamboo toothbrush are small steps to a greener future.
Walk, cycle or take public transport
There are so many benefits to doing this! Not only will it greatly reduce your carbon footprint, but this is a great way to stumble upon some hidden local gems AND get a workout in at the same time as you will have time to explore many spots that you would miss out seeing when you are in a car. Alternatively, take the bus, train or rideshare when going to places that are not accessible by foot.
Support the local community of an area by opting to buy from smaller, independent vendors as opposed to shopping at chain outlets and larger malls. Seek out the closest Farmer’s Market for some fresh produce and if you are in a big city, look for a thrift store when purchasing clothes- you’d be surprised at the awesome stuff that you will find, for probably a third of what you would pay normally. Buying local is an incredible way to learn more about a country’s culture and find unique products that you probably can’t get anywhere else.
Stay in eco-friendly hotels or guesthouses
Whether its a luxury hotel, boutique hotel or guesthouse that you are looking for, there are many accommodation options these days that operate sustainably. Do some research while planning your trip. Some of these places are actually way more comfortable than a regular hotel and its sustainable practices will definitely make you feel better about yourself. Double points when you score one with beachfront views and essential oil scented sheets.
Use natural, biodegradable products
Unfortunately, many beauty and hygiene products contain ingredients (alcohol, SLS, parabens) that are extremely detrimental to both our body and the environment! Think about converting to natural products- not only will this be better for the Earth, but your body will thank you too. Plus, natural products will leave you smelling and feeling SO yummy! Many supermarkets and pharmacies these days carry products that don’t contain these ingredients. Some mid-range priced Malaysian products that are a favourite of mine are Claire’s Organics and Mayura Apothecary.
Pro-tip: Instead of buying travel sized products, which can add up, buy the full size and opt instead to use travel-sized refillable containers.
Choose tours that don’t harm the environment
Opt for tour operators that aim to decrease environmental impact and give back to the community. Make sure to also check whether the tour you are supporting will be causing animal harm, as this is very common in Asian countries. Though riding elephants and taking selfies with tigers may seem entertaining, these animals are often abused. Instead, look for tours that advocate animal protection, such as conservation tours. Conservation tours also give you a chance to get up close and personal with these animals! One thing to look out for is the way they are treated – if they advertise it as a conservation site but the animal is still being chained or constrained, chances are its probably not.
Leave No Trace
A principle that you should follow not just whilst travelling, but also in your everyday life. Think twice before throwing that piece of plastic or cigarette butt on to the beach – even the smallest of items affect our ecosystem. When camping, leave the site as litter-free as you found it, and pick up some trash that comes in your way when you are walking somewhere. Though these actions may seem insignificant, a small piece of litter you pick up in a day could amount to billions at the end of the year!
Save, save, save
Take shorter showers, turn off the lights in your hotel room when you aren’t in and opt for using fans instead of air-conditioning on a day that’s rainy and not too hot. These steps are all simple, but are often things that we forget to do.
With holiday season coming up, try out some (or all) of these travel hacks on your next trip. As a collective, it is our responsibility to care for the Earth, and every individual step counts.