Travel has become an integral part of everyday life; and whether it is for work or leisure, the appeal of going off to foreign places and exploring parts unknown is very strong for most people.
With the environmental effects of human development being felt more and more each day, a need arises for travelers to move towards a greener, more conscientious and responsible way of travelling.
If you wanna do your part in keeping the beautiful landscapes both natural and man-made intact, here are a few things you can take note of to travel green.
Planning your trip
The way you plan ahead defines how your trip will turn out. If you can help it, look for ethical travel destinations that put importance to the preservation of the local ecosystem. Check places for their carbon emission and waste policies, and if they have campaigns that urge locals and tourists to follow such policies.
It is best to book “green hotels” which are mostly run locally. These hotels will have management policies that help decrease wastage and promote efficiency in using resources. It is a plus if you book a place that is LEED-certified. Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design or LEED-certified spaces use less resources like water and energy and emit less greenhouse gases in their day to day operations.
Another option is to stay at a hostel or a local’s home. It is easy enough to look for them in Airbnb or other online websites.
If you plan on taking a tour, search for green tour companies. These companies usually advertise themselves as such, offering responsible ecotourism packages that try to minimize the tour’s impact on the environment.
It is always a good rule to pack smartly. Take note of how long your trip is going to be and what activities you will participate in. Any extra baggage will only add to the fuel consumption of whatever mode of transportation you will be using.
Bring clothes that are enough for the trip and try to make your baggage as light as possible by bringing only the essentials. For example, if you have multiple devices, bring a charger with multiple USB ports so you do not have to bring extra plugs.
Pack reusable containers such as cloth or hemp bags, water bottles, and metal straws which you can use during your trip. Also bring your own toiletries as not to use the pre-packed mostly single-use toiletries that they have at the hotel.
Getting there and around
One of the easiest ways to be green when travelling is to use public transportation. From the airport, seaport, or wherever it is you will be coming from, chances are there is already a terminal for a shuttle service or public transportation such as coaches available to take you to city centers or landmarks.
When you are out and about exploring the area, apart from using public transportation, it is also a good idea to ride a bicycle. Many metropolitan areas offer bike share schemes that allow people to traverse the streets in bicycles for free.
If bike sharing is not available, there are also bicycle rentals in most places. While these do cost money, it still costs less for both your pocket and the environment than renting a vehicle. And in between, as much as possible, walk to places.
Walking, biking, or using public transportation also gives you a better opportunity of seeing the city and interacting with the locals compared to being stuck in a metal bubble called a car all day. They give you a glimpse of everyday life in wherever it is you are visiting.
If you can’t avoid renting out a car, try to look for the most fuel-efficient and eco-friendly car available. Hybrids are even better. If you are travelling alone or with only one or two other people, rent out a compact as opposed to a gas-guzzling SUV.
Places to see, things to do
When going out to shop or buy food, make sure to bring the reusable bags that you brought with you so you don’t have to ask for plastic carrier bags.
Make sure that the ingredients in your meals are locally-sourced, sustainable ingredients which are harvested ethically. We all know how tempting it is to go out and taste exotic food, but be wary of what you eat.
Same goes for souvenirs. Do not purchase anything that makes use of non-sustainable natural resources such as shells and precious materials. There is a chance that the making of these trinkets ignored a few environmental policies.
Generally, when going on trips, the most important thing to keep is the green etiquette that you would normally have at home or at work.
Conserve energy: turn off the lights during the day, turn off everything when leaving your room, unplug all unused appliances.
You should also conserve water: take short showers, and turn off the faucet while brushing your teeth.
Another good tip would be to reuse sheets and towels. It’s not like you change them everyday at home, so it wouldn’t hurt to do the same on vacation.
Taking the extra effort to be more responsible in your travels will not really change the whole wanderlust experience. On the contrary, it can add a positive feeling to your trip because you are doing something good for the environment.
Also published in October issue 2016
Words by Robby Vaflor