We travel for hours just to witness the most stunning mountain views, swim in the clearest waters and to simply admire the most beautiful nature views. But slowly these sceneries are changing from pristine beaches to shores filled with trash, oceans where you don’t dive with wildlife but with plastic, and the nature and wildlife that once inspired us to travel is getting damaged, killed and overflown with waste. But it doesn’t have to be, while it might feel like a battle we have already lost we believe that things can still change for the better. We don’t need one person changing their whole life around, we need thousands of people making small changes, because we honestly believe that it is these small changes that will make the big difference. So, if you are wondering what small changes you can make, then here are 8 tips on how to be a more eco-friendly traveler!
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How to be an Eco-Friendly Traveler
1. Don’t Litter
This should be fairly easy, and most likely something you already do! If you go somewhere leave only your footprint, everything that you brought with you should also come back with you, or be placed in a bin. Trash doesn’t belong in nature, it contaminates soil and water, and possibly could harm wildlife. Want to make an even bigger effort? Pick up the trash you find along the way. I know it may seem like a tiny step in a worldwide problem, but if everyone would make a small effort we could get a lot more results together! We all rather see our beaches looking clean, and our forests looking green.
2. Respect Wildlife
In many places in Southeast Asia, for example, you can find tiger kingdoms and elephant sanctuaries. Getting up close with such wild animals, touching them, feeding them, it sounds like a dream right? Maybe for the tourist visiting them, but not the animals. Evidence was found that in Tiger Kingdoms the cubs are beaten with sticks from a young age, deprived from food to learn to behave. These are wild animals, that should live in the wild and not be beaten for our entertainment. The same evidence has been found in many Elephant “Sanctuaries” or “Orphanages”, while there are actually some good, ethical, animal friendly sanctuaries out there, be sure to do your research properly before going. Doing a bit of research and raising awareness can go a long way, and can make a difference for many abused animals out there.
3. Avoid Bottled Water as Much as Possible
Okay, this is not always the best advice, because I don’t want you to get sick either. But in many countries it is perfectly safe to drink tap water, or in many destinations these days hostels and hotels will supply drinking water. Even in the most unexpected locations, such as India and Malaysia, hostels had water filters allowing us to fill up our bottles. If you are not sure if the tap water is safe to drink, either Google, or ask hostel management, they can often inform you best about the water quality and alternative options on where you will be able to find safe drinking water. For that reason we always bring a reusable water bottle and simply fill it up before leaving our accommodation, ready for a day of exploring. A trick as easy is this will save you money and help save our planet earth!
4. Travel Green
Travel green, a term that sounds a big vague right? With traveling green we refer to taking the taking the greenest mode of transportation. For example when in a city, try to walk or rent a bicycle instead of grabbing a cab everywhere. Or if that is not possible, choose public transportation over private transportation. And not only is this option a lot more affordable, sharing a bus ride with 40 others instead of a taxi on your own, will help to reduce your carbon emissions. Another simple way to travel more green is to avoid traveling across large regions in short time spans. Instead of flight hopping all over Europe on a 2 week vacation opt for discovering one country more in depth, which brings us to our next point.
5. Travel Slow
A 2 week vacation with a return flight to the destination, and two flights in the country or area itself differs largely in carbon emissions than a 4 week vacation with one return flight and local transportation between cities! But traveling slowly doesn’t only mean you will reduce the amount of carbon emissions you produce it will also allow you to learn more about culture, to see more of the country side and to experience more of the local life. We personally love traveling slow, and as full-time travelers we always prefer to stick to regions where we travel for months at a time. In the last year we spent over 5 months in Europe after which we traveled to Southeast Asia, a region where we have been for the last 4 months, and a region where we will probably stay the rest of the year. We try to limit our flights as much as possible and opt for train journeys and buses wherever we can, this way we get to enjoy the journey and the destination.
6. Avoid plastic bags
Plastic bags will rip, tear, be thrown away and replaced with new ones all to end up on landfills, rivers and oceans, and that while it is actually one of the easiest items that can be replaced. Reusable tote bags and shopping bags are available every where, are compact, and are an absolute necessity for the eco-friendly traveler. While it is hard to avoid plastic bags completely, we all forgot to pack our tote bags from time to time, the best that we can do is to try and reduce the amount of plastic bags we use. We normally have around 3 or 4 reusable tote bags with us that we use for shopping, packing those extra shoes that don’t fit in our bags or simply to carry our laundry to the laundromat. Besides plastic bags there are so many other single use plastic items that we can replace with more eco-friendly travel products, and while it might not seem like much, even a small step is a step in the right direction.
7. Eat and Drink Locally
Drinking a local beer, instead of a beer produced thousands of kilometres away, can make a large difference in the amount of carbon emissions that were produced to get it to your table. While traveling often means we are excited to explore another country, and yes other tasty food options, we sometimes like to stick a bit too much to the things we like from home, I know I do. But trying to eat and drink as many local produced products as possible and you are already making another small step to becoming a more sustainable traveler. Opt for local grown bananas instead of imported bananas and taste those local beers, not only will this be an eco-friendlier option, this way you will also be able to taste all of the delicious cuisine the country has to offer!
8. Act like you would at home
And last, but definitely not least, when at a hotel or hostel, act like you would at home. Turn of the lights and the AC when you leave, use your towels more than once and perhaps even take a shower instead of a bath. Simple changes like these will help preserve resources like water and energy, resources that in some destinations around the world are quite scarce. Another tip is to bring your own toiletries, the travel sized toiletries from hotels and hostels often come in small plastic packaging that will simply be thrown away after you’ve used them. It is these small changes that added up by thousands of travelers around the world can make a bigger difference.
And there you have it, our 8 tips that will help you to become a more eco-friendly traveler. As you can see, the efforts to becoming a more responsible traveler don’t have to be hard even small steps like bringing a tote bag or switching the lights off when you leave the hotel will make a difference. In the end the best we can do is to try and to make a more conscious effort to become eco-friendlier travellers. It is okay to make mistakes, Rob and I have made plenty in the past and probably will make a couple more in the future, but the best we can do is to learn from these mistakes and to try to do better. Do you have any other tips on eco-friendly travel that we left out? Be sure to share it with us in the comment section down below! And oh, before you leave, be sure to check out some of our other articles on responsible travel:
- 9 Tips on how to be a more cultural traveler
- A beginner’s guide to sustainable travel – Why sustainable travel matters
- 10 Must have eco-friendly travel products for the responsible traveler
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This is a great post! I think it’s important for everyone to read this, there are so many small changes we can make to our traveling to be more sustainable!