If you travel, whether it be short-haul or long-haul, Eco-Travel or Responsible Travel, should be at the forefront of your mind. Even if you don’t travel at all, you should consider the points in this article to help protect where you live – your home.
But what exactly is Eco-Travel?
I’m glad you asked. Eco-travel essentially means to travel responsibly. Whether it be supporting the local community, being mindful about the environment & wildlife, or respecting the local culture, these are all steps to becoming a responsible traveller.
As long term travellers, these steps are even more imperative than if we just went on holiday once a year. We are well aware that our carbon footprint is high due to flying. And therefore we endeavour to make an extra effort in other ways.
Don’t get us wrong. We are far from perfect. It’s not always easy to be a responsible traveller, and we are certainly not here to guilt-trip you; however, there is no escaping the fact that tourism has caused irreversible damage to ecosystems around the globe. Not to mention the global plastic issue that I’m sure needs little explanation.
With this in mind, we have compiled this article with an abundance of tips and recommendations for Eco-Travel. From general day to day habits, to sustainable travel products, by exercising just a few of these suggestions, you are well on your way to becoming a responsible traveller.
Top Tips for Eco-Travel – The Environment
Let’s kick it off with our top Eco-Travel tips for protecting the environment.
1. Don’t Litter
We have little patience with this one. Just DON’T LITTER. Can’t find a bin? Carry your rubbish with you until you do. If you litter, you my friend, are a tw*t.
2. Conserve Water
Clean water is something most Westerners take for granted. When in many parts of the world, it is hard to come by. Try to conserve water by taking shorter showers. Do not leave taps running when you’re not using them. And only use the water you need when cooking, brushing your teeth or washing the dishes.
*Tip – It can be easy to get carried away in the shower, so set a timer on your phone to keep them short.
3. Save Electricity
This one is easy. Turn off lights, plugs, and air-conditioning when you’re not using them.
4. Consider your transportation
Do you really need to take that taxi or drive a scooter to the beach or shop? Is there public transport that will take you to your destination? Or even better, can you walk or ride a bicycle instead?
Any way you can minimise carbon emissions is having a positive impact on the environment. We personally love walking in new places. You discover so much more that way. Not to mention the calories burnt, we have a Fitbit that tracks this!
5. Eat Less Meat
From one meat lover to another, I’m sorry to say that the livestock industry is even worse for the environment than transportation. Livestock production now contributes nearly 15% of global greenhouse gas emissions. And continuing to consume meat at the rate we do is just not sustainable.
We have gone from eating meat every day, to two or three times a month. I never believed it possible, but we feel much better for the change in diet. And while you don’t have to reduce your consumption as drastically, every little helps.
6. Avoid Waste
Exercise portion control and only cook/order the food you’re going to eat. Remember you can always order more food, but you can’t send food back. And if you can’t finish your meal, keep it to eat the next day instead.
7. Source Locally Produced Products
By eating at local restaurants and shopping at local markets, you are not contributing to large co-operations, who produce insane amounts of carbon emission and waste. Furthermore, you are supporting the local community where your money is actually needed.
8. Consider Carbon Offsetting
It is no secret that air-travel is having a huge impact on the environment. And we are only too aware that our lifestyle choices are contributing to the problem. Of course, the obvious answer is to reduce how many flights we take. But that’s not always an option, and that’s where carbon offsetting comes in.
The idea behind carbon offsetting is that for every tonne of CO2 you emit through your travels, you can offset that amount by preventing a tonne of CO2 from entering the atmosphere in other areas. It is by no means a solution; however, it’s a great alternative for those who travel extensively. We recommend checking out this article for more information on carbon offsetting.
*Tip – When booking flights, use Skyscanner to see which airlines are the most economical.
9. Consider Ecosia search engine
This search engine is just like any other; however, there is one significant difference. All profits made by Ecosia goes towards planting trees. You can even check out the Ecosia Home page for a live overview of how many trees they have planted. And they even publish their monthly financial reports so you can see where the money is going.
Top Tips for Eco-Travel – Avoiding Single-Use Plastic
Again, the plastic issue needs little explanation, so instead, let’s look at ways we can minimise our consumption of single-use plastic.
1. Carry a reusable water bottle
We always carry a Reusable Water Bottles, and you will find that many hotels or hostels have a refill station. Not only is it better for the planet but you’ll save cash too!
2. Have a Water Purifying System
Having a water purifying system means that in most places, you’ll be able to drink from the tap. A steripen will purify water in just 90 seconds while using iodine tablets takes 30 minutes. Although, you should research if it is safe to do first. For example, it isn’t recommended to drink even purified tap water in India. Yuk!
3. Carry a reusable bag
Take a reusable bag with you everywhere. Even an old plastic bag tucked in your handbag will suffice. Just try to say no to plastic bags when doing your shopping.
4. Say No to Straws
It’s easy to forget – we do it all the time. But try to remember to ask for your drink without the straw. If you like your drink with a straw, consider carrying a reusable one instead. Check out our Eco-Friendly Travel Products below for more information.
5. Carry Reusable Utensils
Particularly handy if you tend to eat a lot of street food when you travel. Reusable containers, cutlery, and dishware can really help to minimise your use of single-use plastic.
6. Use plastic-free toiletries
We recommend our favourite plastic-free toiletries in our Eco-Friendly Travel Products section below.
Top-Tips for Eco-Travel – Support the Local Communities
One of the best ways to become a responsible traveller is by supporting local communities. And that doesn’t have to mean giving charity. Here are a handful of ways you can help.
1. Buy and Eat Local
Shop in local markets and eat at locally-owned restaurants rather than the big chains. This way you are supporting local families, who are sure to need your money a hell of a lot more than large co-operations.
Tip – Sourcing locally is also better for the environment, so you get double points for this one.
2. Stay in Locally Owned Guesthouses or Homestays
Again, try to support the locals over the big hotel chains. Often you get no feel for the local culture by staying in hotels anyway.
3. Research Eco-friendly and Local Tour Companies
When booking excursions, for the same reasons as above, research local tour companies rather than big organisations. Furthermore, check online reviews regarding their work ethics and practices. Are they mindful of the environment? Do they employ local people and pay them a sustainable wage? Do they practise health and safety regulations? You get the idea…
4. Beware of Charitable Acts
It is only natural to want to help when we come across poverty-stricken communities; however, some acts of charity can make things worse. For example, children begging on the street are often taken out of school to do so. If they are making good money from begging, it only encourages them to continue.
If you want to help financially, you can research local organisations who support those in need. Your money will then go towards shelter, food, and so forth.
5. Haggle Sensibly
The local vendors are opportunists when it comes to tourists, and haggling is standard practice. They expect you to haggle and it can even be great fun. But be sure to haggle sensibly and pay what you think is fair for the item. Don’t quibble over pennies when they probably need them far more than you do.
Top-Tips for Eco-Travel – Local Wildlife
Yep, being a responsible traveller means considering the local wildlife too. Here are our top eco-travel tips.
1. Educate Yourself on Animal Tourism
You need to be very wary of Animal Tourism because what might seem like a cute experience is likely to have a dark truth behind it. For example, under no circumstance would an elephant allow you to ride them unless they had endured years of abuse and mistreatment. Or the selfies you see with lions or tigers might look cool. But these animals have been drugged and caged to allow this to happen.
Please don’t support organisations who encourage the mistreatment of animals. Research ethical sanctuaries in your area and make an educated decision on what companies you choose to put your money into. Or better yet, look into experiences where you can see animals in their natural habitats – where they belong.
2. Do Not Feed Wild Animals
It might be tempting to feet the cute little monkey, but trust me when I say they can soon switch from cute to aggressive. Feeding wild animals is discouraged for several reasons. Just don’t do it.
3. Be Careful Around Strays
We are animal lovers and always find ourselves petting the strays we meet on the streets; however, it’s important to exercise caution when doing so. Always assess their behaviour first and determine if they want human interaction. If they show any sign of aggression, walk away. And after petting a stray, always be sure to wash your hands to avoid the spread of nasty germs.
Top-Tips for Eco-Travel – Respect the Local Culture
1. Be Kind
Treat everybody you meet with kindness. Even if you feel like somebody is treating you unfairly, be the better person and remain cool, calm, and collected. And remember, a friendly smile goes a long way.
2. Have Respect for your Surroundings
To gain respect, you have to give respect. Remember you are in somebody else’s home. Pay attention to the rules, have respect for local traditions, and act in such a way that leaves a good impression.
3. Respect Dress Codes
Research the appropriate attire for the country you are visiting. If it is the local tradition to cover up, then cover-up. Especially when visiting sacred and religious sites.
4. Seek Cultural Experiences
Often, the main tourist hubs offer little insight into the local culture. And it’s a pity. The culture shock of a new place allows us to learn, grow and become more open-minded. In fact, some of our most valued travel experiences are from immersing ourselves in the local culture.
Whether it be staying with a local family, learning the history, taking part in a cooking class, or visiting an off the beaten path destinations, take some time to experience the true essence of the country you are visiting.
5. Learn the Local Lingo
Of course, this doesn’t mean you have to be fluent; however, learning a little of the local lingo (hello and thank you is the minimum) can enhance your travel experience. The locals will appreciate your efforts. And often it results in warmer hospitality, bigger portions, and cheaper prices. Winning!
6. Don’t Get Carried Away With Your Camera
Often when you travel, you see things that completely blow your mind. It’s natural to want to take pictures of the locals, their homes, or their cute kids. However, first, ask yourself if it’s entirely appropriate. If you get a friendly vibe from them, make eye contact and gesture to your camera. You’ll find that most of the time, the locals are only too happy to pose for your photo.
11 Eco-Friendly Travel Essentials
Carrying a steripen, or another water purifying system with you on your travels, is one of the most effective ways to cut down your consumption of single-use plastic. A steripen will purify unsafe tap water in just 90 seconds, and eliminates all bacteria, protozoa and viruses.
Not only will you limit your consumption of single-use plastic, but you’ll also save money too! We have relied on this item throughout our travels in Asia.
We always carry a reusable water bottle. And if you can’t quite get on board with the water purifying idea, you will find that most hotels or hostels have a refill station. Not only is it better for the planet but you’ll save cash too!
3. Bamboo Straws
Did you know that almost 10 billion plastic straws are disposed of every single year? And did you know that most of them will find their way into our ocean?
Just let that sink in for a minute. And for what? They are completely unnecessary. Especially now, when there are plenty of eco-friendly alternatives. We personally like these reusable bamboo straws; however, there are plenty of other options out there.
If you need further convincing, just take a minute to watch this video of a sea turtle with a straw stuck in its nose. Heartbreaking stuff.
4. Reusable Bag
Avoid picking up any plastic bags when you do your shopping, and carry a reusable bag instead.
5. Microfiber Towel – If you tend to travel quickly and move to a new place every other day, using your own towel is a great Eco-Travel tip. This way the hotels do not need to wash your towels, and consequently, you are helping to save water.
We love these microfiber towels as they are compact, light, and dry super fast! They also come in handy to take to the beach or pool.
6. Scrubba wash bag – Whenever we travel, we always try to handwash our clothes. It saves us money while also saving water; however, the process can be time-consuming, and often your clothes don’t feel entirely clean.
This is where the Scrubba lightweight wash bag comes in. The internal washboard makes the whole process quicker, and your clothes come out smelling fresh. Don’t forget a travel clothesline too!
7. Foldable Cups – Cut back on disposable cups, by carrying these super handy collapsible cups. Perfect for that sunset beer or wine on the beach.
8. Reusable coffee cup – Did you know that paper coffee cups are lined with plastic? Although the primary material is paper, the cups are lined with plastic polyethene, which allows the cups to contain liquid.
The solution? Carry a reusable coffee cup with you. These collapsible cups are our favourite as they are super convenient for travel.
9. Reusable Utensils – Particularly handy if you tend to eat a lot of street food when you travel. Reusable containers, cutlery, and dishware can really help to minimise your use of single-use plastic.
10. Kindle – I know many people prefer a paper book; however, you can’t deny the convenience of a kindle when you travel. This lightweight, pocket library, downloads books in any language, and also has a super long-lasting battery. Save the trees and invest in a kindle instead
11. Sarong – In most sacred or religious sites throughout the world, it will be expected, if not required to cover up. By carrying a sarong at all times, we have been able to access temples in Thailand, mosques in Malaysia, and ancient ruins in Cambodia, without prior planning.
*Tip – Get extra use out of your sarong and use it as a beach or picnic blanket too.
4 Plastic-Free Toiletries
1. Solid Shampoo/Conditioner bars – Say what? Yes, it’s a thing, and they aren’t as scary as they sound. Shampoo and Conditioner Bars are great for several reasons.
First, they are a zero-plastic item – Amazing. But they are also compact, lightweight, last for months, and can be carried in your carry-on luggage. Oh, and they are also pretty great for your hair too.
*Tip – Make the switch from shower gel to soap bars for extra brownie points.
2. Bamboo Tooth Brush – Switching to a bamboo toothbrush is a simple way to reduce your use of plastic both on your travels and at home. Bamboo Tooth Brushes are just like any other toothbrush, only they are fully bio-degradable.
3. Reef Safe Sunscreen – If you love being in the ocean as we do, it’s important to think about your impact on the coral reef. Unfortunately, most traditional sunscreens contain chemicals that are harmful to reefs and marine life. By wearing reef-safe sunscreen, you are doing your bit towards protecting our oceans.
4. Menstrual Cup – This is where many of you raise your eyebrows, and I’ll be honest, we haven’t quite got on board with this one yet either. That said, I know many ladies who have, and they swear by it now.
We still need some convincing after a few awkward attempts in using it; however, the advantages are bountiful. Not only is it better for the environment, but you’ll save a ton of money. Especially in countries where tampons are almost prohibitively expensive to buy.
*Tip – If you still don’t like the idea of a menstrual cup, the next best thing is to use tampons without the plastic applicator.
Well, that includes our guide to being a responsible traveller. We hope these eco-travel essentials will help you to prepare for a safe and enjoyable adventure! If you have any comments or questions, please do not hesitate to reach out.
Stay adventurous and Happy travels.
Charlotte & Natalie x
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