Take only memories, leave nothing but footprints
– Chief Seattle
I know many travellers try and do every bit they can for the environment, especially the more you travel to places you love and appreciate, the more you want to do your part. But what else can we all do?
I have compiled a list of my top 16 tips…
1. Support small local businesses when shopping
Not only does it feel great buying something directly from the person who made it, but you’re also directly supporting a small business. And since smaller businesses tend to do things on a smaller scale, the products and equipment they buy to use tend to travel less which means less impact on the environment.
If something costs a little extra because the person you’re buying from does everything themselves and doesn’t have the use of a large-scale factory, isn’t it still better to spend that extra money with them? If you spend an extra 5 euro will you be really broke?
There are so many ways to cut costs while travelling, but buying from big businesses to save a buck isn’t the best way.
2. Eat local produce, ditch the packaged foods
Eating local is one of the best ways to be eco-friendly. Not only are you supporting the economy of the country you’re visiting, but it also means less transport of the produce and helping the environment.
3. Refill water bottles rather than buying a new one every time
Doing this is clearly only possible if you’re in a country which has safe drinking water. If you don’t like drinking tap water, try to find one really large bottle and refill your drink bottle from that. It’ll at least help minimise the amount of packaging waste you get.
But the best way is if you’re at a fresh spring water source, refill as many bottles as you can!! Water always tastes better straight out of a mountain. 🙂
4. Reuse plastic bags or carry your own reusable bags
In most places I’ve been, the people working in stores will automatically put everything in bags. Even if I buy bottles of water or a couple of ice creams which would be eaten straight away anyway. The hardest part is always being prepared to quickly say “No bag, thanks! I have my own”, especially if you have to learn it in a different language! And the second hardest part is always having a bag on you.
5. Take public transport or share a car
I am so guilty of this because I just love being able to drive where I want when I want.
Public transport is best (and usually provides an interesting and unique experience!) but you can’t always do that if you’re limited with time or they don’t go to where you need.
Look at the best options you have. If you can pick up some other travellers to share the ride with you, great. If you’re travelling light enough to go with a scooter (or a push bike!), even better.
6. Don’t collect maps everywhere just to throw them out later
Most hotel/hostel staff will give you a map of the city, show you where you are and circle hot-spots you shouldn’t miss. You’ll use the map for those few days then throw it away never to be seen again.
When you think about how many people go through each hotel and how many people pick up and throw away maps, you may reconsider doing the same. Perhaps you could download a map to your phone or take a picture of the map?
7. Same goes for pamphlets
Many restaurant staff members will give out free pamphlets containing their lunch specials, dinner deals or simply just the menu. But do you REALLY need to take them just to be polite?
This doesn’t mean you have to be arrogant either. Look them in the eye, smile politely and say “No, thank you”. The manners go a long way and you’ll also feel much better by being respectful.
If you’ve been given leaflets for other businesses/services/activities you can also just write the information down or take a photo of it then leave the leaflet there for the next person (to take a photo of, of course).
8. Look up blogs rather than buying paper books – or purchase ebooks if you like having a guide to follow
I have a love/hate relationship with ‘real’ guide books. On one hand, they’re great because it’s so easy to flick through them, fold pages and circle areas of interest. But on the other hand, books take up unnecessary bulk, add weight and because of the high volume of tourism, they become irrelevant so quickly because prices rise and “hidden gems” aren’t so hidden anymore.
If you buy a guidebook you’ll likely be ditching it somewhere along the way to make extra room anyway and, realistically, someone else will throw it in the bin shortly after if it doesn’t contain accurate information. In my opinion, the best way to get around is to read blog posts, search Google or just arrive and chat to the locals. Easy peasy 🙂
9. Don’t leave the lights or air-conditioning on when leaving the room
You wouldn’t do it at home so don’t do it in a hotel. Whenever you’re not using something, switch it off.
10. Leave the ‘don’t disturb’ sign on the door
If you’re staying in accommodation that provides daily maintenance, put the sign on the door showing you don’t require it. Not only will reusing the same towels save extra water and electricity, but it’ll also save extra plastic bags which would have been wasted changing bins/trash cans.
11. Carry around your own shampoo and soap
If you’re all out of your own supply then, by all means, use the mini ones provided by the hotel. But try not to do it too often otherwise you’ll be going through one or two-use products regularly.
12. Use a bamboo or biodegradable toothbrush
This may sound really hippy-like, but hear me out. Apparently, that the first piece of plastic ever created is still on this earth and probably won’t degrade for years to come. For all of your plastic needs consider buying a biodegradable alternative if the option is there.
Imagine how many old toothbrushes are out there somewhere in a sad toothbrush graveyard.
13. Recycle when possible
It’s easy to get out of routine when you’re not home but it’s still just as important to try. Whether you’re in your own country or not, we all share the same world and need to keep trying to keep it clean of our rubbish.
14. Only do full loads of washing
When you need to do washing and don’t have enough to make a full load, ask if someone wants to share with you. You’ll get your clothes washed and only pay half! But if that’s not possible, consider only running a half-cycle.
Something else to think about – things like backpacks, handbags and hats get pretty dirty too. If you have some spare room and have durable enough stuff (that states they can be machine washed) throw them in too!
** I take no responsibility for washing machine damaged items 😉 **
15. Wear clothes more than once
Most backpackers do this anyway so will be happy to have the extra excuse of helping the environment. To everyone else in society, I apologise.
16. Go easy on the free stuff
Why do so many travellers jump at the chance of using extra when something is free? Using extra washing powder, stealing free toiletries, using a huge squirt of washing liquid when doing the dishes because bubbles are fun.
Treat someone’s business as you would like them to treat yours. Use only what you need and leave what you don’t. I’m sure it’s good karma or something too 🙂
What fantastic tips do you have for eco-friendly travel? Do you already follow any of these?
Let me know below!
Images: pexels.com & author’s own