Like many industries, travel can also be a polluting one. Especially when we travel to more remote destinations, we contribute to air pollution by taking a plane. We cannot really do anything about it unless paying a part with a carbon tax while booking a fare. However, we can have a tremendous impact on how we behave once we are at destination. We shall focus on what we can really change. With the appearance of COVID, now is the good time to mindfully prepare ourselves for what is to come. If you are reading this, you are probably, like me, lusting for another adventure. If we want to preserve our Earth, we should all change the way we travel. We should be respectful in any country and treat it as if it was our home. For we consider ourselves global citizens, correct? But what exactly is to travel in a sustainable manner? It means minimizing your environmental impact and maximizing your support to the local communities while having fun exploring a new place.
So here are 5 ways to be a more sustainable aka respectful traveller:
1. Equip yourself with a refillable bottle of water
I have already mentioned in my blog post about what to pack for a carry-on bag, that having a reusable bottle of water always comes in hand while travelling. It is convenient to refill it at a water fountain on airports. What is more, it is becoming more and more accessible to find free water fountains in cities. Did you know that bottled water is 400 times more expensive than tap water?! Not only the planet will say thank you by not throwing away the single-use plastic bottles that end up somewhere in nature or oceans, but also your purse. I discovered the Refill not Landfill campaign in Siem Reap while volunteering in Cambodia since it was established there. It is a genius global campaign founded in 2016. It aims to reduce the use of plastic water bottles by encouraging the use of reusable drinking bottles and offering free water refill stations at participating partners around the World. Sounds amazing, doesn’t it? You can search for a refill station at your destination through official website at Refill the World. Since the refill stations partners are mostly available in South East Asia, you can search for water points in a desired city by typing in keywords such as: water point in/ water fountain in… name of the city. I found out only recently that there are free water stations available everywhere in Paris! You can even find some with sparkling water. Parisian water is one of the best in terms of filtration, therefore drinking tap water is common and practised even at restaurants. Thanks to the map Eau de Paris you can find them all over Paris. You can also download the FreeTaps app to locate a water point.
2. Always carry a reusable bag with you
Another way to be a more sustainable traveller is to carry a reusable bag whenever you go out. You can always slip that reusable bag into your backpack. When you travel, you rarely plan your grocery shopping that you often do on the go. In this case, your grocery bag will always be there to use. Plus, the linen tote bag does not weight a gram and is stylish :). You most possibly already have one as they are often distributed for free by brands or at events. In other case, it is not a big investment, especially that the fabric is washable so it will serve you for years.
3. Give back by getting involved in a local cause to empower local communities
Without any doubts, tourism is an important source of income for many countries, especially developing ones. Nevertheless, money generated by tourism is often concentrated in major cities and goes directly to the pockets of foreign companies operating as travel agencies, hotels, restaurants etc. Even though those businesses create jobs, the wealth do not benefit the local communities directly. Hence the importance of eating at local, yet less fancy restaurants, buying from local vendors and if possible, contribute to a local NGO or social enterprise in order to be a more sustainable traveller. To do so, it always helps to do a little research beforehand to ensure how the organization operates and where the money goes. It is impossible to help everyone, therefore you can contribute to a cause that matters to you. For instance, I left to volunteer to Siem Reap in Cambodia to develop a social enterprise whose mission is to empower rural Cambodian women. To do so, they provide them with sustainable income and working environment through ancestral weaving and fair trade. If you do not have a couple of weeks or months to volunteer your time or skills, I am sure you can find a couple of hours during your whole stay. I really enjoyed a Sunday morning in Siem Reap feeding stray dogs and cats with a monk at a pagoda. On top of that, you do not even need to move from home to donate to a cause but remember to do so through a registered NGO.
4. Always have a bamboo or metal straw with you
Another way to be a more sustainable traveller is to avoid throwing away plastic straws after a single use and always carry a bamboo or metal straw in you backpack or handbag. It really does not take much effort nor space in your bag. I got my bamboo straws on a market in Siem Reap but you can buy them almost anywhere now and especially at online eco stores. When you travel, especially in a hot tropical country, you drink a lot and you go a lot to bars and restaurants. You can show the straw to the waiter at ordering so that he or she understands that you already have a straw and do not need another plastic one. Nevertheless, there are more and more places that use reusable straws so problem solved :).
5. Try to move around with a bicycle whenever you can
This will not always be possible but whenever you have the possibility to rent and hop on the bike, then both the Planet and your health will benefit from that. Riding a bicycle is the most sustainable mean of moving around since it produces zero greenhouse gas emissions. Although public transportation is always better than driving an old car. Like I said, it will not always be possible especially on long rides so just use your common sense while travelling and try to compensate elsewhere :). And you are one step away from becoming a more sustainable traveller.
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