It is so important when travelling to be conscious of your environmental footprint and the effect you have on the environment around you. Take, for example, visiting a national park in England, which is not exactly exotic.
Firstly, you use fuel to get there. Then, you trample through the park, perhaps stepping on plants without realising the damage done, or consider even the simple fact that the increased foot fall through these parks leads to increased erosion of soil, which in term can have a negative effect on the delicate balance of the ecosytem. Maybe you have a snack and throw away the wrapper. Ideally you would put it in a bin, but not everyone would, and then you have the issue of littering, which is not only harmful to the flora and fauna there, but also ruins the natural beauty of the area. Perhaps you go to the bathroom, using water and energy there, before making your way home, again using fuel. A seemingly harmless day out has turned into a day fraught with potential problems for the enviroment.
Of course, this scenario is not as harmful as mass tourism because it is on a much smaller scale.
So now imagine that ten-fold; travelling hundreds of miles to reach your destination, using water and energy in your hotel, where such facilities would not normally be but have been created especially for tourists. Even the food you consume can be detrimental to the environment when produced in vast quantities, using up precious local resources of farmland and livestock, and then a large amount of that food is wasted and thrown away anyway.
Tourism, unfortunately, has a quite shocking impact on the environment when not done consciously. So, when travelling it is so important to try and follow these key rules;
We Brits like to chase the sun, and that often means exotic holidays to the Mediterranean and beyond. Shockingly, just one return transatlantic flight eliminates the effects of 20 years of recycling efforts. Where possible, try and keep it local, or find a more sustainable method of travelling, such as trains or even driving, which save much more fuel than air travel.
Of course, it is not always possible, and the simple truth is that we shouldn’t be leaving our country, instead enjoying the ONLY perk of global warming, which is hotter summers here in England.
Large tourist resorts and hotels are terrible for the local environment, using up so much energy and water to satisfy their western guests. Try and chose a smaller hotel or a local who offers a B’n’B service. These are often done out of people’s homes, not only saving on excessive luxuries, but also offering a more authentic experience of local culture.
Some of the best holidays I have experienced were when we have stayed in such places, dining as the locals do on their homemade and home-grown produce, chatting with them and enjoying the true experince of that culture and lifestyle.
You can probably all guess the answer to this one; vegetarian or vegan eating. Unless you are staying in on of the small local hotels as suggested above, you will find that the vast majority of food served to you is imported from who-knows-where, at a severe cost to both the local economy and the planet. That said, local accommodations can offer a range of delicious dishes made from local ingredients.
If you are still a meat eater, then finding restaurants that offer local produce is certainly a better way to eat when abroad. When I visited Crete with my parents a few years back, we stayed in the most amazing little place where they served us only dishes made from what they grew and farmed on their local farm, and it was all utterly delicious.
Still, sticking to plants is the best way to reduce your carbon footprint; 1.5 acres of land can be used to make 37000 lbs of plant-based food, or 375 lbs of meat, therefore saving precious land that could be used for more forests and fauna which combat global warming and promote a healthy biosphere, not to mention are much prettier to look at on your travels.
Come prepared! Take some tupperware and a few extra bags with you for when you’re shopping or going on a day out and need some snacks; use the tupperware to make your own lunch up instead of buying a plastic-clad sandwhich when at the beach, for example. The majority of countries have an abundance of fresh produce at markets, all plastic free, and carrying your own bags means not using any over there.
Single-use plastic is possibly the biggest issue faced by Western countries at the moments. There is simply too much! Also, make yourself aware of any recycling facilities near you that you can make use of throughout your dtay.
Think before you pack: buy a bamboo toothbrush instead of a plastic one, which takes 400 years to decompose (yes, that’s 400 YEARS) – every single toothbrush every made is STILL on this planet, which is a very scary thought.
Get yourself a set of re-useable containers to put you shampoo and conditioner in, instead of buying a new set in the airport each time you travel. Or, buy a shampoo bar from somewhere like Lush, which last forever and eliminate all plastic from the process.
Invest in a keep cup and a non-plastic water bottle that you can re-fill as you go. Most airports have facilities for this now, and if the tap water is questionable when abroad, most hotels and restaurants will have a safe tap you can use.
Buy suncream that is certified for the environment, as most brands actually contain chemical that are harmful to flora and fauna.
These are just a few key ideas, but there are so many ways you could make a small change that will have a huge impact on your footprint when travelling.
I rarely go anywhere now without my trusty essentials; water bottle, keep cup, bamboo toothbrush, metal straw. It may not feel like much, but if everyone were to do these things, the effect would be staggering.
Travelling is an amazing experience, and one that we are so lucky to be able to do. But it should be done consciously, because if not, there simply won’t be any earth left to travel in.