See the world with the planet in mind: Tips for the eco-conscious traveler
We travel the world to experience its beauty and complexity, but it’s impossible to ignore the impacts of climate change and ecological destruction. It’s hard seeing the places we love covered in trash, destroyed by storms, or disappear in our lifetimes. We want to make sure that the planet we love to explore remains beautiful, diverse, and healthy for the generations of people that come after us, and that means making personal and systemic changes.
We need to hold corporations accountable for their contributions to climate change (did you know that 100 companies are responsible for more than 70% of green house gas emissions?) and demand comprehensive and timely plans for climate action from our governments. That being said, we can and should also make personal changes to reduce our individual plastic and carbon footprints on earth. We need to do all these things if we want to preserve this incredible planet of ours.
To read more about the ways we need to collectively fight corporate power and political stagnation to address climate change, please take a peak at some of these articles:
“Neoliberalism has conned us into fighting climate change as individuals” by Martin Lukacs in The Guardian
“Taking climate action to the next level” by Gus Speth, Carla Skandier, and Johanna Bozuwa in The Next System Project
“We must be ‘all hands on deck’ when it comes to climate change” by Mindy Lubber in Forbes
In addition to fighting for systemic change, here are things you can do to be a more eco-conscious traveler:
Reduce plastics and waste
Switch out liquid hygiene products for solids. We travel with bar shampoo, conditioner, body wash, and shaving cream. Not only is there no plastic packaging, but there’s no leakage in our bags. We buy our bars from Ethique and love them! All their products are plastic-free, vegan, cruelty-free, and palm oil-free. They also sell moisturizers, scrubs, laundry detergent, and more.
Replace your plastic toothbrush with a bamboo one. The bamboo handle is biodegradable and contains no petroleum, and the bristles are recyclable.
Use plastic-free cotton swabs like these.
Carry a reusable bag for groceries and shopping. We bought a sturdy recycled bag in Guatemala that is our go-to shopping bag for the market. We also avoid putting our fruits and veggies in separate bags to be weighed. Most vendors are happy to put them straight on the scale for you, helping cut down on plastic waste.
Get a reusable water bottle. We like the wide-mouth bottles like this one because they’re easy to clean. Refill yours wherever in the world you are. Paired with a purifier like a Steri-Pen or LifeStraw, you’ll never need to buy another bottle of water.
Ditch tampons and opt for a menstrual cup. You’ll save a ton of money on tampons and pads, and the cup can last for up to ten years if cared for properly.
Opt for refillable lip balms, solid toothpaste, and deodorant.
Carry a reusable utensil kit and a container for snacks, a lunch on the go, or take out.
Properly sort waste into organic, inorganic, and recyclable.
Use reef-safe sunscreen. Though it isn’t a plastic, many chemical sunscreens contain harmful ingredients that reduce coral’s ability to withstand bleaching. Coral reefs are vital ecosystems for the planet, so keep harmful sunscreens out of the ocean and never touch coral.
Reduce carbon emissions
Reduce the number of flights you take. While it may sound counter-intuitive for travelers, try to travel to nearby destinations or, if you do fly, spend as much time as possible in that region of the world.
Walk, bike, or take public transportation. You’ll see more of local life wherever you are if you use these modes transportation, plus you’ll save a lot of money and reduce your carbon footprint.
Hand wash and hang dry your laundry. If you send your laundry to be done while traveling, chances are your tiny bit of clothes will be washed on their own, meaning a lot of water and energy gets wasted. We travel with a Scrubba Wash Bag that lets us do our own laundry, and we try to use eco-friendly detergents whenever possible.
Put up the “Do not disturb” sign on your hotel door. This notifies hotel staff that you don’t need your room cleaned or your sheets and towels washed.
Avoid AC and heat. Climate-controlled environments use a lot of energy, so consider stripping off a few layers or adding a sweater.
Eat and drink locally. The further ingredients have to travel, the more carbon emissions in the atmosphere. By consuming seasonal, local foods, you’ll also get a richer cultural experience.
Reduce or eliminate animal products from your diet. Livestock agriculture uses up huge amounts of land for each calorie produced, plus it emits harmful greenhouse gases like methane and carbon dioxide that contribute to global warming. Going vegan is the single most effective way an individual can reduce their carbon footprint.
Purchase carbon capture credits. Reduce your carbon emissions as much as possible, and for the things you can’t prevent like that flight or bus you had to take, buy credits from a company like TerraPass that invests in renewable energy projects and destroys greenhouse gases.
What are other things you do to travel more sustainably? Let us know in the comments below!