5 Green Ideas to Travel Cleaner
Anyone who is green conscious knows that taking a vacation can be something that tips them toward those less than aware, super consumerist—even if you think you’re being super careful. Because everyone knows that checking into a hotel, buying a plane ticket, and eating out for every meal is going to wrack up those carbon footprint points like no other.
But the thing to do to not feel guilty about it—that has nothing to do with suffering a little bit for years so you can create enough of a backlog—is to be conscious of the decisions you’re making, and then it’s all a piece of cake.
So for you desperate travelers, take these five tips into account and get to getting! There’s a beautiful, green world out there waiting for you, and it’s waiting for your footprints to grace it’s sandy shores and mountainous borders.
Take your water with you.
Taking water with you while you travel isn’t only a best practice because it saves money buying plastic bottles, but it can also mean you always have safe drinking water. Pack a Vapur Eclipse (this thing is ingenious, it’s a flat pack that condenses when empty and expands when full) to roll up in your bag after you’re done with it, and then you also aren’t taking up loads of space in your knapsack either.
Now if they could only do that with a portable bed...I’d totally pay for that!
Opt for share economy best practices.
Maybe it’s a millennial thing, but I love taking part in the shared practice start up companies that are defining my generation—everything from Airbnb to Uber reminds me that there are easier to do things if I ask for a little help. While Uber is not available all over the world, it’s a great way to get from the airport to your house without the hassle of having to deal with cash, and it can be safe as well, if you’re traveling along or are unfamiliar with the area. And Airbnb, where even to begin! This clever website has revolutionized how we travel, and it’s a great way to feel at home in a new place without the need to expense the kind of money it usually requires to do that (like rent, and homeowners insurance).
If you’re feeling particularly optimistic, try your hand at couch surfing—it’s a great way to get in with the locals and you can make new friends just by staying on their couch. It’s cheap and it gets you in the inner circle immediately. What could be better than that?
Only buy local.
Those souvenirs that everyone loves—shot glasses, magnets, snow globes, bookmarks, etc.—can be really bad for the environment if you’re not careful, and it’s important that you’re a little bit careful out there with your souvenir cash.
A couple of things I always commit to before heading out is to leave the electronics and Made In Vietnam trinkets with their super cheap prices at the stall, and only buy artistic, handmade goods. There is only one scenario where you should buy a Made In Vietnam good and that’s in Vietnam, and electronics are just a no-go (a lot of times the cheap ones come with an iCloud lock, meaning it’s a stolen, black market product). But when in Marrakesh, it’s easy to do this—with rugs, handmade lamps, beautiful scarves, and spices galore, it would be a dying shame to do anything but grab a local masterpiece.
Hop to the farmer’s markets for sightseeing—and dinner.
One of my favorite sightseeing adventures when I travel is to the farmer’s market—I’m just addicted to catching locals at work, snapping photos on my camera like I have good sense, and watching the colorful culture of a different world unfold around me.
But the conservation part of this activity is multiple-fold: not only are you making sure that local economies are being refreshed and invested in (which you are, every time you buy!), you’re also doing an activity for free that saves you precious travel budget AND you’re getting a taste of the local fare through street food or their straight from the farm products. If you go home and cook it, instead of frequenting another fancy restaurant with starched white linens and tall champagne flutes that sparkle in chandelier light, you’re being conservative with resources. Who knew it could be that easy? But it is, and it’s delicious!
Take part in a volunteer program.
There’s a lot of reasons to volunteer, and all of them are great reasons that end with you helping a future person, possible learning new skills, and getting out there to make a difference in the world. And the good news is you don’t have to be in the Peace Corps and commit to two years to make it happen—it’s seriously great and can be as short as two weeks if you find the right program!
I like GoEco, it’s a company that specializes in connecting travelers with the project of their dreams, and it offers up everything from Medical Rehabilitation and Help in Southeast Asia to Lion and Shark Conservation in Africa. With projects like that (of which I have done a couple, and totally fell in love with it), it’s hard to justify popping into some resort like it’s nothing when I can be lending a hand somewhere in the world. Try it, you’ll fall in love too!
When it all comes down to it, the point to keeping green is all down to being careful with the world and showing Mother Earth a little TLC, and it’s much easier than you think. Because traveling is ultimately the only way we can learn what exactly we’re trying to save. One of my favorite quotes: “Some travel to see the difference, and some travel to make the difference,” is all you need to know that taking a trip does more good than harm if you take a little precaution.
So throw your conservation dreams into your backpack, along with all your other necessities, and get your walking shoes tied up tight—it’s time to take it all on the road!
“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime.”