Oh, boy. This is a big one. Traveling is one of my favourite things to do, but a friend to Earth it is not. All of the waste we accumulate during our travels, the emissions from planes, cars, and trains. While there is no true way to sustainably travel, there are things you can do to reduce your carbon footprint due to traveling.
Say no to resorts
Resorts are notorious for being absolute horrible places masked as a beautiful oasis made just for you. We don’t need to get into the treatment of resort employees at all, but instead, just focus on the environmental issues. Like, plastic cups used for everything. And, plastic water bottles used for everything. And, carbon pumped out of these resorts for people to stay air conditioned and happy and feeling good. While there are definitely some great resorts out there that give back to the community and build up the inhabitants around them, this isn’t the case with all of them.
The cheap rates aren’t worth the price of the planet.
While most people automatically think of sandy beaches when it comes to resorts, ski resorts aren’t much better. They may look like a pristine little village of treehuggers, but this isn’t necessarily the case. Clear-cutting to make ski hills, extra waste from tourists, disturbance to the animals who already inhabited the area, these are the things we are doing for entertainment. Luckily, ski resorts are changing their tune A LOT quicker than beachy resorts. The more people demand responsible tourism, the more we can enjoy the world around us without absolutely destroying it.
Say no to Cruises
I love boats! I love being on water and I love waking up in a beautiful country. You’d think I’d be ready to jump on a cruise and see the world, but I’ve never seen the appeal of them. They sound like nightmares to me and I’d rather rent a sailboat in the South of France or sit on the beach in Brazil than be stuck on a ship full of screaming kids, old people, and ‘cruise and resort goers’. You know the ones. The same ones who wear socks, sandals, Tommy Bahama shirts and think they’re better than the rest. They’ve SEEN the world, guys. Safely from their monster of a cruise ship, of course.
Cruises pump out tons of sulfur dioxide, which means it’s going right into the air. So, you can enjoy an alcoholic beverage from the safety of the pool, while you simultaneously breathe in noxious fumes. Even with many strides that come cruise lines have taken, they’re still horrible polluters of the ocean waters and air. Average cruise ships pollute as much as ONE MILLION CARS A DAY. That’s a lot of pollution just to sit on a boat and feel special.
Another fun fact: cruise ships often dump raw sewage into the ocean. Because, why not? Makes sense to me…
It seems that no one is truly thinking about the consequences of any actions. Yes, resorts are beautiful, but if we keep acting like assholes and ruining pristine, beautiful places, we won’t be able to visit them years from now.
If the draw to a fancy cruise ship and gorgeous views of the water every morning is still having you second-guess nixing cruises, maybe some of these factors will have you re-thinking things.
Okay. So, that’s my rant for this blog post. Resorts and Cruises. Things that I near loathe. I’ve been to a resort and don’t see much appeal in them (boring and you don’t really see much of the actual country itself…I’m not someone who needs to be immersed in culture, but I’d like to see a little bit more than armed guards on the beaches and a jazzercise class beside the pool). Now, onto the little things you can do whilst traveling abroad:
Say no to plastic
Forks, containers, water bottles. These are all things that you can easily (depending on your language barriers) avoid when traveling. The amount of plastic waste I’ve gone through in just airports alone is staggering. It’ll be a huge effort in the beginning as you try to get used to a greener way of traveling, and you’ll definitely forget to do a lot of things, but you’ll eventually get there. You don’t have to change overnight.
Bring a stainless steel water bottle and invest in a life straw for places where you can’t drink the water safely. They’re so handy! My husband and I used it for most of our water needs in Morocco (I say most because his bottle ended up cracking a couple days in and you honestly don’t care if the water is coming from a plastic bottle when you’re sweating in a souk or the desert. You just want it) and it was amazing. Fill at the tap and away you go!
Bring cutlery and containers for on the go (although the container part may be tricky if you’re trying to pack light). Plus, it’ll make you take more picnics and enjoy your surroundings instead of trying to scarf down food before you leave your hotel, hostel or apartment.
A reusable coffee mug is my new go-to when traveling. Sounds funny because they’ve been around for so long, but take out containers and coffee cups were never really on my radar during travels until very recently. Plus, you can get one that looks like a Starbucks cup so you don’t have to forgo those Instagram photos. #basicbitchforlife
Walk or bike
Bike shares are pretty neat. While they’re useless to me at home, they’re such a great idea I keep meaning to try on my next trip!
Most of my transportation, once I’m at my destination, is by public transportation or walking. I’ll splurge on a taxi once or twice (or when it is safer than walking. Don’t put yourself in danger, ever!), but if I can use public transportation or walk, I’m in! You get to see more of the city you’re exploring and end up finding amazing stores and gems of restaurants and cafes you wouldn’t normally see on a tour bus or a cab.
Bring your own toiletries
I don’t understand who even uses the tiny shampoos in the hotels or nicer Airbnb’s that people stay in. I mean, obviously I take them home, but who uses them IN the hotel
Bring your own toiletries to cut down on plastics that aren’t needed. I know, I know, stealing them from the hotel isn’t cutting down, but I don’t know what comes over me in a hotel. I just have to steal it all. I’m working on it, I promise.
Bar soaps for everything
Speaking of your own toiletries, go with solid bars instead of small plastic tubes or regular shampoos in plastic bottles. Pretty much all of my skincare and shower products are in bar form, anyways, but if you haven’t tried it yet, your next trip is the perfect timing!
They’re easy to pack, take up way less space than bottles and are better for the environment. What a win win win situation.
I love Lush shampoo bars, and until I can find an excellent DIY recipe, those are the ones I go with time and again. I have yet to find a conditioner bar that works, so I still carry one bottle with me. But, I’ll try them every so often on a trip and they’re not so bad for a short period of time.
For my DIY lush charcoal soap, see my tutorial here. Super easy, no lye. Just melt and pour.
Biodegradable is Better
Most of the places you’ll likely be visiting will have a water and waste disposal system in place. But, if you’re camping or in more remote areas, this may not necessarily be the case. Instead of dumping chemicals off of your body and into the waters and ground, use biodegradable products that are a lot kinder to Earth. And, use reef-safe sunscreen whenever you’re heading into the oceans. Sunscreen without nano-particles are the ones you’ll want to look for and are great to switch over to, once you can, even when going into lake waters. There may be no coral reef in a lake, but there is an entire eco-system that is begging you to stop polluting their home.
I give my run-down on my favourite cosmetics and skincare companies that are gentle on the planet here.
Once it’s time to get rid of your toothbrush and hairbrush, switch to a sustainable bamboo option. They look so chic and are better for the planet.
Not every trip has to be in Europe or Africa or Brazil. I mean, those places are pretty cool, but traveling local is the best way to cut down on your emissions.
Be a tourist in your city for a weekend, week, or even just a day! See all the sights and the cool things you may be overlooking in your day-to-day activities.
Check out small towns nearby…they almost always have a festival going on, especially in the summer months.
Get to know the world around you and stop worrying about having to hit every single country in the world. You don’t have to quit your job and go live in a foreign country for a year. I mean, do it if that’s your dream or calling, but there is so much more to see and trips you can take. Even if it’s just down the road.
See the world by volunteering
There are so many great volunteer options out there, whether it’s building houses for school children, working abroad by teaching English, or planting trees. Find a volunteer (or paid position!) that works with what you want to do, so when you travel to faraway places you’re giving back to the community and environment.
If a hotel isn’t doing what they should be to be more sustainable, voice your opinions. You don’t have to do so while you’re still in the hotel if you’re afraid of awkward run-ins with hotel staff. You can contact them afterwards, telling them that while the experience was great, it would have been made better if they reduced plastic cups or straws or offered more vegetarian friendly food (be aware of the country you’re in, though. If the locals aren’t heavy vegetarian eaters and you’re visiting a country that isn’t heavy in the tourism industry, telling them to change their diet isn’t the best way to go about things). If that doesn’t work…
Pick better hotels
While I love to rent apartments while abroad, I also like to rent a nicer hotel for some luxury comfort. I have been getting into the habit of looking not just at their spa packages, but what they’re going to help the planet. Take a look at what a hotel is doing to make a difference (and not just the ‘reuse your towel to save water’) and choose ones you feel good staying in.
Instead of spending your money at chain stores like H&M, support local shops and take home souvenirs that are better than the same as everyone else’s. Don’t get me wrong, I shop at H&M in every country I visit, I love it! But, I try to spend more of my money in local shops, supporting the community.
The same goes for groceries and food. While I believe eating McDonald’s abroad is just fine, shopping at markets is just way more fun.
Pick up litter
Yep. On your next trip, do a little garbage pickup. If you can and if you have gloves. Because, disgusting. You don’t know where the garbage has been. I mean, its garbage, guys.
The beaches in Morocco are covered in garbage. It’s absolutely heartbreaking. Just picking up a piece or two can make a difference. I’ve read about people who make it a priority to clean huge areas that they’re staying in for that weekend or week. That’s commitment. I honestly don’t know if I would think to do that. But, seeing a piece of garbage and throwing it in the respective bins does more than just ignoring it.
If you’re not into picking up garbage on your vacation (and that’s fine) remember to always take any garbage with you and properly dispose of it. You shouldn’t be littering at home or abroad.
I don’t get the people who travel so far and spend so much money only to worry about getting that perfect shot for social media. Yeah, it looks great, but are you paying attention to what’s around you? In Ontario last summer, a sunflower field ended up being closed to the public because a bunch of assholes trampled the crop just to get that perfect picture with sunflowers. Chill out. Be respectful and leave the place you’re visiting in the same shape or better.