We’re big on becoming more eco friendly in our travels. We are active voices in pushing for more sustainable travel. Personally, we attempt maintain a small footprint when we are traveling. Throughout Africa, we are either camping or highlighting the many eco-lodges around the continent.
We make an active effort to reduce our waste and choose companies whom strive to do the same. We’ve talked about the best eco friendly products and we’re always trying to reduce our impact. In this post we’re going to share some our tips for eco friendly travel.
Why Eco Friendly Travel?
It has to do with what I’ve seen in life and what is left on my “bucket list.” I’ve seen hummingbirds in the Ecuadorian rainforests, followed elephants traversing the desert, dove into the wonders of the Indian Ocean, and wandered serene bamboo forests in Japan. The list could go on. Then I think about what lies in wait for our future generations. Those who may not see the snow fall peacefully in the backyard, go diving on the Great Barrier Reef or float along the Okavango Delta.
I grew up in Michigan and every year we had snow on Christmas, and winters lasted a little too long for my liking. I even had to move South to escape the cold. The past few years, though? Temperatures during the holiday season are hitting a record highs. When I was last home for Christmas the ground was not dusted in white, but instead they were dead and mushy. I took the snow for granted.
It makes sad for our planet, for our future generations, and for the naysayers who claim this is all just a “hoax.” The largest change lies out of hands of the public, but there are many things that we can collectively do to be more conscious of our world when we are traveling.
Eco-Friendly Travel Tips
Turn off the lights
This is probably the most brainless thing to do. Turn off the lights when you are not using them, there’s no reason to have them on. One billion people live without electricity day to day, and that is usually what I think about when I see unneeded lights on. If you’re reading this, my guess is you are not one of those one billion people and can make a push for more eco friendly travel habits.
Vote With Your Dollars
This is quite possibly how you can make the largest difference. Whether we want to admit it or not money makes the world go round. Almost all of our most environmentally destructive actions stem from financial gains. There is a flip side here. This means that choosing where you spend your money can make a big difference in how the tourism market grows.
For example choosing to stay at eco-friendly hotels or going all out and staying at eco-lodges can make a big difference. One lodge we recently visited, Wolwedans, was almost entirely self-sufficient and active in conservation. Choosing to make your holidays with eco-friendly businesses around the world means more businesses will follow suit.
Switch to solar powered
We’ve stayed in many lodges that have switched to solar power – and love it! It’s initially very expensive to set up, but the long-term cost is small. The sun rises in most places every day for no charge at all! We should make use of it. We always opt for accommodation with solar panels rather than grid powered.
On a smaller scale try switching to solar powered products. We’ve been traveling with the Little Sun for six months and love it! (The also give back). We also just we bought solar powered lanterns instead of flashlights for camping and keep mentioning to each other what a smart purchase they were.
Not only were they cheaper than the battery operated lanterns, but they are more durable, and now I don’t ever have to worry about buying batteries for them again. You are my hero Mrs. Sun.
Ditch the hair dryer
I haven’t put heat on my hair in over two years and I must say I love how healthy it feels (besides that time a crazy Serbian ruined it). Hair dryers take up a ridiculous amount of electricity and they completely dry out your hair. Consider ditching them and going all-natural. They also take up an insane amount of room in your suitcase.
Turn off the Taps
Turn off the water while brushing your teeth. Many people in the world don’t have the luxury of having water come out of their tap conveniently like the west does. Making a conscious effort to conserve water can go a long way. This is a no brainer when it comes to eco friendly travel.
Decline plastic bags
Decline plastic bags while shopping. We travel with reusable bags for grocery store trips, or carry it if that is manageable. I love companies like Trader Joes whom only uses paper bags, but until this implemented across the globe keep resisting that plastic. In many countries, the baggers are encouraged to give you as many bags as you want, and I always find myself telling them I don’t need one. I may get a crazy look but I feel better knowing I saved one more bag from ending up in the ocean.
Help Educate People
Going off this, many people in the developing world aren’t aware of the effects of plastic, littering, soil degradation. Companies like LUSHdo a great job informing them. But as travelers, we can help too. Next time someone insists on giving you a plastic bag tell them that plastic doesn’t decompose. When you see someone littering inform them of the effects that has on the environment. We all are people of this earth and should work together to protect it.
Travel With A Water Bottle
We both travel with a Lifestraw Go Waterbottles as they claim to filter out 98.9% of bacteria. These waterbottles limit our plastic water bottle purchasing. This saves us money and saves the world from another wasteful piece of plastic. Unless we are in dire need of some cold water we always refill our Lifestraw right from the taps (and even rivers in some places). Haven’t gotten sick once! (Knock on wood). If you’re having a tough decision about the best travel water bottle on the market we’ve made a post to help you out!
Always ask for tap water
If we are anywhere outside of the US and ask for water with our meals we are almost always given a bottle of water. This is not only wasteful but will also cost us an additional $2-$3 per meal. Always specify that you want tap water at restaurants to avoid this (it’s free!).
Pick Up The trash
Pick up any trash that you see floating about. Every little bit counts and it sets an example for others. I can’t even say its the most simple eco friendly travel tip, but it certainly isn’t hard. Where ever we travel we find ourselves picking up trash even if it’s not ours. You should do the same! Leave a place better than you found it.
Eco Friendly Travel Choices At The Market
If there is an option then try to avoid plastic at the grocery store. I usually find it easy with things like milk – where there are plastic and paper containers that the milk is filled in. Paper is degradable, plastic is not. And say NO to business that choose to individually wrap every single apple/broccoli/pepper in seran wrap. Ridiculous!
Reduce Beef Intake
According to the Worldwatch Institute, 51% of global greenhouse-gas emissions are caused by animal agriculture. The land, water, and all other variables that go into the livestock sector in the US generates as much greenhouse gas emissions as all vehicles combined. In Before the Flood, Leo states that a half pound of beef is the equivalent of 24 hours of air-con – which completely blew my mind. I’m not saying you should go completely vegetarian but giving up more beef and becoming more meat conscious will certainly help (it’s healthier too)!
Reuse your towels
Avoid unnecessary washing and reuse the towels you are given in a hotel or guesthouse (or at home!). In most hotels, this simply just means hanging up your towel so the maid knows that you will use it again and not wash it.You can read about the best travel towels on our site as well. We like to travel with the Youphoria Travel Towel, which dries quickly and folds up small when traveling.
It’s dead simple things like packing a travel towel to become more eco friendly. If we start out with baby steps and we can make big gains in becoming more environmentally friendly travelers.