Tips for eco-friendly travel? What does that even mean? And how did we get here, to the point where we need to consider the subject of travel through the lens of being eco-friendly?
Well, it’s no secret now that the environment needs saving. You’d be hard-pressed to go a day without being reminded about this in the news, on social media and in day to day conversations with friends, colleagues and family.
Decades of large scale industrialisation across the globe and changing lifestyles have brought us to where we are now. And it’s up to us to do something urgently to help the situation.
But fortunately, it’s not all doom and gloom and all is certainly not lost! There is a lot that we can do to help the situation. And simple little actions taken by millions of us on a daily basis will add up and help to tip the balance in Mother Nature’s favour.
In this post, we’re going to discuss some of the things that we can do as tourists and travellers to help the environment and make our travel more eco-friendly. So here are our top tips for eco-friendly travel, in no particular order:
Reduce Carbon Footprint/Use Offset Schemes Where Possible
When it comes to environmental pollution and travel, the biggest contributor is often the carbon emissions from the aircraft you travel in. But of course, we’re not going to suggest that you stay home and don’t catch that flight!
What we would suggest though, is to reduce your carbon footprint as much as possible, and to use carbon offset schemes when possible.
Carbon Footprint Reduction
Your carbon footprint is the amount of fuel that is burnt and the amount of chemicals that are generated as a result of the activities you choose to do or engage in. For example, if you choose to drive to the grocery store, your car will burn some petrol or diesel and produce exhaust gasses such as carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide. You could reduce the fuel consumption and exhaust gasses produced by choosing to walk or cycle there.
According to the website GreenGlobalTravel.com simply booking a direct flight (as opposed to taking multiple connecting flights) can help reduce the amount of carbon you generate as it is the take-offs and landings that use the most fuel and generate the most amount of carbon exhaust. Learn more here
We will discuss more ways in which you could reduce your carbon footprint further on in this post.
Carbon Offset Schemes
Carbon offset schemes provide an opportunity to do something positive to help redress the damage caused by carbon-intensive activities that are unavoidable. The most commonly applicable example is air travel. Most often, it is not possible to avoid taking a flight. But you can book your flight through an agent who participates in a scheme through which some of the money you pay for the flight will be used to plant trees and thereby offset some of the damage caused. Similarly, some airlines themselves operate carbon offset schemes. So you could help simply choosing to fly with them instead of their competitors.
For more information about these subjects, please see these awesome posts from ThePointsGuy.co.uk
- The Basics of Offsetting the Carbon Emissions from Your Flights
- Your Guide to Airline Carbon Offset Programs
- The World’s Best and Worst Airlines for Carbon Efficiency
Take Public Transport When Possible
By choosing to use a bus or train (where many people share the same vehicle) you can reduce some of the carbon you generate through your travels. Contrast this to private hire-cars and taxis, where a much smaller number of people travel, even though a comparatively high amount of fuel is consumed and equal amounts of exhaust fumes are produced.
Helping the environment isn’t the only benefit. Public transport tends to cost considerably less. And with many destinations, including Sri Lanka, you’ll have a more scenic ride if travelling by train, plus you’ll have more opportunities to meet locals and make new friends!
Use Your ‘Do Not Disturb’ Sign Strategically
Many hotels and guesthouses will clean your room daily – regardless of whether it actually needs cleaning. This takes up a lot of resources, including water and electricity, and results in a higher usage of cleaning agents and other chemicals that are harmful to the environment. By simply leaving your ‘do not disturb’ sign up when your room does not require cleaning, you will help reduce all of this.
Reuse Hotel Linen
You can choose to reuse bed sheets and towels etc. until they absolutely need changing. By doing so, you can help to cut down on all the water, soap and power required to wash and dry them.
Use Non-toxic, Biodegradable, Natural Personal Care Products Where Possible
Many personal hygiene products contain harmful chemicals and other elements, such as plastic microbeads which end up in the oceans and waterways. You can reduce contrinuting to this problem by using natural, non-toxic and biodegradable products instead.
- Use less sunscreen and use wide-brimmed hats, clothing and shade instead. See this article for more information about the harmful ingredients in sunscreen: https://www.madesafe.org/education/whats-in-that/sunscreen/
- Use citronella oil to deter insects, instead of using chemically-laden insect repellants.
- Avoid using exfoliating face-scrubs and toothpaste which contain plastic micro-beads (these beads end up in the waterways and oceans).
By opting for more natural and non-toxic products, you can reduce the damage caused to the environment. And what’s more, such products are also better for your health too!
Avoid Single-use Plastics
Single-use plastics such as bottles, carrier bags and drinking straws account for tonnes of pollutants that end up in the world’s oceans and waterways. They’re unsightly and cause harm to marine life and other animals and are being banned in many countries for these reasons.
Here’s what you can do to help the situation:
- Avoid using disposable plastic carrier bags. Take a reusable canvas bag with you instead ;
- Carry a reusable water bottle and refill it (see below);
- Pack a reusable drinking straw (there are many options on the market including glass, metal and bamboo straws) or drink straight from your glass. And remember to tell waiting staff and servers that you don’t want a straw when ordering your drinks;
- Invest in a set of reusable cutlery (or a ‘spork’) and use that instead of throw-away plastic cutlery.
- Also consider cutting down on the use of items such as cotton buds, dental floss and disposable razors.
Bring A Reusable Water Bottle
Take a reusable water bottle with you on your travels. There are many metal or BPA- free plastic options with brands like Nalgene and Klean Canteen offering excellent products.
Just this alone will help drastically reduce the adverse impact of travel on the environment.
Most airports now provide water refill stations once you clear through security. Similarly, many restaurants, hotels and hostels are only too happy to refill their patron’s bottles for them.
Plus, if you could also consider investing in a personal water filtration system such as LifeStraw so you can purify your water on the go.
Our very last tip is to buy products that have been sourced/produced locally (as opposed to imported goods). This helps cut down on transportation and packaging etc.
As well as helping the local economy, such products also tend to cost less and so offer an attractive win-win outcome for all.
Ever heard of the phrase ‘near beer’? That pretty much explains it all!
So there you have it, our top tips for eco-friendly travel.
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And remember, as the famous quote goes:
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If you liked this post, you may also like the following:
- A Backpacker’s Guide to Sri Lanka
- Planning Your Sri Lankan Backpacking Route and Itinerary
- Staying Safe While Travelling in Sri Lanka
- Sri Lanka Money-Saving Tips
- Sri Lanka Backpacking Budget