Today we’d like to introduce the words travel green to your summer holiday planning. Even the UN has declared 2017 as the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development so how can we leave travel out of our on going GREEN LIVING SERIES! So while making your itinerary for the annual holiday this year take some notes on how to travel green.
We urbans view sustainable lifestyle as challenging, time consuming and ultimately boring or not suited to our taste. UrbanMeisters.com Founder Mirela has taken on the challenge to change this misconception of going green with an Urban’s Guide to Green Living which talks about easy to follow tips to make small sustainable changes in everyday life. Because readers we can’t really go on complaining about pollution without doing anything to stop pollution caused by us. So far we’ve covered daily life topics like how to reduce pollution caused by food, how to build an eco-friendly but stylish wardrobe, how to make an green fitness routine, how to cut plastic use at home, waste management, urban commuting, greening the neighbourhood, how to make your office sustainable and even green laundry goals!
Today we tackle how to travel green and reduce our vacation carbon footprint. Over to Mirela.
GREEN LIVING TRAVEL TIP: Take the road less travelled- travel green
I’m a complete travel junkie so much so that you can say I live from one travel vacation to the other. Long week-ends, summer holidays, work travel- I enjoy all my travels because for me the more I see the world the more I discover myself. And it’s just not me- more and more people pride themselves on being seasoned travellers be it for the number of stamps on the passports they can boast about or a genuine quest for wanderlust for others. This ‘travel craze’ has resulted in close to 1 billion tourists globe trotting every year and this has a huge carbon footprint. From transport emissions to pressuring an area’s natural resources, to spoiling natural habitats, traveling has taken a heavy toll on the planet health. But to me and many others like me ‘STOP TRAVELLING’ is the shortest horror story ever told. Even more than ‘SOLD OUT’. So do we just give up travel? The answer is TRAVEL GREEN. Be a responsible traveller instead of a tourist, who takes only memories (ok maybe also pictures!), leaves nothing but foot prints (not the carbon variety!) and kills nothing but time (really kills nothing but time!). I give you 4 easy travel green tips that will change the way you explore the world!
›› Ace packing to travel green
Your green travel planning begins at the very beginning. From what you pack in that suitcase. Here are some pointers.
TRAVEL LIGHT: This is the hallmark of a traveller not a tourist. And it’s the secret to green travel as well. Honestly, it’s a standing joke in my family that I’m hopeless when it comes to traveling light- a full size suitcase is my idea of week end getaway. But I’m turning over a new leaf now and trying my best to follow Susan Heller’s formula: « Take half the clothes & twice the money to travel ». I will definitely get there by my next holiday. But on a serious note, travelling light means putting less pressure on transport modes. Extra weight on any mode of transport means more fuel they use and more emissions in return. So don’t carry your world (read wardrobe) in the suitcase, choose smart and choose less and travel green.
PACKING ESSENTIALS TO REDUCE PLASTIC: Make your travel a no plastic excursion as far as possible. Start from packing a re-usable water bottle first. Have you realised the amount of PET plastic bottles we consume from while traveling mostly for drinking water? And plastic trash is a big menace in all tourist hotspots especially beachside locations. According to a recent research by Ocean Conservancy, plastic bags are fast overtaking cigarette butts in ocean trash and plastic trash is a big threat to aquatic life. And, last year, a report for the Ellen MacArthur Foundation estimated that, by 2050, the volume of accumulated plastics in the oceans will be greater than that of fish. So carry your own bottle and re-fill it everywhere you go- even your hotel to avoid adding to this alarming statistic. Don’t go buying mini sizes of skin and body care items as well as cosmetics as these just add to your plastic containers. Instead re-use old containers or buy refillable containers for DIY cosmetics on websites like Aroma-Zone or Mountain Rose Herbs and fill them with your favorite products.
Check out my tips to reduce plastic in everyday life ⇓
The next thing on the essentials list is a roomy travel bag or knapsack. I know you’re staring at me in horror for suggesting you leave behind your lovely arm candies but trust me it’s the best thing that could happen to you while travelling for storing just about everything on the go and to travel green. Instead of using plastic bags to carry your shopping and adding to trash, a good travel bag or a backpack can be used to keep it all. So stall that holiday arm candy parade in the interest of the planet and carry a stylish and chic knapsack or like me get a sturdy but sexy travel tote. I’ve been using my dear LV travel bag for almost 10 years on all my holidays and I carry the world in it. I also have some great eco-friendly options like Hamilton Perkins travel gear– made of 100% recycled plastic bottles or quirky and pop M-24 bags made by up cycling discarded truck tarpaulins. If you have some suggestions of stylish and sustainable travel gear then do tell me in comments or write to me on firstname.lastname@example.org
›› Travel green- well literally!
This is about getting there and getting around- green your transport people to minimise the transport carbon footprint.
TRAINS ARE YOUR BEST FRIEND: We all want to get ‘there’ in a hurry but don’t have to go necessarily singing leaving on a jet plane! Air travel has a huge carbon foot print that needs to be checked. Aviation sector is the fastest growing source of green house gas emissions even ahead of cousins trucking and coal power plants! Buses are the most eco-friendly mode but not the most convenient option for long distance travel. Ship cruises are the worst when it comes to sustainability and eco impact. Trains are the best options to travel green- most practical, convenient, sustainable and enjoyable!
I’m very excited about Germany’s 1st Hydrogen powered passenger train! Looking forward to passenger train transport systems switching to zero emission fuel hydrogen!
If you absolutely must fly then fly coach or economy as they call it. Economy class is low carbon from the simple logic it allows more number of passengers on each flight by the sheer division of space. Then keep in mind the « extras » you enjoy on business class are not exactly eco-friendly- fancy food, drinks etc all add to flight weight and thus more emissions. Then book direct flights whenever possible because a significant percentage of a plane’s carbon emissions come from takeoff and landing. So avoid flights for short distances altogether and reduce one-stop flight usage as much as possible. Also don’t go printing your whole itinerary/ tickets/ passes etc. Even boarding passes are now digital in the remotest corners of the world- check with airline before hitting print.
When taking a low cost flight or travelling by bus, car or train carry your own food with your cutlery- not disposable plastic instead of going for buying outside which will only add to plastic count. Take your own re-suable water bottle also if on train, bus or car instead of buying PET bottles every half hour.
There are plenty of resources to calculate the travel carbon footprint to give an idea of how much emissions you’ll cause with different modes of transport like bus, car, train, flight and choose the option that works best for you.
›› Paint the town..well green!
The things you choose to do while there makes all the green difference in the world. Here are some pointers you can keep in mind.
GREEN YOUR STAY: Choose an eco hotel. There are plenty of resources that list eco hotels worldwide and there are some popular booking engines like Eco Hotels of the World that provide you with the green hotel directory. Look out for the ‘GreenLeaders’ mark on TripAdvisor listings of hotels which gives comprehensive information on a hotel’s eco standing. But my preferred travel green accommodation option is to stay with locals at home-stays. There are plenty of resources for you to find local home-stays, most popular being Airbnb of course and for budget travellers I recommend CouchSurfing. I’ll put a disclaimer here that these two services are recognised worldwide for being safe but always check and double check before booking. There’s really nothing like experiencing a place with locals to get it’s real flavour and these also reduce the pressures of hotels on environment. Some other great resources for staying at home stays with local hosts are HomeExchange & behomm – do try these the next time you travel. Who knows maybe you’ll strike gold and find your soulmate like in my favourite film ‘The Holiday’!
While at the accommodation, minimise your energy use so switch off the air conditioning when not in room. Most hotels have the facility of lights getting switched off automatically with key removal but the AC keeps running so pay heed next time.
Reuse your sheets and towels instead of having them changed every day. It might seem trivial to you but 15% of water consumed by the hospitality industry in US alone is only for washing linen & towels.
GREEN THINGS TO DO: I’ve already told you to choose public transport as much as possible when travelling. Hop on-Hop off tour buses have virtually become a worldwide phenomenon and trust me they’re not a lame way of sightseeing. At least use them optimally to travel to key sights in the city. The best way to get up, close and personal with a place is to bike or walk. I always book a lot of cycling or walking tours wherever I go. And of course, nothing like a good old pub crawl to end the day.
While luxury liners, cruise yachts and helicopter rides are super fun, they take a very heavy toll on the environment so try and indulge in planet friendly experiences.
Go plastic free as far as possible. Use your re-usable water bottle for drinking water, refrain from opting for plastic loungers at beaches or pools, instead carry a pretty water side blanket and sunbathe in eco ease!
Eat local. Trying local cuisines is one of my biggest reasons to travel. And you can’t sample local flavours in packaged meals and McDonalds! Go to local eateries and farmers’ markets to get the community food feel. We have complied a comprehensive list of green farmers’ markets in London and Paris that you can refer to. There are other resources to search venues at your destination like localharvest.org and eatwellguide.org.
I recommend using a fabulous green app- One Heart Spots that uses geo location technology to find sustainable hotspots in your vicinity across multiple categories like eateries, services, hotels & activities and even farmers’ markets! I used the app in New York to eat at NYC’s first green restaurant and even located a super farmers’ market Union Square Market to sample some local fresh delicacies. In fact before I travel I research thoroughly on the best green spots a destination has to offer be it eco hotels or artisanal boutiques and one resource that helps me with this planning is greenmap.org which has more than 100 city maps that highlight the top green living spots.
And lastly out of all the activities you do on your trip, volunteer to clean-up just once. There are various local initiatives that organise short term voluntary clean-up drives especially at beach towns- you can enquire from tourist information centres. Its only fair that you clean up your act.
›› Offset your travel carbon footprint.
This is not to ease your conscience or earn some brownie points but a genuine effort to make up for all the emissions you caused especially due to transport. Look at planting trees with initiatives like Tree Era- a monthly subscription based service that plants trees on your behalf. You could also look at some long term volunteering programs in your city like clean up drives, no plastic awareness programs, pollution control initiatives etc. You could also check out TripZero that offsets the carbon emissions generated by plane, train, car or bus travel – at no extra cost to you. Earn some good Carbon Karma people!
You can calculate the emissions footprint of your travel here and immediately get to know what you can do to offset the carbon footprint.
So this is all you need to become a responsible low impact traveller. Put travel green in your holiday planning with the 4 tips and you can graduate on to becoming a traveller from a tourist. I’ll leave you with this comprehensive list of green travel bloggers and websites to follow for updates and ideas and this travel green motto!
If you have more suggestions on how to travel green or other green living tips then write to us on email@example.com