Eco-friendly travels… I don’t think so…
Traveling is never good for the planet. Well except if you are hiking with a bag full of tree seeds and planting them all over the place or just happen to visit Trump with a copy of the Paris Agreements to stuff up in his mouth… Doesn’t happen a lot right?
One could argue that global warming and pollution would be a lot less of a problem if we simply didn’t travel, living the happy life of back when, when one’s whole world revolved around a few square kilometres. Technology, worldwide media and entertainment and so much more other influences have made us travel-addicts. We ignore the beauty of nature a few kilometres away from our homes and embark in a never-ending chase for all the other wonders our planet has to offer. We forget to see the beauties of the sunrises in the morning, the jaw-dropping landscapes our immediate surroundings have to offer and only take the time to enjoy what is around us when we go on our much awaited holidays. Why is it that only in a foreign setting do we take the time to finally appreciate what is around us?
#1 Whenever you can, travel close
Now there is no denying that you won’t find a centuries-old buddhist monastery in the middle of the French countryside and that through travels, there is much to discover that would be out of reach in our home countries. However, in many instances, when traveling is about laying on a beach in the sun, partying all night long or seeking a relaxed resort to do nothing but being taken care of by other people, being thousands of miles away can matter very little.
Think about offsetting but don’t let it fool you
What I am getting at, as you have probably figured out by now, is that traveling is, by nature, eco-unfriendly. Planes are the worst but even car travel or trains have an impact that can not truly be mitigated. Carbon credit systems, tree-planting and other schemes put in place to offer the more eco-mindful a way out of a truly awful environmental track record are not satisfactory enough solutions to offset your pollution. This is why, to a large extent, one must always weigh the added-value of far-away travels before making a decision for a holiday. Indeed, the only true way to be waste-free and carbon neutral is just not to travel.
That being said, I am the first one to hop on a plane and go on the other side of the world to discover the wonders of nature, of human civilisations or for work… I am therefore not trying to write an article to shame and blame all world travellers. Far from it. It needed to be said before I can suggest ways to mitigate the amount of waste one produces and share with you insights I have gained on the little things that can be done here and there to ensure that while you still live your life in the 21st century, you ensure you respect nature and our planet as much as possible, wherever you are.
#2 Travel kit
This one is a must have… and not just traveling. So many places, and interestingly enough, a large number of the “do-gooder organic” food places that pop up everywhere nowadays don’t want to deal with cutlery anymore and give you disposable ones. Not being prepared will make you use them, and you might feel shitty about it. Well don’t, just take it as a reminder and a lesson. When you are planning to go out, pack your “going away” kit. Mine is very simple, I have a fork, a knife (well until airport security took it away… Rookie mistake), 2 spoons and 2 table clothes. If I know I will be eating with someone, I even pack extras so the others don’t have to use the reusable wannabe garbage. I get a little educational and moralising vibe as a bonus and who doesn’t like to feel superior, right?
As I said, I travel a lot and I used to pick up the toiletry kits some airlines would give you for long-haul flights. This means that I have a huge pile of those pencil-case type of little baggies and I was wondering what to do with them. Well one of them is now the proud holder of my previously mentioned kit, upcycling like a boss, me likey!
#3 Food and drinks
Cook and pack what you will need, don’t plan on buying on the go. You will save money, like a lot (airports, train stations and gas stations are expensive places…), you will probably eat better and of course, you will be able to limit the amount of waste you produce.
Now I know what might come up in a discussion about this, especially when flying. How can you bring liquids to an airport? How to overcome security checks? Well first of all, security doesn’t care about food, especially if it is a sandwich and a pack of crisps. When it comes to drinks, water bottles are your friends, as always. Tap water has never killed anybody so bring in an empty water bottle through security and fill it up in the toilet sink afterwards. It will also be handy anytime after that during your trip and will save you from buying quite a few plastics bottles.
#4 No more reusables. No excuses…
One of the first habit to change when trying to live a more waste-free life is to switch to reusable napkins. Bring several, as they can get dirty pretty quickly. Get pretty ones and you will look super, super cool on top of it.
Always, and I mean ALWAYS, have a bag (or better, a set of bags) with you when traveling. There are the easiest thing you can do to limit your consumption of disposable items. Space is limited in luggages, for sure, but the now hyper fashionable tote bag is great for that. It has a lot of space but can be folded and fit in the palm of your hand.
That one can be tricky, it does take quite a bit of room. What I am experimenting with at the moment is collapsible/foldable cups. Yes, you heard me. There are metal foldable cups and there are ones made of silicons or such. They are great to save spaces and can be pretty handy.
Use your imagination
We all have different habits, only you can design what contingencies would work best to limit your usual production of waste. Take a minute to think about the most common situations where you use disposable items and see what you can bring along in your travels to change that.
Never forget, every little thing counts. Just buying a couple reusable napkins is not meaningless and for every paper napkin you won’t use because of that, our planet and our society is forever better for it. Don’t sell yourself short, give yourself a break and just do your best!