As a family, we’ve spent the last 17 years travelling the world and trashing the Planet.
And even though we only had one long haul flight to Vancouver – with most trips concentrating within European borders – we dared to start a travel blog with an idea to encourage other people to hop on planes too.
I wasn’t comfortable putting all the destinations into a carbon footprint calculator to find out how many tonnes of CO2 we have produced, I was aware it’s near-disastrous; on our last trip to Biarritz, we made it even worse by adding yet another unnecessary 1.5 tonnes of CO2 into the already damaged atmosphere.
So, where do we draw a line? Do we just ignore urgent climate change facts and wait for someone else to fix it? Is global warming even real and is sustainable travel or life for that matter even possible?
I’m mature enough to realise that offsetting our carbon footprint, planting trees and not eating meat isn’t the same as not getting on the flight. Inevitably I have to, and you too, if you travel the world, consider the implications.
As avid travellers we’ve seen plastic-covered beaches, we’ve built sandcastles from sand mixed with cigarette butts and used condoms, we’ve witnessed questionable behaviour from other tourists – the list goes on.
The bottom line is, our planet desperately needs us to make a more conscious decision, and there is so much we can do daily while exploring the world. Strive to support local businesses, think about how you interact with local people and seek to improve who you are – these are just a few examples anyone can incorporate in their itinerary.
A guide to responsible travel: 10 super easy ways to reduce your impact
I’m super idealistic, and I’m an optimist too! I believe one person can make a difference and change the world for the better – don’t allow yourself to make excuses, lots of stuff may look challenging, but the planet doesn’t have to suffer because of your convenience.
Move towards being your better self – you have more power than you think. All you have to do is to shift your paradigm from self-centred to global.
In this post, we share a few ideas you can implement in your routine, both at home and on the road. Start off by making small adjustments – in the long run, they’ll change the bigger picture.
#1. Be a mindful traveller
Travelling is fun, and if you are willing to learn, it can also enlighten the importance of protecting our environment and not leaving a trail of unnecessary waste behind.
We believe that one person can make a huge difference and that we should all try to produce less waste, conserve water and electricity, buy local goods, dress appropriately where needed, protect wildlife and always give back to local communities.
Be a mindful traveller, set a good example and try to incorporate as much as you can even if it isn’t your country.
On the road or at home, keep our Planet clean by reducing your plastic consumption- say goodbye to fancy shower gels and plastic straws. Lead by example – pick up plastic bottles and other rubbish you spot along your travels.
#2. Give back to communities
So much about travel is interacting with local people and giving back to the communities; giving back is powerful, and it doesn’t have to come with a price tag.
Volunteering while travelling is a trend we love because this way you to meet like-minded people and you can help preserve the planet all while helping local communities.
Before you sign up for one of the programs, keep in mind that most of them – be it long term or short term ones – are where the service comes first and vacation – second.
If you want to travel with purpose, are looking for a challenge and want to provide a lasting difference then check out these organisations that arrange volunteering opportunities: GeoVision, Volunteer World, Global Service Corps, Cross-Cultural Solutions and Transitions Abroad.com.
#3. Swap single-use plastic for reusable alternatives
Don’t you want to live in a world that is protected and safe? Of course, I feel like I don’t have the right to preach about environmental problems because I still use plastic and also travel occasionally.
But I strongly believe that the world can be changed by an example, not by opinion and there’s so much we can do on a daily basis.
This can be done by using bamboo toothbrushes that come in recyclable paper packaging. Or even swapping plastic bags for cloth tote bags – carrying one in your bag, leaving one at work or in your car – is one of the easiest switches.
- Get yourself a refillable water bottle
- Stock up on bamboo toothbrushes
- Invest in a reusable coffee cup
- Use Beeswax – a fantastic alternative to cling film
- Swap liquid toiletries for bars
#4. Travel by trains and use public transport
Travelling by train is the best way to see Europe and the World – is there anything more soothing than watching the beautiful landscape roll by? Many train rides in Europe offer an abundance of amazing views that change every hundred metres while transporting you to a new country.
In general, train rides, if compared to air travel, are much cheaper, especially short distances. You don’t have to pay extra for your luggage and depending on the train type, and the train operator can even bring your bike.
Train stations are usually located within the city centre and once you arrive, limit the use of taxis. Instead, take public transport or walk around because by walking around you’ll get fitter, save money and see much more.
#5. Think about animal welfare
The best way to see wild animals is in their natural habitats.
Don’t go swimming with sharks in Oslob or visit wild animal orphanages such as Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage in Sri Lanka. Don’t take selfies with sedated tigers or feed monkeys.
Do your research when it comes to animals you wish to see. Never book an experience that involves riding elephants or has a handler that use cruel methods to control animals; it’s best to stay clear of places where wild animals are kept in captivity.
If you see suffering animals, use Born Free, which is an animal charity that lets you report any wrongdoing you might see during your travels. You can also use #BeKind and #StopElephantRides to show your support through social media platforms.
Everyone needs to learn about the horrific truth behind elephant riding by watching videos about the crushing process, which is how these beautiful animals are broken into submitting to orders.
#6. Be honest on social media
What I have noticed is that we live in a world where travellers spend more time doing their makeup and hair and trying to get that perfect shot than actually enjoying it.
We live in a digital world where photos from Instagram accounts lure us into thinking that travel is all about wearing a pretty summer dress and posing for pictures with a sparkling champagne glass in hands – and don’t forget that obligatory wristwatch.
There’s way too much digital dishonesty – make a positive change and don’t be afraid to raise your voice about things you are passionate about while discovering more ways to bring positive influence to your community of followers.
#7. Eat local
Avoid chain restaurants and coffee shops such as McDonald’s, KFC and Subway and support local culture by buying locally grown and produced products. Imported food and alcohol also leave a carbon footprint, and that goes for Spanish wine on the American table and for Guinness in Australia.
Don’t you want to indulge in fresh and healthy meals that benefit your wellbeing and also help the environment? Knowing where your food comes from and being educated about the farming practices makes you more aware of what you’re putting in your body.
Look out for farmers markets that are usually overflown with seasonal products because there are lots of benefits of eating locally produced products:
- Local food is fresher, full of flavour, therefore, tastes better
- Local food is better for the environment because it has a smaller carbon footprint
- Local food doesn’t come wrapped up in unnecessary packaging
- Local food creates connection and community
#8. Don’t buy tacky souvenirs
Travelling is one of the most extraordinary experiences we as humans can have, and there are so many of us fortunate enough who can book a holiday to a foreign country. Bringing home souvenirs as a gift to family and friends or to yourself is a common practice – people in general love collecting things, and they are reminders of the trip.
Enter any souvenir shop, and you’ll be overwhelmed by a choice of magnets, mugs, cheap T-shirts, drink glasses, key chains, miniature modules of famous landmarks and soft animals on display. They might look cute, but in real life, don’t even represent the country you are visiting.
Wasting money on these tasteless items that most likely are going just to collect dust on a shelf is a senseless act. Say no to souvenirs produced in China that are most likely made by unfairly paid workers.
What to do instead? Try scrapbooking – collect ticket stubs, museum booklets and put them all in a book. Or, you can bring back quality textiles, good wine, spices and vintage travel posters.
#9. Do not geotag in nature
Did you stumble upon a beautiful place you are eager to share with the world? Before you do that, just think about it – what if someone follows your footsteps, visits your secret spot just to make a bonfire for a photo and leaves a trail of garbage behind?
What if on your next visit to your secret spot you are greeted by dozens of influencers from all around the world who arrive lugging large suitcases full of different outfits just so they can shoot energy bars and brag about it.
While the subject has seen some heated debates between photographers and explorers, let’s be blunt, geotagging in nature is ruining remote lakes, pristine forests, sunflower and tulip fields. It puts delicate ecosystems and wildlife at risk.
Some of the places we photograph in Ireland are easy to recognise, but there are some locations we deem secret – too many people take nature for granted. Support the cause by using #nogeotag
#10. Explore your own backyard
Everyone should feel free to travel wherever they desire – sleeping in a tent at the foot of soaring mountain peaks, swimming in gorgeous waterfalls and enjoying the beautiful scenery of a new country is what makes a lot of humans happy and content.
We were no different, for quite some time we blissfully ignored what’s in our backyard in favour of visiting far off lands.
Last year we made a promise to explore more of Ireland. We visited places we wouldn’t normally consider, and it proved to be as rewarding as travelling overseas, minus the airfare.
Make a point to explore lesser-known parts of your country, let’s say within a 150-mile radius from where you live. By doing so, you’ll stumble across some incredible sights, get a chance to learn more about the traditions and history of where you live, you’ll engage with amazing locals, and you’ll significantly reduce your carbon footprint.
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Now, over to you!
Do you implement sustainability wherever you go? Let us know in the comments!
Let us know if you are plotting eco-trip and have travel-related questions!