Don't be Mean, Travel Green

You are reading this mainly because we have this mutual love for Michael Jackson’s Earth Song. Well, if not for you... for me it is a reason, I want to do some good to the world.

And what better way of doing that than by, giving back what we took while travelling!

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So here are some bits and pieces of information you need to have before you plan your next Travel.

Travel has helped us, expand our minds, promote intercultural understanding, and provide really great content for Instagram. Unfortunately, travel can also do a number on Mother Earth. But we can change or in-terms take some steps to minimize our trace while travelling.

Frequent traveling has an incredible impact on the world – today we want to be at the other end of the world faster and cheaper, tomorrow we don’t want to do without our favorite products while we travel, and the day after we wonder why there is so much rubbish in the streets. The privilege to roam the world freely and reasonably affordably takes its toll on the environment, and the more we travel the more aware we are of the footprint we are leaving behind.

Take only photos, leave only footprints! – is the idealistic romance of impact-free travel (or at least free of negative impact), but the reality of takeaway coffees, cheap flights and throwaway travel clothes looks different. We didn’t always think so much about our personal impact on the environment, but over the years experiences have piled up that make it impossible to look away nowadays. There was the article that advised travellers to leave their lights on at home, so burglars wouldn’t know that they were away.

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People wonder how to pack light and way too often the answer seems to be, ‘just buy cheap clothes at a local market and throw them away at the end of your trip’. And then there is the eternal quest for better deals, cheaper flights, more affordable tours – but at what expense? Somebody carries the true cost of these things, and way too often it is the local people who are not paid fairly for their services, or who have to deal with the rubbish others produce.

We – and with that I mean highly educated travellers in particular – are in the privileged situation of being able to travel, finding ways to do so cheaply, and having been educated about things like global warming and the massive impact of plastic on our eco-system. When we travel, we should not leave our responsibility at home but rather find ways to create a healthier and greener way to travel.

Here are a few easy things that everybody can do in order to Take the #ITravelGreen Pledge:

1) Bring a re-useable water bottle…

Always carry a re-useable water bottle with you so you don’t depend on buying plastic bottles. If you are traveling in cities where tap water is not safe to drink, consider investing in a bottle with a filtration system and keep refilling them.

2) Avoid Plastic Bags

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Plastic bags are the worst – and an easy way to avoid them is to simply bring your own re-useable bag with you! One should always have some tote bags in their backpacks.

3) Embrace Slow Travel

Instead of flying somewhere, could you take an overnight bus or train? Do you really have to go half-way around the world, or is there a destination closer to your home that you haven’t explored yet? Slow travel is the ultimate environmentally-friendly travel lifestyle and on top of saving the planet, you also get to know another culture better than you ever would as a fast traveler!

4) Walk Walk Walk (& Cycle)

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Imagine you are in a new city and want to get a feeling for its layout and the distances – what is the best way to do that? You are correct: by walking or cycling! Many cities have a public bike rental scheme these days, so it’s not only easy but also cheap to explore the town on two wheels.

5) Eat Local

Try to stay away from imported food and instead eat the food locals eat or even grow themselves. Buy local products in the supermarket for your home-made dinner or packed lunches, eat at a street market, and stay away from international restaurant chains.

6) Support Local Everything

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Buy from independently owned local businesses, shop for traditional arts and crafts and accept the (maybe higher) prices, as this is after all people’s livelihoods. Show a real interest in how people live and work, and they will probably be happy to open up and tell you more about their culture.

7) Book sustainable tours and experiences

If you want to experience a cultural performance or unique tour, make sure that they benefit the local community. Is the tour operator locally owned? Do they employ local guides? Are they trying to deliver an authentic experience?

8) Stay away from animal tourism & people tourism

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Animal entertainment comes in all forms and shapes all over the world, but no matter how you twist and turn it, it is a cruel industry. If you want to see wildlife on your travels and maybe even get up close, have a look into animals shelters or rehabilitations centres as these are usually about educating their visitors rather than entertaining them.

The same goes for people tourism, like tours around favelas or slums – if you can’t do without it, make sure that the tour company you chose does not exploit the local community and puts their well-being before the entertainment of their customers.

9) Minimise your water and energy consumption

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Be aware of how much water you use in the bathroom, switching off the lights when you leave your room/dorm or apartment, and unplugging electronic appliances when you don’t use them.

Your home city, might literally swim in disposable fresh water (lucky you), but that is not necessarily the case in your travel destination!

10) Take your rubbish with you

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Not littering is a no-brainer – every time we see someone litter in the streets, a little part of us dies. How are people still not aware of this? But there is more to be done than placing your rubbish in a bin – like not leaving a country that is not equipped for recycling with the responsibility to take care of your waste.

11) Don’t join the throw-away fashion culture

Fast fashion is one of the worst things that has happened to our society. Every time we read about someone who bought cheap clothes somewhere in Mumbai or Delhi only to throw them away at the end of their trip, we wonder why they don’t think about the consequences of this. Cheap clothes even in SEA are not cheap because they are often produced in factories there (saving on transport costs, ey?), but because they are being produced under terrible conditions.

12) Share your experiences!

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It’s great if you become more aware of how to travel responsibly and how to minimise your impact – but it’s even greater if you tell other people about it! You as an individual may only be able to make a very small change, but by spreading your knowledge with others, you nurture a culture of sustainable and green travel that will hopefully become main-stream someday soon!

Zostel, as a community wants to join hands with you! And we need your support to make travelling eco-friendly and green.

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Visit our website www.zostel.com/itravelgreen-take-pledge/ to join the biggest movement yet to make travelling green.

Crafted By, Anushka Arora


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