Travelling Green: A Guide to Becoming an Ethical Nomad
Have you ever considered the impact that your travels could be having on the environment, local communities, wildlife, and the local economy?
If not, it’s time to get accountable and try to make more ethical travel choices.
Global tourism is set to increase by around 3-4% each year, accounting for 8% of global carbon emissions. Excessive tourism is also leading to the erosion of places like the Himalayas. We need to do something about it!
However, that doesn’t mean we have to quit travel completely; global tourism has its benefits too.
It can provide jobs, stimulate the local economy, encourage local investment, help boost understanding and tolerance for cultures different to our own, and even stimulate our creativity, motivation, and learning.
We need to balance our passion for travel with greater respect for these cultures and an awareness of our personal carbon footprint to help reduce the impact our travel has on the world and maximize the benefits.
Here are several ways you can continue your love of travel and become the ultimate ethical nomad.
Support local businesses
Whether you’re looking for a cute souvenir to take home with you, you want to stock up on groceries for dinner or you’d love to eat out, it’s always best to choose something local.
Buy your groceries in locally-owned shops (don’t forget to take your favourite tote bag), choose a local restaurant that isn’t featured in the guidebooks and make sure you pay a visit to that wonderful street food stall.
Not only will you give back to the community, but your nomadic travel experience will be a whole lot richer as a result.
Who knows what friends you might make, what authentic glimpse of local culture you might have or what beauty and kindness awaits?
Choose transportation wisely
If you’re travelling within Europe, opt for one of the many travelling holidays by coach or enjoy a train journey instead of hopping onto a plane to reduce your carbon footprint as much as you can.
According to an article in the Guardian, huge quantities of carbon dioxide are produced from every flight that you catch. “…even a short-haul return flight from London to Edinburgh contributing more CO2 than the mean annual emissions of a person in Uganda or Somalia.”
Even though road travel might seem more time-consuming than hopping on a plane, that’s not always the case. Once you consider the stress, the long queues to check-in, the long security checks, the lack of legroom and all that time waiting around, travel time can be almost equal. You can also make the most of your time to relax and unwind when you travel by coach or train.
Once you’ve arrived at your destination, consider how you could get around in a more sustainable way. Great ideas include using public transport wherever possible, walking as much as you can and considering hiring a bike to get around. You’ll see a different side to your holiday destination, get fit and have a lot of fun too.
Say no to single-use plastic
Travelers generate a huge amount of single-use plastic waste.
Whether it comes from that plastic cutlery and plastic trays on the plane, those plastic water bottles, those plastic straws in your cocktails and soft drinks of the cute travel miniature cosmetics you take with you, it all adds up.
Plan ahead and you can easily avoid all this single-use plastic and help reduce your impact on the planet. Here are some tips:
Reusable water bottle
Take a water filter
If you can’t drink from the tap in your destination, don’t buy those plastic water bottles. Either take a water filter with you in your luggage or boil the water to kill any bacteria before you drink it.
Carry reusable cutlery
If you’re planning to eat street food, take your own wooden or bamboo cutlery with you aks if they have an eco-friendly alternative. Or look to see what the locals do!
Take your own toiletries
Those tiny travel-sized toiletries and cosmetics might look cute, but they do add to the plastic pollution problem. Avoid using free hotel toiletries or miniatures by taking your own supplies with you. To save space, consider buying a smaller refillable container that you can refill with your favourite products as many times as you like.
Use reef-safe sunscreen
Make sure you choose a reef-safe, eco-friendly sunscreen when you travel abroad.
Although sunscreen can help protect us from sunburn and cancer, many of the ingredients they contain have been proven to kill and harm coral reefs and damage marine life.
This has become so much of a problem that certain countries like Hawaii, the US Virgin Islands, Key West, Bonaire, Palau have banned the sale of sunscreens which contain the worst of these ingredients; oxybenzone and octinoxate.
But there’s great news. You can still protect and nourish your skin and protect the environment by choosing a mineral-based, reef-safe sunscreen instead.
You can find them in many high street pharmacies and shops across the UK as well as in health food shops and online. Great choices include Green People Scent Free Sun Lotion SPF 30, Uriage Bariésun Fragrance-Free Cream SPF50+ and Coola Mineral Cucumber Face SPF 30.
Wear ethically made clothes
This will help you avoid contributing to the massive amount of global pollution caused by the mainstream clothing industry, ensure better pay, rights and working conditions for employees and also treat you to gorgeous, flattering items that help you feel as good as you look.
Travel doesn’t need to cost the earth
By ditching the plane and opting for eco-friendly forms of transport, avoiding single-use plastics, supporting local businesses, choosing reef-safe sunscreen and treating yourself to gorgeous sustainable clothing, you can reduce your carbon footprint and enjoy your ethical trip.
Guest Author - Sarah Anderson
Sarah Anderson is part zero-waste activist, part freelance writer. She endeavors to inform on waste prevention strategies – specialising in disruptive innovations in particular – and on ways businesses and individuals can minimise their Co2 emissions. When she isn't researching or writing, she can be found fleeing the bustle of London for monthly beach cleans with her lurcher, Archie.