“Be the change you wish to see in this world.”~ Gandhi
Today is Earth Day! These are 10 ways to create more environmentally friendly living habits while travelling or at home. Take what you can from it and be a change in your household, community, or the place you are visiting. Small changes create huge differences and your effort is one more ripple in the tide of change. Let’s be responsible tourists, residents, and humans.
“When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world.” ~ John Muir
Reducing waste is commonly the first step to environmentally friendly living.
Almost all things are online these days, meaning you can reduce the amount of paper you use while travelling. Have your accommodation bookings, train tickets, vouchers etc on your mobile devices.
Maps are important for many travellers. Instead of buying maps at each city, download the app MAPS.ME – the app has maps from around the world that can be downloaded to your phone and used ‘offline’ (meaning no data or wifi connection is required). However, it can use up your battery quickly.
In your home, move away from paper towel and serviettes to dish towels and fabric napkins.
“Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.” ~ George Bernard Shaw
You can further reduce your waste by reusing items or buying resusable items.
Keep reusable shopping bags (or reuse the plastic bags you already have) in the car. If you forget to bring with you on a shopping trip, or you make a spontaneous stop, you will always be prepared. Another option is to leave shopping bags near your door so that on the way out they are easy to remember and take with.
You can reuse the plastic water bottles that you have. However, they eventually need to be replaced – people often suggest using the bottles for only a few weeks because of bacteria growth (so be sure to rinse thoroughly between uses).
FYI: Plastic water bottles take 450 years to decompose.
Rather than plastic, use glass and stainless steel bottles. These bottles will last longer and reduce the amount of plastic waste.
Take away coffee cups
Rather than taking away, sit in the shop for the few minutes – arrange to meet friends or take a book to read / listen to an audiobook (check out the app Blinkist – on their free option, they summarise one book a day in 15 minutes or less). If you need the on-the-go coffee, then take your own reusable coffee cups along. Many places sell reusable cups so see if your favourite place does this, and if they don’t, maybe suggest it to them. We have never been refused a hot beverage when we gave the barista our reusable cups.
Remember to take your own reusable straws with you to restaurants – stainless steel, glass, bamboo, reeds and more.
Beeswax wraps are made with natural ingredients and can reduce the use of cling wrap and tin foil in your kitchen and lunchbox.
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” ~ Margaret Mead
If you cannot reuse it, try to recycle it!
Waste: Recycle as much as you can where you can. Look out for recycling bins around the area you are staying and travelling. Ask the locals for help in finding them. Suggest to your hotel/hostel to have recycling bins for guests. While travelling in Germany we saw recycling bins in different areas within a city. It was great! At home, if your community or area doesn’t have bins, contact your local government and request for bins.
Books: Many hotels/hostels and even coffee shops have small libraries. Instead of buying new books, look at the books already in circulation. Often there is a ‘take a book, leave a book’ vibe. Friends took books with them while backpacking South America. Following the bookshelf rule, they left their book after writing a short note to the next reader (short hello from *insert home country*, an attraction they should definitely do in the area, or what they loved about the book) and took a different one from the shelf. There are bookstores who ‘book trade’ as well. Second-hand books still hold their magic!
Clothes: Whether you do this on your travels or when you are back home, donate old clothes to homes and charities. Often, our clothes are completely usable but we are tired of wearing them. Let someone else find the joy in wearing the item like you had when you first bought it. On a similar note, check out second-hand clothing stores. There are often some great clothes for sale and generally at a bargain price.
“We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.” ~ Native American Proverb
Upcycling reduces demand for new items and uses the enormous amount of items already produced. Use old clothes or household items to create new and usable items. It can be as small as using old material to patch up a hole in clothes, to using toilet rolls and tin cans to create stationary or makeup brush holders.
5. SUPPORT LOCAL
“When you buy from a small business, an actual person does a little happy dance.”
This is another sustainable step that can become part of travel and daily life. Shop at local markets and stores. Your money goes directly to the people and into the area, which helps build the local economy – helping send kids to school and put food on the table.
6. SAVE WATER
“When the well is dry, we know the worth of water.” ~ Benjamin Franklin
Short showers are the best showers. Turn off the water when washing your hair and body – water only needs to be on to wet you and rinse off the soap. Choose to shower over taking a bath as often as possible (or always).
Reuse the towels provided to you for your stay. Towels do not need to be washed every day.
Only bath if the area and country you are visiting are not experiencing a drought. Many parts of South Africa have been declared disaster areas because of the ongoing drought. Tourists were ignorant of the situation or did not care, which resulted in many places removing plugs from rooms. Some restaurants have removed the faucets from bathroom basins and left hand sanitizer for guests to use.
Close the taps while brushing teeth or lathering on face wash. Have the water running to wet and then rinse, only.
Report drips and leaks
Report dripping taps and running toilets to your hotel / hostel so that they can be fixed quickly.
7. SAVE ENERGY
“The most important thing is to actually think about what you do. To become aware and actually think about the effect of what you do on the environment and on society. That’s key, and that underlies everything else.” ~ Jane Goodall
When you leave your hotel / hostel turn off the lights and air con. Lower energy consumption means lower demand and lower pollution contributions.
8. CLEAN UP
“Forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the wind longs to play with your hair.” ~ Khalil Gibran
When you are at the beach or park and see litter around, pick up a few pieces and throw them away. You don’t have to clean up the area (unless you want to, then go for it!) but if people see you doing it, they may start doing it themselves.
Also remember: Take 3 for the Sea – a worldwide movement encouraging beachgoers to take 3 pieces of litter off the beach & throw them away every visit. Simple acts that will hopefully reduce the amount of pollution entering our oceans.
Similarly, never litter.
9. PUBLIC TRANSPORT
“The ultimate test of man’s conscience may be his willingness to sacrifice something today for future generations whose words of thanks will not be heard.” ~ Gaylord Nelson
Choose to walk! It’s healthier, you can stop whenever and you’re more immersed in the new place. But if you need to use other transport means, use public transport rather than own transport. Fewer cars = Lower carbon emissions. An even better option is to hire a bicycle!
10. BE RESPONSIBLE
“You cannot get through a single day without having an impact on the world around you. What you do makes a difference and you have to decide what kind of a difference you want to make.” ~ Jane Goodall
Avoid activities and attractions that are damaging to the local environment, people and wildlife. Look for more conservation-minded tours and attractions.
While exploring attractions: stay on trails and public footpaths, follow signage e.g. ‘stay off the dunes at beaches’ or ‘do not feed the animals’, do not take pieces of monuments or plants.
In the words of Jane Goodall, “None of this will be easy. But we must try. We must make a start, one by one.”
Let us know what eco-friendly acts you do in the comments below. Thanks for the read and have a beautiful day celebrating this remarkable planet we all share, love and live on.
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