Why do we travel?
Speaking for myself, I travel to see new vistas, gain new experiences, meet different people and enjoy a different style of life. While doing so, I always like it when the place is clean and people are friendly. Who doesn't!
Recently, I travelled to Maldives. I was saddened to see that though nature has generously bestowed beauty on it, man has sullied it equally generously. Our walk on beach was marred by trash swept in by waves. Cans, bottles, diapers, CFLs, shoes, batteries....you name it, it was there. Who is responsible for it all? All those who have touched those shores and even those who haven't. Because waters don't know boundaries. If we create trash, it is bound to land (beach?) somewhere. Remember, what goes around, comes around?
Here are some steps to minimise our negative impact on the environment :
1. Use public transport: When you are a tourist, you are constrained on time and would be in a hurry to see places. Here, planning in advance might help. Read up about public transport, take help of your hotel and figure out places which are easy to reach by public transport. It won't just help you green your footprint, it will also give you a taste of local culture which you might not be able to experience in a cab.
2. Hotel tips:
If you're not a fan of hotel toiletries, carry your own and don't accept new ones from the hotel. If you've opened hotel toiletries, carry them with you and use them. Leave unopened ones in the room.
- Towels: It is very tempting to get a new towel everyday. But consider the amount of water, detergent and bleach used to launder hotel linen and you might want to reuse your towel. If dried properly, the towels are just fine to be reused. The same applies to sheets. Request for a change only when really needed. I generally carry my own towel and dry it on the towel rail where it gets ready to be reused the next day.
- Water and electricity: Use them judiciously. Just because they are included in the price, don't be careless with these resources. Many hotels are doing away with bathtubs these days as they are water guzzlers.
- Toiletries: Many hotels have now switched to wall mounted dispensers for soap and shampoo, which is an excellent initiative. This does away with small plastic packaged containers. Also, those little bars of soap just get trashed after a couple of uses. Wall mounted toiletries just need to be refilled and cut down waste.
3. Bottled water: It depends on the country you travel to. If you are in the developed world then you can easily drink tap water. As a rule of thumb, I carry my own bottle and generally request the kitchen staff to refill my bottles from the kitchen tap as I can't drink from a bathroom tap. I do get strange stares at times but I've never gotten a 'No' till now. In India, good hotels would have safe drinking filtered water. Just ask your bottle to be refilled when going for a day outing. Avoid bottled water wherever possible. It would not only save the planet, but it would also save your moolah too.
4. Dishes and cutlery: Try to carry your own steel plate, spoon, and mug. When you order tea or coffee, you can ask to be served in your own mug. The plastic/ styrofoam glasses used to serve hot beverages are very harmful to health as well as for the environment. The same holds good for cutlery. Give a quick rinse to these dishes just after use and they would be good to go!
5. Avoid takeaways: Takeaways would mean packaging and packaging would add to garbage. Avoid if you can. If you have to, opt for minimum packaging. Just get the food packed in a paper bag. Don't accept ketchup or mayo sachets which you won't use. Don't accept plastic cutlery or a carry bag. Again, if you've your own container, just get the takeaway in that.
6. Leave a green trail: Leave green vibes around. If the hotel has any outstanding environmental practice, appreciate it. If not, suggest green tips in your feedback. Someone, somewhere, always gets affected by what you say.
7. Refuse plastic bags: When you step out for the day, carry your own little cloth tote, one of those cute foldable bags or even reused plastic bags. Whip them out whenever you need to buy anything and refuse plastic bags. I always pack a couple of cloth and plastic bags before my trip.
8. Maps and brochures: Take them only if you need them. If you have taken one and not used it, deposit it back while leaving. Sometimes you like to carry brochures back home to read at leisure. Be realistic. Would you really read them? A lot of information is available online, so use your judgment.
9. Buy ethical souvenirs: Choose souvenirs which are meaningful, boost the local economy and are not made of banned or endangered things. Don't buy kitschy or plastic stuff just for the sake of buying.
Travelling is always carbon intensive. Let's make it as planet friendly as possible.
Bon green voyage!