Traveling is a great way to open your mind and have fun. Still, wherever I go, I am always thinking about the carbon footprint I am leaving behind and how I can achieve carbon neutrality, which you can learn more about over at the Cool Effect website. Things like jumping on a plane or staying in a hotel can add gallons of carbon to the atmosphere and disposable items to landfill. And many people don’t realise how damaging this really is until we will slowly start to see the results of our actions happening in the atmosphere around us, starting right now. That is why the world’s first climate action platform and many others like it are desperately trying to change attitudes towards this very real and ever growing problem. So here are some of the ways I try to implement to be more mindful when I travel and minimize the impact on the planet.
Planes add a lot of carbon and chemicals into the atmosphere. Like, a lot, a lot. Traveling by land can take longer and be a less enjoyable experience, but it is significantly less impactful to the earth. Take trains and buses or even rent a car where you can in lieu of flying. For short flights, I often find that a bus or train journey is more efficient and sometimes faster, after you factor in arriving at the airport and going through security and immigration. And it has to be said that traveling by train is one of the nicest ways to see the country fly by, although not always budget-friendly. If you need to fly, focus on reducing your hours by flying direct and avoid taking multiple layovers.
One of my favorite ways to travel is ‘slow traveling.’ This involves staying longer in each place, rather than flying in for the weekend and sightseeing non-stop. I like to go for two weeks or more in each location, usually renting an apartment, housesitting, or finding a more permanent or long-term base. There’s something about grocery shopping, walking around local neighborhoods, and chatting to locals to really find out about a place in a way you can’t as a tourist.
If you’re eating tomatoes in winter or turnips in summer, where do you think they are coming from? Sometimes our food has traveled thousands of miles before we even pick it up from the grocery store. One way I like to avoid this is by using my slow travel to visit local markets, where I find some of the freshest and most flavorful produce I’ve ever had. These markets sell locally grown, seasonal products, often chemical and pesticide-free! It’s an easy way to reduce your carbon footprint and explore the area in an authentic way.
Not all hotels are alike, and you’ve probably noticed the amount of single-use and disposable products in each one. From daily towel cleanings to single-use cleaning products, there is a lot of waste going on in hotels. There are; however, green and eco-friendly options to choose from. Make sure you do your research so you can find accommodation that is going the extra mile (and not just greenwashing). This can involve practices such as solar-powered energy, economical showerheads, and bulk shampoo and conditioners.
This can be a hard one, but with a little preparation, you soon get in the habit. I’ve made investments in items such as a metal water bottle for both hot and cold drinks, fabric grocery bags, reusable sealing pouches for storing food, and shampoo and conditioner bars, all of which reduce my single-use. Instead of plastic water bottles, I can simply refill at any water point. Instead of to-go coffees in a paper cup (which can’t be recycled), I ask them to fill my bottle. I bring snacks with me in Tupperware or sealable pouches or beeswax paper. I carry shampoo and conditioner bars in metal tins that are not only plastic-free but liquid-free, so I can take them in my case and are really handy to travel with. All of these purchases have paid off during my travels, and once you get into the habit of using them, it just becomes second nature.
What are some of the ways you like to reduce your carbon footprint when you travel?