8 tips for reducing your environmental footprint when traveling
Updated: Mar 24
Traveling feeds the soul and opens the mind but the last thing you want is to be part of the increasing problem of rubbish and environmental problems in fragile natural environments in countries where refuse collection is not always up to scratch. Here are a few tips so that as a traveler you can try and avoid being part of the problem and strive to be part of the solutions.
# Bring your own bottle
In many countries, you cannot drink the tap water, so the only option is to drink filtered water. Refrain from buying water sold in single use plastic bottles though and opt instead for bringing your reusable bottle. Many restaurants, stalls and hotels will be more than happy to refill your bottle, sometimes even for free. If your hotel doesn't offer this option maybe choose another, after all you want to be staying somewhere with eco values not with litter louts ! If you are travelling in indonesia and especially around Bali there are clever apps and maps to help you find refill stations ( refill my bottle and trash hero refill map)
# Reusable shopping bags
Plastic bags are very hard to recycle and not really necessary most of the time. Bring a nice reusable cloth bag or buy one from an eco-conscious venture when you're already abroad and categorically refuse the plastic bag. You might want to bring one sturdy plastic bag for your wet swimsuit and the like and just reuse that one for the whole trip.
# Ditch the straw
The straw is probably the least necessary and most polluting single use plastic item around. The millions of straws used every year end up for the most part in the ocean harming fragile marine animals like seaturtles .
You may need a straw to drink your coconut though or may insist that a cocktail is not really a cocktail without a straw, in which case buy a trendy steel or glass one and carry it around with you. You will look all the cooler if you're not hurting turtles. When ordering drinks remember to insist that you want them straw free.
If you are traveling in Indonesia you might say:
“ Tidak paket pipet” ( I don't use a straw (informal))
“ Tidak mau sedotan, saya sudah punya”( I don't want a straw, I have my own)
# Switch it off !
Many more remote parts of the world have limited resources in energy and electricity might be being produced by generators which will have an impact ion air pollution. Coming from colder climates, it's often hard to adjust to the heat but remember to use your aircon sparingly and only when you are actually in the room. The room will cool down fast enough when you return to it. Make sure you switch all lights, fans and air-con off when you go out.
# Ladies corner
Choosing what type of sanitary protection to use when you know you'll be at the beach in a bikini is not easy, add to this the environmental and financial cost of most sanitary products and us ladies have a bit of a headache. However, fortunately, the menstrual cup has come to save all the scuba diving instructors, surfers and beach babes. It's clean, easy to use, non disposable and reusable and a one off buy so a big money saver. Make sure you get one for stress free crimson tides. Great to use on holiday but at home too. A lot less rubbish and a lot less hassle.
# Persy cups for coffee addicts
If you're a coffee addict prone to going to Starbucks and the like when on the go why not pop a small metal cup in your bag. It can also double up as a fresh juice container, avoiding those disposable and single use plastic cups. You may just spare the local environment a cup or three a day depending on your addiction level, the local landfill will thank you for it.
# Join a clean up
If you are shocked by the rubbish lying around in the place you are visiting , rather than complain to everyone about it, get involved and be part of the solution. A lot of countries have regular clean-ups in many areas. It's a great way to meet like minded people, do you bit to alleviate your personal footprint and go home feeling good about yourself. Trash Hero are present in many parts of Indonesia as are other independent groups. Have a look on Facebook or ask savvy looking locals to point you in the right direction. You may end up not only with a clean beach but a few new friends.
# Dare to ask, lead by example, don't preach
Dare to ask for a wrapper free option, bring your own container if you need to get take-aways for long journeys or pick-nicks. Ask for no wrapping or at least cardboard/ grease paper options when offered plastic or Styrofoam. Dare to ask for less polluting option and explain sweetly that you think the country is beautiful and you would hate to see rubbish lying around by your own fault. Always say it with a smile and never preach. Lead by example. The people who laughed at you cleaning the beach in front of your bungalow will probably join you the next day, when they see how nice it looks clean. Never condemn or judge, just do your thing and lead by example with a very big smile.