As news of wildfires ignite our hearts and webpages, the idea of living sustainably is more important than ever.
Sadly, the travel industry is one of the worst culprits of environmental crimes. From the plethora of single-use plastics to the outsized carbon footprint of airplanes, the sector is not well-positioned to be sustainable or green.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. With activists like Greta Thunberg forgoing planes for racing yachts and international airports like Dubai banning single-use plastics in 2020, we can all try to do our small part to travel green in 2020.
I connected with travel experts, influencers and sustainability leaders for ways we can all try green travel in 2020.
1. Travel by train or car only.
Travel influencers are making rapid and international travel seem extremely appealing these days and flights are very affordable for most. Airline companies are playing the low price game and tempting us with irresistible offers. This doesn’t just harm the environment as more people are flying than ever in history but there are also repercussions for your own vacation through engaging in international travel.
What you’re not considering when booking these flights to a foreign country is firstly the financial cost of being there. Iceland is a great example of this – often you can find a great deal on flights but being in Iceland is far from affordable. Furthermore, you’re adding an element of being disoriented as you’re learning about the culture, learning about the environment and you might be trying to adjust to the language change and more. As a result, you might be high strung the whole time or you become confused by everything and hide away in your hotel. Not such a fun vacation.
By exploring your own country or re-visiting a neighboring country by train or car, you’re learning to travel deeper instead of skimming the surface. As you’re used to the language, the culture, the countries operations – you can travel slower, unwind very quickly and become truly present in the experience.
You’re enjoying your vacation more, building deeper memories and saving the world at the same time.
Rayan Assaf founded Balastic, an initiative that aims to save our world’s oceans from plastic. For their first project, they plan on building a sailboat out of plastic bottles removed from the beach and sail down the coast of Lebanon collecting plastic waste.
2. Create your own clean up…wherever you go.
Whenever you go to the beach (or any other natural place), pick up some of the trash. You can do this where you live or when you’re traveling. In the Mediterranean, we have the highest proportion of micro-plastics in the sea inn the world, but every little bit helps.
Beach cleaning can also be a good way to make friends while you’re traveling. Search for clean ups around you and not only will you be helping the environment but you can meet locals.
A Detroit-born, Ugandan-American, Jessica Nabongo is a cultural ambassador, travel writer, photographer and entrepreneur. She is the first documented black woman to visit every country in the world. In March 2019, she was named one of the 30 most powerful women in travel by Conde Nast Traveler.
She is also the founder and CEO of Jet Black, a boutique luxury travel firm that promotes tourism to countries in Africa, the Caribbean, and Central and South America; as well as The Catch, a luxury lifestyle brand featuring goods acquired during her global adventures.
3. Visit local markets.
One of my favorite things to do when traveling is to visit markets because this is often the heart of local life. You get to hear the local language, see people greeting old friends and buying food for the day. I love the hustle and bustle of it all and it’s also a great way to make your trip more sustainable.
Most markets offer local dishes and local goods that don’t have to be transported to reach customers, so it helps reduce your carbon footprint. Moreover, by shopping at markets you support the local economy, including farmers and artisans.
4. Become an educated consumer.
My best tip for becoming a more sustainable traveler is to begin by putting your money where your mouth is. Start asking questions from the companies that you’re choosing to spend your travel dollars on, from tour operators, hotel chains, airlines and activities. Do a bit of research and see if they have an ethics or responsibility page. Are they a certified B Corp or offset their carbon costs? Do they support local communities or sponsor key charities? If it’s not clear, shoot them an email and ask.
Crystal Dominguez is a flight attendant and the blogger behind Crystal in the World. A travel influencer on Instagram, she recently launched an inclusive clothing company, Girls Wear the Pants with co-founder Patricia Serrano.
5. Skip the one-use plastics on the plane.
As a flight attendant, it torments me and breaks my heart to see how much plastic is used and wasted on the plane. Please just skip the plastic! I love having a tin water bottle with me while traveling. I also tend to save money and drink more water while traveling with my own tin water bottle.
If I forget mine, I’ll opt to purchase one of the tin ones at the airport and reuse it for the duration of the trip. If you are going to take a plastic cup on the plane, hold onto it instead of throwing it away in that first trash run if you plan to have a refill or second drink. If everyone takes even the smallest steps, we can start to make a difference!
6. Support our outdoor spaces.
One of the best ways to be a steward of our planet is to visit, cherish and contribute to our National Parks and other outdoor spaces. Consider camping on your next adventure and donate the money you could have spent on lodging. You can also volunteer on your next trip to a National Park, and opportunities range from one day projects to longer term service. WWOOFing is also a great option for someone who is wants to live and learn on an organic farm as they travel the world. It’s our love and appreciation of these spaces that creates future generations of outdoor enthusiasts and environmentally conscious travelers. Celebrating them is an environmentally light step in the right direction.
Born and raised in Egypt, Yara Yehia started a travel blog which resonated with Egyptians and Arabs around the world since it was published in Arabic. The blog gathered travelers and explorers in one place and has become a travel community of 200K+. She then launched TRIPDIZER, a travel website tailoring packages for travelers around the world based on their interests, budget and purpose of travel.
7. Stay and buy local.
Stay in local guesthouses rather than big resorts and hotels it’s budget and environmentally friendly. Also, when you’re shopping, buy food from the local markets not the big fancy super markets