You've probably heard a lot about the climate emergency and the 'Great Extinction' recently. Kids all over the world are striking and begging their Governments to declare a climate emergency, and actually do something about it when they have. One major thing that everyone agrees with is that we need to reduce our carbon emissions. But what does that mean for those who want to travel? Does 'Green Travel' actually have an impact? And what does Green Travel actually mean? Below are some Green Travel tips, a guide to sustainable travel, if you will.
What is green travel? "Green travel is a broad term with two main branches: It refers first and foremost to responsible travel practices that pay attention to environmental, social, and economic sustainability. It can also refer to eco-tourism, which involves responsible travel specifically to natural areas." - source
30 Green Travel Tips
Green Transport Tips
1. Avoid domestic flights
International flights are almost a given when travelling to and from Australia and New Zealand from Europe and America. But once you've arrived try to avoid taking any domestic flights. Instead travel by bus or by train.
2. Choose an eco-friendly car for road trips
There's nothing quite like a road trip, but cars are not great for the planet. Try to hire the most eco-friendly car you can (electric if possible). And only hire a car that's as big as you need. You don't need to hire a minibus if there's only 2 of you travelling with a small backpack each!
3. Find tour companies that operate sustainably
Be aware of greenwashing (where a company tries to sound green but they're actually not) and look for tour companies or activities that give something back to the local community. Tour companies that are 'green' will more often than not have a page dedicated to their sustainability on their website. Being open and transparent is important. Nomads Fraser Island Tours explain their commitment to eco-tourism, and they encourage all of their tour participants to pick up litter during their 2 or 3 day trip and to offset their carbon footprint when they return.
Energy and Water Saving Tips
4. Switch the light off when you leave a room
If you're the last to leave a room, switch the lights off. There's no need to pointlessly waste energy.
5. Switch the TV off when you're not watching it
Same as above! (don't leave it on standby)
6. Unplug your devices when they're not charging
Although most devices are a bit more energy efficient these days, if something is plugged in and switched on it can still draw energy even if your device is fully charged.
More energy saving tips.
7. Take shorter showers
For water to be of an acceptable standard it has to be treated and transported, and all of that means energy, which means carbon emissions. Taking a 5 minute shower as opposed to a 10 minute shower is much better for the planet.
8. Turn the water off when brushing your teeth
You don't need the water to be running when you're actually brushing your teeth, only when you need to rinse the brush. Stop watching that water go down the drain.
More tips on how to save water.
What to Pack
9. Shampoo Bars
Not only are shampoo bars better for the planet because they don't come in plastic packaging, they tend to be made from more natural materials as well. Not only that but they take up less room in your bag as well. Just get yourself a handy tin to carry your shampoo bar in.
10. Soap instead of shower gel
Again a soap bar takes up less room and has no plastic packaging not like your average shower gel or bodywash.
11. Bamboo toothbrush
A bamboo toothbrush does the job just as well as a plastic one and can normally be composted rather than ending up in a landfill site or in the ocean.
12. Bamboo or organic cotton towels
If you'e buying new towels to go travelling with get yourself one made from bamboo or from sustainable organic cotton. Natural materials are always better for the environment. Buying organic cotton is something to consider as the processes involved in cotton production are not great.
13. Reusable straws (or just don't use them)
It's easy to forget this one when you're having fun in a bar, but plastic straws are extremely destructive and many end up in the ocean and causing harm to the wildlife you've come to see. Always say no to a plastic straw and explain why, if you feel if you have to. If you love using straws then get yourself a set of stainless steel straws to carry around with you. (Just don't forget to take them on a night out).
14. Carry a cloth shopping bag
A cloth shopping bag takes up virtually no room in your backpack, and as an added bonus is far less noisy to use when you're packing your bag late at night in a dorm room! They can also be very cheap as well. Try to buy one made from sustainable organic cotton or hemp for extra brownie points.
15. Reef Safe Sunscreen
When you're in Australia or New Zealand then sunscreen is an essential item. Just make sure you're buying one that isn't harmful to the marine life and coral. Here's a great list of reef safe sunscreens.
Responsible Travel Tips
16. Buy Local
Always buy souvenirs or food from local people. (Choose a locally owned cafe rather than Starbucks). You're supporting the local economy and reducing the carbon footprint of any items you buy.
17. Ask permission
Never take peoples photographs without asking for permission first. It's just rude.
18. Avoid wildlife encounters
There are some wildlife encounters which are ethical and can be beneficial to the animals conservation (wild dolphin encounters with a responsible tour operator), but most companies which offer an encounter with a tiger or an elephant ride for example do not have animal welfare as a priority. By going on an elephant ride or stroking a tiger you're inadvertantly supporting the mistreatment of animals.
19. Don't get too close to wildlife
Getting too close to wildlife can cause them harm. They might attack you if they feel threatened which can ultimately mean they're put down. Dragging a dolphin out of the water to take a selfie is obviously a really stupid thing to do. Feel free to shout at people that do this. :)
20. Never feed wild animals
Just like getting too close to an animal can cause them to be euthanised so can feeding them. They get used to being fed by people and lose their natural instincts to hunt. They could attack someone else for their food meaning they'll be killed to prevent it from happening again.
21. Stay on the path
If you're going on a hike then stay on the proper paths. Straying away from the designated route can cause damage to delicate plants and if you get lost the local emergency services have to be deployed which costs the local economy money and resources.
22. Pick up litter
Always carry a bag with you so you can pick up any litter you find and dispose of it responsibly when you return.
General Green Travel Tips
23. Carry a reusable water bottle
Plenty of places will fill your water bottle for free, there's no need to buy so many plastic bottles which are often not recycled.
24. Stop buying takeaway coffees
You're travelling, sit down and enjoy your coffee rather than taking it with you. Or carry a reusable coffee cup if you feel you always have to be on the go.
25. Only buy what you need
You have to take it with you so the less you buy the easier it is to travel anyway.
26. Find locally owned tour companies
If you can find a tour company that's run and operated by the local indigenous community then support them.
27. Never stand on coral
Coral is very delicate, touching it or standing on it can cause irreparable damage.
28. Know the local customs
Make sure you're aware of any local customs so that you don't accidentally offend someone.
29. Learn some of the language
Learn to say hello, thank you, please and goodbye at the very least.
Doing some volunteer work is a great way to give back to the community and country you're visiting. Base Sydney, with Happy Travels, recently organised a beach clean up. See what the hostel you're staying at does and spend a couple of hours volunteering.
Does Green Travel mean I should stop flying?
Flying is one of the worst offenders for carbon emissions, but getting to Australia or New Zealand by other forms of transport is pretty difficult. Travelling around the world has many benefits to the individual and to local economies and I don't think it should stop, but if you do fly then there are ways you can offset your carbon footprint.
Simple ways to offset your carbon footprint
- Donate to a tree planting scheme
- Or volunteer your time to one
- Use a carbon offset calculator and pay into a carbon offset scheme
Author: Yvonne Harris writes for greenecofriend.co.uk, a website aimed at helping everyone become a little bit more eco-friendly at home, at work and when they're out and about. She also loves to travel and spent 5 years exploring Australia, New Zealand and S E Asia.