What is sustainable travel?
Green travel, eco travel, responsible travel, responsible volunteering, vegan travel, etc. They're all a bit different from each other, but in the end it all comes down to one thing: be a more sustainable traveler to the world.
The world is a pretty thing. From the highest mountains to the deepest seas, and from the super dry desserts to humid jungles. It has so much beauty and diversity, that it's impossible to see it all in one lifetime. But we do love to try! We travel a lot and as far as possible. The more we travel, the richer we call ourselves. And we have to do it fast, cause the world is changing! Changing? Yes, environmentally changing. Because of the excessive use of plastic, strong desire for meat and enormous carbon emissions, we are polluting our precious planet.
Why do we need sustainable travel?
For years we have been ruining the planet and we knew what we were doing! Climate change has been on the political agenda for decades. The hole in the ozon layer was already discovered in the 70s! And despite of the knowledge we had about the matter, we didn't change. Hence! We even made it worse for a while! If you want to know more about the climate change subject, I can highly recommend the documentary of National Geographic and Leonardo DiCaprio: BEFORE THE FLOOD. It opened my eyes.
So, what is sustainable travel then?
Sustainable travel simply means: a way of long-term traveling without any harm to natural and cultural environments. Sustainable travel makes it possible to maintain long-term traveling without polluting the world and ourselves.
Sustainable travel is about taking responsibility for your carbon footprint.
Sustainable travel is about lowering your use of unnatural resources.
Sustainable travel is about protecting the species that are about to become extinct.
Sustainable travel is about being eco-friendly.
And all for the long-term.
How to become a sustainable traveler
Now I hear you thinking: 'How can I travel the world without air pollution?' and 'I love meat! I will never be vegan!'. These are the big changes that people think about first. No worries, to become a sustainable traveler you can still travel further than you next door neighbor.
It's the small things in live that we can change. And if we all adapt to these little things, we together make it the bigger change.
When we travel, we travel mostly by airplane, car, train, bus or motor. We can't travel as much as we like if we completely stop using engines that need fossil fuels. What to do as sustainable traveler?
1. Flights and carbon emission
Difficult one, but not completely impossible! The hybrid airplane doesn't exist (YET!), but there are ways of reducing your carbon footprint when it comes down to flights.
First of all: fly less. You don't need to do everything by plane! There are beautiful train rides or boat trips that you really have to put on your bucketlist! I'm not saying these trains and boats are completely emission free, but it does reduce your carbon footprint.
Another way of making your long distant travel more sustainable is flying with the right airlines. For example: KLM offers you to pay a little fee for the CO2 emission that you alone make during that flight. The program CO2ZERO is a service that allows travelers to compensate their personal share of CO2 emissions by investing in CO2 reduction projects with the Gold Standard certificate, an initiative of the WWF. This is simply the easiest, most effective and cheapest way to fly CO2 neutral. I'm a huge fan! For my return flight from Amsterdam to Sydney I only paid like 11 euro, that was not even 1% of the entire ticket and I supported the reforesting in Panama!
You can read all about KLM and their way to be a sustainable airline here: www.klmtakescare.com
2. Cars, busses and motorbikes
In case you're going for a road trip or planning on a long-term stay at your destination: rent a hybrid car. And no, it's not always more expensive! Ask your car rental about the options and you'll be surprised.
Another more sustainable way of traveling on the ground is the use of the public transport. That bus or train is going in your direction anyway, so let's not drive a car over the same traject and double the CO2 emissions for you only.
You can also hitch-hike your way to your next destination, which makes you save that same drive. You see this a lot in Australia where backpackers walk besides the main roads with their thumbs up or just share a rental car with a group.
One last thing to make your road trip more sustainable: make sure you use as little fuel as possible. For example, one gallon of burned petrol makes twenty pounds of greenhouse gases.
How to save on fuel:
- Make sure your tires are fully inflated (also for your safety)
- Use an air filter, it can reduce your cars fuel efficiency by 20%
- Pack lightly
- Avoid luggage on the roof, it effects the aerodynamics of your car
- Use cruise control
- Choose the fastest route
3. Sustainable transport by Uber
Good sustainable news! Uber announced to offer only green hybrid cars on UberX by 2019 in London! Which means that another huge tech company is moving to getting the world more eco friendly. Can't wait to see this roll out in the rest of Europe too.
Sustainable accommodations during your travels
If you think this is not possible, you have to start searching now! The most beautiful and instagrammable accommodations world wide are the Eco Lodges, Green Hotels and Sustainable Airbnbs! They're (most of the time) stunning and jaw dropping good. In this case I do have to say this will cost you a few more dollars, but it's absolutely worth it!
Read my article about eco lodges at Bali to get inspired!
Did you know there is a GREEN Airbnb: ECOBNB.COM . I don't know the owner of the website, nor when it started. I just found the masterpiece and love it already. Gonna book something later this week, just as a support! You go EcoBnB!!
I mainly book through Airbnb itself, since it has the largest offer in term of eco lodges, cottages and hotels. If you've never used Airbnb yet, I got you a fine discount deal for your first booking:
Besides the beauty of the sustainable travel accommodations and how great they are to the planet, you will also feel very good staying at such locations. At eco friendly hotels you will eat mainly organic products and for example you will shower with shampoo free of parfum and other unnatural ingredients. Karma points for sure, and good for the world too, but it's also very good for your own body! Win win win!
These two eco lodges/hotels are high on my bucket list, despite of the somewhat high price per night:
what is a sustainable holiday?
So you took a eco flight with the least CO2 emissions, rented an hybrid car and found a nice green Airbnb at your final destination. Good on you! You're starting to look a lot like a serious green hippy :P But you can do even more to keep up with your sustainable travel revolution.
Besides burning gasoline, you also have to think about food, services and excursions you join during your travels.
Support local sustainable projects during your travels
Find that bio-farm with pomegranates in Italy, rent an eco-boat in Amsterdam and visit a biological and ecological tea plantage in Malaysia. These are the fun things. If you really want to open your eyes, visit a garbage dump in Vietnam, take a walk along the Ganges river in India or check out a deforestation project in Latin America.
All cases are super interesting to learn more about. The locals love to tell you all about the issue and how they are trying to recover from it. You'll help them, with money if you have to pay an entrance fee, but mainly with your eyes and ears. Soak up all the information they give you and spread the word. Your social network is the network these projects need to get more attention from people all over the globe.
During my travels I try to visit as many of these projects. The projects that involve plants and soil or plastic and other waste are the ones easy to find. The eco projects that claim to help animals I avoid. Always. I found out that it doesn't matter how many labels a 'Elephant Sanctuary' has on their door, most of the time it's entertainment for tourists. Hiding behind a WWF sticker bought from a local salesman, you might find a lot of dirt you tried to avoid your entire trip. Most of the times you don't see it. So for me animal sanctuaries are a no go, unfortunately.
Feeling lost in eco labels
There are soooo many organizations that stand for green, organic and/or ecological. Sometime I feel lost in the middle. This pictures doesn't even cover all of them! You can support a few for a better world or keep an eye out for their labels in supermarkets. Small steps, big help!
Eat organic food during your travels
Ok, not only during your travels, also when you're at home you should eat well. For your own sake. Our bodies are not meant to eat chemicals or other fabricated ingredients. Eat clean. Eat organic. It will boost your energy levels, rinse your skin and strengthen your hair. All plusses!
What is organic food?
Organic food comes from organic farms that strive to cycle natural resources, promote ecological balance, and conserve biodiversity.
If you choose to only eat clean products, you automatically support these farmers. Bio and Eco farms do not use any chemical products like industrial fertilizers. They only use natural resources and what they take from the earth, they give back. Like a never ending sustainable love story.
Depending on where you are in the world, the choice of food is different everywhere. You won't find biological cucumber on the street markets of Hanoi. And a biological cucumber from the Netherlands is probably from a greenhouse. So you need to improvise here and there.
Eat less (or no) meat
There it is. I said it.
I'm not saying you have to go vegan. Not even vegetarian. I'm neither of both. I can really enjoy steak! But I'm also well aware of the enormous CO2 emission it costs to get that slice of meat on my plate. I think this is the one element of sustainable traveling (and living) I have the most struggles with.
An environmental friendly diet contains the following elements:
- Very little to no meat at all
- Eat only organic food
- Preferably seasonal and locally produced food
CO2 emissions in g per kg food:
To produce one kilo tenderloin beef, it takes about 13.3 kg of CO2. The same quantity of CO2 is let off when you burn around six liters of gasoline! Next time you order that huge Argentinian steak, think of the above numbers. I know I do!
Sustainable travel gear
Back to the easy tips for your sustainable adventure!
Do you remember that game you played as a kid, 'What not to forget when you go on a holiday'? You and your friend sang a riddle and after the riddle you name one product you bring along. The riddle starts again and your friend needs to remember what you mentioned and add one of his travel products to the list. This game ends when someone can't name the entire list.
I remember my kindergarten teacher adjusting our game: name travel products that are not made of plastic. She ruined our game of course. We couldn't name one thing.
Think of your toothbrush, backpack, hairbrush, nail polish, shampoo bottle, sunglasses, shoes, etc... lets say EVERYTHING contains plastics. If it's not the product, it is in the packaging that comes with it!
Good news for us (and the rest of the world): all these products have great sustainable replacements! There are tooth- and hairbrushes of bamboo, heaps of cool products made from refurbished fishnets and many eco friendly brands that take care of the environment.
I made a list of good replacements!
Spread the word
As mentioned before, it's incredibly needed to educate one another about sustainability. Your parents may still use that shampoo in plastic bottles, where there is great (sometimes cheaper) equivalent for it in a refurbished bottle. Your next door neighbor might not know that the his new Gstar jeans is made of old cotton fibers, compliment him about it.
But mostly: tell your people at home about your travels. What is happening on the other side of the world. Show them the pictures and videos. Make them aware and inspire them to be a little bit more eco friendly. If they only change one thing...
A view sort video's of World Economics Forum to inspire you even more: