Planet Ark News

A Greener Getaway

Date: 19-Mar-14
Author: Sara McGregor

Remember to take your good habits with you when you travel © Jess McCallum

Remember to take your good habits with you when you travel

Aussies are among the most travelled people on the planet and exploring new cultures and environments is one of the great things about 21st century living. But holidaying can really bump up your environmental footprint. We've put together a few simple actions - from carbon offsets to laundry - that you can take to lessen your impact while you are away.

Offset Carbon Emissions
It's not expensive to offset your carbon emissions when flying. The cost will only be a tiny proportion of the cost of the flight and it's effectively taking responsibility for the environmental cost of your travel.

Clean Water
Bottled water in some countries can be essential, but it's worth researching your destination to get an idea of the water quality like before you go. In many places, filters, sterilising drops or tablets, Steri-PEN and other ultraviolet systems are safe and convenient ways to reduce the need to buy single-use plastic bottles.

If you really must buy bottled water, buy the biggest bottle possible, maybe 2L if you're moving around or 5L or 10L if you're in one place for a while. It'll be more cost effective and you'll be generating less disposable plastic.

Public recycling systems are on the rise in many countries, but can unfortunately still more the exception than the rule. On the plus side in many developing countries collecting cans, glass and plastic bottles can be a source of income for some. It's worth asking at restaurants or accommodation whether they have a recycling system or keep an eye out for whether items are being collected form the streets. Asking also helps spread the message that recycling is it is something that tourists want to do.

Many guesthouses and hotels are aware of the environmental (and financial) impact of washing sheets and towels after a single night. This practice uses excess water, power, and often requires transport to a central laundry. Some places have instructions to show cleaners that you are OK to use the same sheets and towels for multiple nights (which is exactly what you do at home).

Responsible Souvenirs
Souvenirs made from ivory, shells, rare plants or wood, provide an economic stimulus for locals to damage the local environment. In many countries there are initiatives set up to help vulnerable communities make and sell hand-made toys, clothing and other craft items responsibly. These programs help provide that community with an income, and provide you with a great way of helping by buying a unique, handmade gift with a great story to accompany it.

One of the great things about travel is trying new things, especially food! While it can be tempting to eat from-well known fast food outlets or pick up branded snacks like chips and biscuits, local food can be delicious, cheap and fresh, and comes without the transport emissions attached. We all want to stay healthy, so a good indicator is to watch where the locals eat, see if the place has a good turnover and check if they cook their dishes right there on the spot. It probably goes without saying - know what you're eating so you can be sure it's not an endangered animal or plant.

These are just some of the ways you can help the environment on your next holiday. If you have a great eco-friendly travel tip you'd like to share, add it to our Facebook page or email us!

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