It’s great to see so many travelers looking at a new year and resolving to consider the impacts of their adventures. You don’t have to identify as a moss-covered tree-hugger, dyed-in-the-organic-wool hippie or any other ridiculous label to add some sustainability to your travels.
Here are three simple yet highly impactful ways you can help make travel better, for yourself and the rest of the planet.
1 – Treat Your Own Drinking Water
This is one simple change that EVERY traveler can make, and the impact is huge!
The average traveler uses about 3 bottles of water a day on a typical 2-week trip. With over 48 million Americans traveling every year, this amounts to upwards of 3.4 million plastic water bottles being used and left as trash in countries around the world. It’s simple to carry a reusable water bottle and treat your drinking water as you go, using a SteriPEN, iodine tablets, or a filter. Think how easy it is to reduce the environmental toll your trash leaves behind in the countries you visit, while at the same time ensuring that you always have access to safe and conflict-free water. I’ve made it my personal priority to help educate as many travelers as I can about this in the coming year. (Seriously, I have – check out Travelers Against Plastic campaign that I am working on!) Join me!
2 – Keep it to a Carry-On
Reducing your luggage to just a carry-on gives you a special sort of freedom. Without having to wait at the luggage claim, worry about lost/misdirected suitcases, settle up with airlines’ hefty baggage fees, or hustle a rolling behemoth twice your size down a cobblestone street, you’ll quickly find that your mind turns away from all the hassle around your stuff and you become more present and aware of the place you are there to visit! Not only that, the reduction in weight by not checking an extra 20 lbs+ of baggage means less fuel spent to get you where you’re going. Beyond planting trees, think of the carbon we could offset if each traveler committed to keeping their luggage restricted to carry-on only. Here’s some tips I compiled for packing with just a carry-on.
3 – Eat, Sleep and Shop Locally
Imagine if a guest came to visit your home town but did all their shopping at Walmart and ate all their meals at McDonalds. Host cities and communities should be the ones who benefit for your stay, yet it doesn’t always happen that way – as popular tourist destinations grow, outside developers build high-capacity hotels and install chain stores and restaurants to capitalize on the influx of tourist money. With just a little research, it’s easy to make sure you are supporting the local economy by choosing locally-owned and operated business. Besides, you’ll have a far more culturally-rich experience and get more of a true sense of the place. Check out National Geographic’s tips for supporting local economies when traveling.
Have you set any travel resolutions this year? Please share them in the comments!