If one of your goals is to live more sustainably and be more eco-friendly this year, that’s fantastic! Since I just moved to Hawaii, I’m looking forward to settling into my new home and enjoying all that the islands have to offer. I’m not planning on doing too much international travel this year, so I’ll be reducing my footprint significantly by just exploring Oahu and the other Hawaiian Islands.
Here are my tips for how to be a more environmentally responsible traveler.
Carefully Consider Your Destination
There are many beautiful key places in the world that are on nearly everyone’s travel bucket list. However, some of these popular destinations suffer from over-tourism. For example, Venice, Italy welcomes close to 25 million visitors each year, and that number is steadily rising. The infrastructure and environment in the city has become overcrowded and damaged.
I’ll tell you a little secret. You can often have an even better travel experience by going to a less popular destination, and you certainly won’t be making any compromises. Smaller or lesser known places can give you an authentic local experience, fewer crowds, lower prices, and unpredictable experiences you’ll remember forever. Since some of the most popular tourist destinations rely on travelers for their economy, many of them are taking measures to protect the environment and their local culture from over-tourism. There are tons of great options for sustainable places to travel this year.
Even after a lifetime of living in the state, I didn’t even realize how many places in California I still hadn’t explored until I was packing to move away. You don’t have to fly halfway around the world to have an incredible or luxurious experience. Plan a girls’ weekend, a camping trip, or explore art and cultural activities within your city or country.
Rather than opting to fly to many different places on your trip, choosing to “slow travel” will help reduce your carbon footprint. Slow travel involves spending more time in fewer places during a trip. It can also mean taking the train or another form of transport, going on bicycle tours, or even walking from place to place.
You never really know what you’re missing until you slow down and take the time to appreciate everything around you.
Not littering may seem like an obvious way to be a sustainable traveler, but it can be easy to leave food wrappers, brochures, and other trash laying around as you move from place to place. Bringing a backpack for day trips can help you stash your trash when there are no recycling bins around. You can also pack a fabric grocery bag or zip lock bag to collect your trash in.
Take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footprints.
Keep Your Writing in Your Journal
Speaking of leaving nothing but footprints, do not carve your name into picnic tables, etch your name on cave walls, or doodle your name anywhere else. You may be vandalizing a historic or cultural site, and imagine what those beautiful areas would look like if everyone wrote their names all over them!
End the Love Lock Trend
You should also avoid participating in the practice of “love locks,” which involves attaching a lock to a bridge and throwing the key into the water. First, tossing keys into the water is littering, causes rust pollution in waterways, and clogs drainage pipes. And second, leaving these locks on bridges often compromises the structural integrity and aesthetic of the bridge. As a global travel trend, leaving these love locks on bridges is damaging to both natural and man-made environments.
Protect Natural Sites
If you’re visiting natural areas or protected parks, be sure to stick to designated paths and trails, especially in dense traffic areas. Veering off the designated trails can put too much strain on the environment and disrupt the animals and plants that live there.
Avoid Illegal Trade
You can also help protect local environments by refusing to participate in illegal trade. Items that are a part of the unlawful trade market may be as inconspicuous as coral earrings, or as trendy as cocaine. Since coral is often a protected organism, it is illegal in many places. Buying illegal wildlife products only continues to support the illicit harvesting of threatened and endangered organisms. Do some research before you go if you’re hoping to shop for gifts and other items, and only purchase legal goods
BYO (Bring Your Own)
Nobody wants to overpack, especially if you are backpacking and lugging around all of your belongings with you. However, packing your reusable water bottle, cup, straw, and bags will save you from procuring and throwing away single-use plastic from vendors. And depending on where you’re traveling, some places don’t recycle at all, or recycling bins can be hard to find.
Say no to plastic!
Sustainable Hotel Stays
If you are planning on staying at a hotel during your travels, you can still be a responsible tourist. Turning off your air conditioner or heater while you’re gone will save energy. Asking staff not to change your sheets and towels every day will save water and energy by reducing laundry loads.