I truly planned on having this article out earlier this week, but my hotel totally lied about the internet access, my phone would only connect to the internet when I walked across the street, and studying abroad in the midst of chaos is not conducive to writing blog posts. So I apologize for my late eco-friendly traveling post, but now that I’ve returned we can talk shop!
I suppose that eco-friendly traveling sounds impossible, but I can assure you that it’s doable and easy if you plan ahead and cover your bases. The beauty of doing your research is that you can travel with quality and versatile products that won’t wear out or make your life a living hell. I have experienced that hell and you don’t want to go there.
I’ve read articles written by young women my age who are supporters of buying as you go and relying on international chains such as H&M and Forever 21. I do not support this idea, for multiple reasons. Firstly, large scale chains that are classified as ‘throwaway fashion’ or ‘fast fashion’ aren’t on my buddy list because they lack ethical direction, which most of you probably know. Read our article on the factory collapse in Bangladesh and H&M’s Conscious Collection for more info on that subject.
Besides the moral and ethical issues, it’s terrible for the environment and you spend extra money on clothes that you could spend on skydiving, riding the London Eye, or running away with a cute Spanish boy that you definitely background checked because you’re a safe traveler and don’t want to be sold into global trafficking rings.
So plan ahead, because it’s very difficult to stay organized and travel with the environment in mind if you don’t. Eco-friendly travel doesn’t have to be expensive, but it does have to be smart. So without further ado, I present to you my list of travel tips and products that will hopefully be as useful to you as they are to me.
- Bring a reusable water bottle. It’s great for your pocketbook, great for the environment, and great for you. Plastic water bottles can be astronomically expensive and some still have a BPA problem, so if you haven’t converted to reusable bottles yet, the time is now. There are plenty of brands that fold flat, like Aquaskin, Platypus, and Vapor (among many others) so you save space as well!
- Dr. Bronner’s Castile Soap will be your best friend. When they say 18-in-1, they mean it. Not only is it a body wash, shampoo, and face wash, you can also use it for laundry detergent, fruit and veggie wash, and aromatherapy. People have found a myriad of other uses, so hop on Google and go crazy, because there’s not enough room for me to list everything! If you want to rely on it heavily, get the unscented formula.
- Wear versatile and quality clothes rather than throwaway fashion. If you pick your clothes carefully, they will hold up over time and you can mix and match extensively. Once my summer is over, I’ll post about the pieces I brought with me and what worked well. If you’re in need of something that tore or got lost, go to charity/thrift shops. They help organizations and are better for the environment than brand new clothes!
- Buy a 2-in-1 voltage/plug adaptor to save on plastic and space. The one I brought decided to break, which was a bummer, so I had to buy a cheap one to get me through my time in the UK. I had a feeling that I should have a backup plan, so I brought a Belkin surge protector with me. It has three outlets and two USB plugs, so it’s bigger than I’d normally take but definitely worth it.
- Bring a reusable bag with you for souvenirs and grocery shopping. In Europe, many places charge you extra for plastic bags now, so make sure you bring one along to save some money.
- Even if you aren’t vegan or vegetarian, I encourage you to try some restaurants on your travels that are. Meat is a huge contributor to global warming and vegetarian food is different in other countries. What you hate at home could be delicious at your destination, so expand your horizons and try some new food! And most airlines now offer vegan/vegetarian meal options. Make sure you call to confirm a few days before your flight, otherwise you’ll be stuck eating pretzels and that’s no fun.
- Recycle! You probably do it at home and it may not be possible where you’re going, but do whatever you can. The hostel I’m currently staying in actually has multiple recycling bins labeled with acceptable contents. There’s usually a lot of leftover bags and paper when you’re packing up, so recycle everything you can!
- Traveling includes a lot of receipts and brochures, which means more falling trees. Technology has come a long way, so consider getting an app tailored to your area and interests rather than a guide book, or ask your hotel/hostel in advance if they have any to use. Brochures are easy to take when they’re appealing to the eye or shoved under your nose, but only take them if you really need to. Keep your itinerary on your phone or Dropbox and you won’t have to carry around so much paper.
- Consider staying at chains that are environmentally minded. Hostels are usually aware of efficiency and many have their showers set at 30 second intervals and/or have sustainability sections on their websites. If you want a luxury hotel, many are now adopting energy and water saving options, too. A quick Google search will reveal a slew of them and you’re likely to have trouble picking one because they’re pretty darn cool.
- Use public transportation as much as humanly possible when you aren’t walking. That’s why it’s there! Depending on where you are, the public transportation may be less than adequate, but that’s why research is so important. The tube system in London is crazy easy to navigate as a tourist or a Londoner. But New York subways are a knotted and confusing mess. Each situation is unique, depending on need for alternative transportation, but avoid taking taxis if you can. Buses and trains allow you to experience the city as the locals do and many city systems are in the process of going green!
There you have it! I’ll be back next week with a post about safety measures while traveling, which are especially important when you’re traveling on your own. Cheers!