Written by Nancymarie B.
Do you suffer from severe wanderlust like I do? There’s nothing like jet-setting into the limitless skies (or waters) and traveling to some far-off land to embrace all that’s exotic and new to you. As life-changing as world travel is, when was the last time you stopped to consider your carbon footprint and the impression you left while trekking about? Honestly, I didn’t consider it much until I was presented with the question. Grab your passport, buckle your seatbelts, and let’s talk about how we can reduce our impact while earning our frequent flier miles.
TRAVEL WITH PURPOSE
It’s easy to get caught up in travel arrangements and not consider the effect we’re having on Mother Earth. That’s why, from this point on, we want to travel with a purpose. Before deciding where we are going and what tourist attractions we fancy, let’s ponder how that can benefit both the community we visit and the environment. Is there a local family you can stay with and help with their farming? Is there a hiking trail to a natural water source you can explore instead of hopping onto an expensive tour? How can you leave an environmental legacy as you travel? Be clear on your reasons for traveling. Do your research and decide what commitments you are willing to make to reduce your carbon footprint. Then, set sail.
Airline companies are getting onboard with the pro-environment movement by committing to using biofuels, using eco-friendly food containers, making lighter trolleys and blankets, and serving more local food options. At the top of their list of most eco-friendly airlines in the U.S. and Europe at the moment, are Virgin America and Air France. It’s best to take a little time to research the airlines you are considering and compare their environmental improvements. First-class is the goal for so many people (no judgments!) – and that extra legroom and first-rate service do sound heavenly. However, when flying coach we save money, space, and fuel. If you want to take your environmental flying up a notch, consider taking a travel buddy along for the ride—everyone gets to have a blast and a full plane is an efficient plane.
KEEP IT LOCAL
Ok, so you have your purpose. Once we have arrived at our location it is vital to keep our money, time, and efforts as local as possible. By doing this, we are investing in the sustainability of the hardworking people in those communities. Keeping it local is pretty simple. Skip the tourist gift shops and head into town to purchase meaningful souvenirs from the small shops and sidewalk vendors. Ditch the fancy meals (or at least a few) and indulge in fresh fruits, veggies, and local treats from the street carts and small markets. Call someone’s house “home” during your stay. Picture yourself eating breakfast with your host family while you practice your Spanish and share your language with them. There are several websites and apps out there that can connect you to amazing individuals and families who’d love to share a cultural exchange with you.
REDUCE, REUSE, RECYCLE
This one may come easily to most of us, but let’s do a quick review. Bring your own stuff. This is a great way to reduce trash and waste. Carry your own water bottle so you don’t have to bother buying loads of plastic or glass water bottles when you are out and about. If you’ve already bought a water bottle, continue to refill it instead of throwing it away. Also, consider carrying your own silverware, reusing plastic bags to hold your laundry, and using cloth napkins instead of paper ones.
TAKE YOUR TIME
Traveling is one thing, but traveling and leaving with memories of how you made a difference using your talents, and skills to help someone else is priceless. No matter where you travel there is a need that you can fulfill. Are you an ecofeminist? (That is totally rhetorical.) Empower women in business by providing a free workshop, learning about their craft, or purchasing their products as gifts for others. Are you a cowgirl at heart? Volunteer to help on a farm for a local family or work with a local organization to rehabilitate animals who’ve been abused or abandoned. Are you an educator? Take time to learn the local language while sharing yours. Do you enjoy breathing oxygen? Plant some trees. The options are endless!
Am I the only one thinking, “I thought reducing my carbon footprint was going to be more complicated?” Keep in mind our planet is suffering from our obsession with excess and comfort. Now is the right time to increase our awareness and desire to be environmental changemakers. As we make a conscious effort to take the first step, each one thereafter becomes easier. I’m anxious to know, what is one conscious environmentally-friendly step you plan to take on your next vacation?