“Re-using Towels and Save the Earth”?

I think it’s fair to say i’m not the only traveller to get annoyed by these little signs placed in hotel bathrooms.  We diligently hang our towels up again, as directed by the little “let’s save the planet” sign only to return later in the day to find they’ve been taken for washing and replaced with fresh ones.

Whilst recognition of the need for the travel industry to become more sustainable overall has started gaining traction is recent years, there still seems to be a stunning lack of clarity around what that actually means, let alone what we can actually do about it.

So with that in mind, here are ten easy tips we can look to incorporate when planning our travel to try and ensure that our impact is as positive as possible.

How to get there & around.

Let’s start with the big one.

Carbon Emissions from transportation make up 80% of the emissions generated by the whole travel & tourism industry, with  – no surprise – flights being the worst offender.  There are alternatives to planes.  Is it possible to do your trip by train? By boat (without taking weeks)? If a long flight is needed consider offsetting your carbon emissions (many airlines offer programs) and also do your research into fuel efficiency when weighing up carriers.  Once you’ve reached the country you’re travelling to can you use trains and public transport as opposed to private taxis to increase fuel efficiency?

Pack Light.

Less weight, less fuel consumption by planes. Less stuff.  Less lugging heavy bags around makes for a happier trip!  A few kilos less in our bags is unlikely to cost us much enjoyment of our trip, but every passenger on a Boeing 747 took 2 kilos less, that’s 700 kilos-worth of fuel saved on one flight.

Dress in a Culturally Sensitive Way.

Speaking of packing.  It always pays to research on what is (or isn’t) appropriate to wear on your travels – to suit the weather and culture of your destination, particularly for female travellers.  In more conservative parts of the world – particularly outside big cities –  it is respectful to cover shoulders and knees.  If in doubt, we can always look at how locals are dressed and try to blend in where possible.

People appreciate the sensitivity and respect for their culture and it results in much less hassle or unwanted attention. Let’s take a second to think about the message that our clothes might be sending to others.

Get a Reusable Water Bottle.

I bought an aluminium water bottle for my current trip, and 2 months later (despite managing to leave it in various places) it is still with me and doing me proud.  I’ve been positively surprised by how many guesthouses and restaurants are happy to refill it for free from their large drinking water stocks or their built in filtration systems.  The result? Money saved with free safe drinking water, and fewer plastic bottles used.

Although estimations of the amount of water needed to make a bottle of water vary, one thing we can be sure of: It takes more than a liter of water to make a 1 liter bottle of water.

In 2 months, i can count on 2 hands the number of times i’ve had to buy bottled water.  If everyone started doing this on their travels, just imagine the impact we could have on reducing consumption of plastic bottled water.

No. More. Plastic.

I used to always put lots of plastic bags in my backpack.  For toiletries, for dirty laundry, for all sorts of things.  But when you start to see the piles and piles of plastic waste in some parts of the world (particularly here in Asia) the reality starts to set in.

Plastic can never be destroyed.

Travel companies are getting wise to this; Intrepid Travel for instance provide their travellers with reusable, cotton shopping bags.  What can seem like the impossible (giving up plastic) can start with small steps, like thinking before we take those plastic bags.

These are mostly small things that we can all take into consideration whilst travelling.  They are small changes, but collectively, if we all do them, they would make a load of difference.  After all:

too small to make a difference