Travel, especially worldwide travel, is an amazing way to widen your perspective on life. However, travel can make it hard to remain as environmentally conscious as you usually are at home. That doesn’t have to mean you give up entirely, though. There are a lot of things you can do while traveling that are excellent ways to reduce your environmental impact. Some of them, like walking or biking instead of driving or flying, are pretty simple. Others, you might not have considered before.
Plan smart before you go
Think ahead when making travel arrangements. Many places, especially those in the tropics, are constantly being exposed to environmental damage from a multitude of companies. Those same areas often have small companies that are working hard to try and protect the environment. Booking a tour or arranging to stay with a company invested in protection and conservation guarantees your money helps the area instead of hurts it.
Packing light is also key to smart traveling. If you pack smart, you can usually fit everything into a backpack. This allows you to travel much more easily — by foot, bike, or vehicle — than if you need to bring along a few suitcases. Even for a longer stay, which is also better for the local environment, you can just wash the clothes you have with biodegradable detergent.
Stay green while you’re there
Although staying somewhere that supports the local environment is important, it becomes vital when traveling to certain areas. Places like the Galapagos Islands are rife with illegal tours and accommodations. Checking out the qualifications of the place you stay is vital.
Once you actually get there, it’s also a good idea to consider overall conservation. It may be tempting to run a bath or take an extra-long shower on vacation, but water is still a limited resource. Conserve what you can. Bringing a water filter can be extremely helpful in avoiding buying bottled water, along with a refillable container. You can also choose activities that have a lesser impact or are environmentally friendly, like golf courses that recycle water or restaurants that use local farmers’ produce.
Leave nothing but footprints while exploring
When you travel, the goal is to explore. Get out and see the area! Of course, in many places, the most popular destinations will be swamped with other tourists. Although these spots are often worth the trip, try to schedule parts of your trip that have nothing to do with them.
Wherever you go, don’t take home plants and don’t feed animals. Oversees, many plants won’t make it through customs, and animals may not be able to digest human food — especially animals you aren’t used to interacting with. Monkeys are especially well-known for snatching food, so try to keep it out of sight.
Taking pictures and purchasing souvenirs are usually fine, but watch out for products that come from endangered species. Products like ivory, claws, and teeth are still a large part of traditional medicine and are often sold as legal, but they aren’t. Also, watch for people offering for you to hold an endangered species for a picture. These animals, unless the photos are being done by a properly certified professional, have often been captured illegally.
Embrace the local life
Learning about the culture, and possibly making some friends, is one of the best and most difficult things to achieve on vacation. The best way to make a positive impression is to try and speak the local language. Places that are known for tourists often have signs in English and don’t expect people to know the language, so this is an easy way to set yourself apart, even if you can’t speak it well.
You can also limit your impact on the environment by trying to shop at local markets. This may require some new skills, like bartering for prices, but it’s a great way to interact with locals and learn about the culture. You’ll also start to feel more comfortable with daily situations like public transportation, instead of limiting yourself to driving or walking. Plus, learning the language and practicing your negotiation skills look great on any resume.
Regardless of where or when you’re traveling, the planet still needs to be cared for. Take the steps you can to continue doing so, and eventually, everyone can make a difference.
This article was written by Megan Ray Nichols. If you enjoyed this article, please visit her website Schooled by Science.