7 Ways to Make Adventure More Sustainable
Travel is important. It teaches us self-development skills that no text book or classroom could ever do. It gives us access to cultures, values and traditions that would otherwise be unknown and it allows us to understand, in detail, the ecological, environmental and humanitarian issues that affect our planet so we can share experiences and, ultimately, learn from them.
My first taste of travelling came in 2012 when, at 25, I had saved up enough money to take 9 months of work and explore. I travelled overland through Africa - from Nairobi to Cape Town - on a truck passing desert and savannahs and seeing wildlife I had never heard of, let alone encountered before. After crossing the Pacific to Fiji, New Zealand and Australia where I spent two months hiking, snorkelling and seeing family I carried on to Malaysia where, again, I travelled by land right to Beijing, in northern China, where I took the Tran-Siberian Railway through Mongolia and Russia for the final leg of my great adventure.
Back then, I was blissfully ignorant of my own footprint as I travelled - even though so much of it was done overland I was still consuming mindlessly and removed from any real connection to nature.
Fast forward to now and I still maintain that travel is important but sustainability needs to be at its core. Travel does, and will always have, an environmental footprint and whilst it can be difficult to avoid it entirely, there are ways we can act to consciously reduce the weight of our step - here are some ideas to try next time you book a trip:
Choose your destination wisely
As you start thinking about places to explore try and avoid temptation from Instagram and social media based on the most appealing scenic shots and, instead, research countries that are really pushing the boundaries of sustainability when it comes to tourism. Find a destination that values sustainability and you’re already one step ahead.
Want some inspiration?
Costa Rica: This tiny country is home to 5% of the world’s biodiversity and locals live by the ‘pure vida’ philosophy that focuses on valuing time practising being grateful. Visiting here has countless benefits - wildlife, waterfalls and beautiful coastline, but should come with deep sense responsibility too.
Bhutan: This small and mountainous country nestled in the Himalayas isn’t just carbon neutral - it’s carbon negative. And what’s more it’s aiming for zero-waste by 2030 and to grow 100 percent organic food by 2020. This ambitious and progressive approach to sustainability sets both a benchmark and a blueprint for the world to watch.
Consider how you’ll get there
Now you’ve thought more about where to go, think about how you’ll travel to reach it. There will be an environmental impact for every journey. For long haul, it’s unlikely you’ll have time to choose any option but fly - especially if you’ve got limited holiday to take from work - but for short haul trips then trains, boats and even car shares are an option.
No matter which transport mode you opt for, there are ways you can offset your carbon emissions <link to blog>.
Pick locally run accommodation
Eco-conscious accommodation is an easy-win when going abroad. If there’s the option of local homestays or independently operated hotels and hostels then choose them. If there is an option to camp then this is always more adventurous and energy efficient but it also limits support into the local economy - something to consider depending on where you are visiting. If for some reason, you are restricted to hotels then try booking through sites like GoodWings.com who donate a % of the commission to NGO’s and charities of your choice – there may even be an organisation supporting iniaitives in the place you’re visiting!
It’s worth asking around to find local guides if you want a little extra support on your adventure. Learn about the local history, culture, cuisine and ‘hidden gems’ in a way that isn’t plastered over social media. This approach gives you the opportunity to invest in the local economy but also benefit from their knowledge and expertise.
Go plastic free
I travel with a reusable water bottle, coffee cup, cutlery set (make sure that goes in hold as I had my knife confiscated a while ago when it was in hand luggage!) and a stainless steel straw.. All my bathroom items are packaged plastic free - that includes shampoo, conditioner and deodrant in tins - so I am not buying any miniatures or generating more waste just because I’m going away. See <My Plastic Free Wash Bag> for some packing inspiration.
Once you arrive at your destination buy fresh and local. In most cases this means cutting back significantly on packaging (which is usually plastic), supports independents in the area you are visiting and encourages you to sample delicacies and cuisine native to where you’re visiting. Local guides are also great at recommending places to pick up ingredients or dine with the locals - which is often more tasty and cheaper!
Contribute to Plastic Patrol and other citizen science
No matter where you’re travelling there is always an opportunity to contribute to scientific research. The simplest way is through the apps that are collecting data that is easily collected by us. For example, I developed the Plastic Patrol app (available on the App Store and Google Play), for anyone to share photos of plastic they encounter anywhere in the world. So far it’s gathered more than 50,000 examples across 26 countries globally. Why is it important? Because information you collect on your travels allows us to understand the types of plastic you are finding, exactly where it’s located and, importantly, the brands that are ultimately responsible for continuing to create it. These photos are the evidence we need to push for change!
Support Plastic Patrol - and your local environment - by doing a small beach/river/street clean next time you are away. And don’t forget to log your findings - this is equally as important!
Share on social media - for the right reasons
It’s time to stop sharing cliche selfies of our holiday destinations and, instead, sharing content that offers true meaning and value. Show your audiences what you are truly experiencing and offer them some genuinely interesting history, facts, traditions and customs that will inspire people to visit not for the perfect photo, but to learn more themselves.