In today’s climate, the pandemic is slowly fading away, though it’s a gradual recovery and caution still lingers in the air. Even so, there has been a resurgence in travel. With the pandemic losing momentum in some countries, more people are able to return to their occupations. The increase in salary has allowed more to switch back to normal or luxury goods, such as travelling. With the doors of airports and stations opened, many are now once again able to travel or return to their home countries!
However, although travelling and tourism has its benefits, the hidden fact is that it’s actually responsible for 8% of the world’s carbon emissions as well as increasing the amount of litter found in several natural habitats. For instance, the UNEP reports that tourism has led to a 40% increase in marine litter in the Mediterranean region. If that was the percentage increase in one region, imagine the total in the whole wide world.
But fortunately, there are many sustainable yet simple solutions to this dilemma. Here are a few solutions to help you pack and go lightly! This way, you won’t feel so guilty when you go travelling - no more guilt trips.
FLY ONLY WHEN YOU GO FAR DISTANCES: When getting around, it’s impossible to avoid a carbon footprint. Almost every form of transportation will emit harmful emissions or waste fuel. Therefore, only use flights or air travel when necessary. If two states or cities can be reached via a bus ride or driving or other means, so be it. Studies show that planes use a significant amount of fuel in ascending and descending alone, so thus, it’s important to save air travel for really far distances.
THE ECO EXPRESS: Out of most bodies of transport, trains are the least harmful to our atmosphere - they emit the lowest levels of pollutants and greenhouse gases. As an additional prize, they also offer tourists a means to slow travel. With trains, tourists are able to not only travel, but also sleep, eat, read, and see the surrounding landscape all at once. Therefore, no matter whether diesel-fueled or electric, trains are probably the best method to travel around!
“BELLA, WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN LOCAL?”: Ignore the nonsensical subheading. It’s a reference to the current Twilight Renaissance. It’s meant to be a pun, even though it’s not funny… it’s a desperate attempt at a cultural reference.
All jokes aside (if that was a joke), the point I am trying to get across is that if there are more environmentally friendly methods to get around the destination, please do try to employ them. Local travel has their benefits too. Examples include:
Bike or walking tours - It’s general knowledge that cycling and walking don’t require much electricity or diesel / fuel. Motorbikes are a different case.
Sailboats - If there’s an option to sail, choose those instead of riding a power-engined boat. Also, though cruise ships are fun and efficient, avoid those if possible. They not only use the lowest quality fuel, but the most polluting.
Rent a car or carpool - Opt for a smaller car, but this really depends on someone’s financial situation. However, sharing a car would not only reduce emissions but save money as well.
Public transit - It’s greener and can help you meet more locals.
Experience + Environment - If possible, choose activities that are fun yet advantageous. For example, beach clean-ups or a visit to the local farmers’ market. However, prioritise your happiness first. Travelling green is meant to be an enjoyable solution, and not a burden.
HEALTH CARE: Remember toothpaste tubes? Those can actually be easily substituted by tooth tablets. They are not liquids, but can naturally foam to become a toothpaste. Most are zero-waste, cruelty-free and vegan. With these tablets, not only will your teeth receive healthy oral care, littering and wasting is less likely to occur again. The same applies to shampoo bottles. Shampoo often comes in big plastic bottles, and if littered, poses a great threat to our environment. Instead, use shampoo bars. Much like tablets, they foam when they come in contact with water, and not only are they able to be used for a longer time, they will leave no waste behind. Similarly, use solid deodorants or dusting powders to replace aerosol deodorants. Aerosol deodorants not only come in unnecessary plastic packaging, the compressed gases contained within are harmful as well. Whereas by using a solid replacement, deodorant is much more eco-friendly and long-lasting!
PACK PLASTIC-FREE ALTERNATIVES: In order to reduce the use of plastic and the amount of plastic waste, you can always bring a little kit of alternatives. These can include a reusable bag, a reusable bottle or your own washable cutlery (stainless steel straw, a coffee mug…) Another tip is to search local places that are more eco-friendly, such as an eco-friendly supermarket. With time, more supermarkets have learnt to adopt zero-waste dispensing systems. Another example could be airports - they have refill points at which you can refill your bottle instead of buying a plastic bottle and only using it once.
CONSIDER A CAPSULE WARDROBE: For context, a capsule wardrobe is “a limited selection of interchangeable clothing”. It’s when one packs only essential yet complimentary items that can be matched well together and packs only a certain number (for example, 30 items including shoes, accessories, shirts, etc.). Not only does a capsule wardrobe make travelling easier, it helps reduce your consumption and overall footprint. But how? Firstly, with lighter luggage, it will be easier to transport thus it reduces fuel use. Secondly, it lessens consumption as lesser clothes means lesser water used in washing. Therefore, try to lean towards simple, natural materials like cotton, linen and wool. Or clothing that can be efficiently hand-washed and air-dried. Always keep in mind that clothes used in travelling are likely to get stained or shabby, and hence often washed. As a solution, choose clothing that’s built to last.
In conclusion, even though travelling can be fun, we should be mindful of what we do, what we wear and what we bring. Of course, do it in a way that’s fun to one’s own preference. Don’t burden yourself to buy expensive, long-lasting clothes or walk many miles to your destination, but instead travel freely. It’s just good to always have a mental side-note.
Nowadays, with the current technology and unlimited choices, travelling has never been this fun and this easy, but everyone has to do what they can to preserve each place’s unblemished natural grandeur. After all, that’s what we travelled for in the first place.