Can you be eco friendly while travelling?

As cliché and as boring as it sounds, travelling has really made me realise just how important the world is and how important it is to look after it. I think my realisation really hit home when we were at the Archelon project, volunteering to protect the nesting loggerhead turtles and their offspring in Greece. The camp we were staying on at the time did a lot to be eco-friendly, but it also had a showing of the documentary Racing Extinction. I would say it's the most eye opening thing I've ever seen and will definitely show it to the eco club at school when I return.

The documentary shows the effect humans are having on the world, particularly the biological world, in an artistic but easy to digest way. It was staggering and I caught myself crying and thinking 'What on earth are we doing, destroying this beautiful planet?'. Then we moved to South East Asia and as we travelled through landscapes that I expected to be beautiful, I was struck by just how polluted and damaged they were.

I wanted more information on the extent of the damage we'd done, I wanted proof and I wanted theories on how we could help. So I did more research in the form of listening to science podcasts (mainly BBC Inside Science), I trawled Google, Pinterest and Instagram for sustainable living ideas and I began to make a list of things I not just want to do but need to do in order to help the planet that we live on.

I may sound like a hippie eco warrior right now, but I honestly don't care what I sound like. I need to make a difference (no matter how small) and I need to inspire the future generations I teach to continue to make a difference.

So I'll start off with the facts and predictions that scared the hell out of me and made me realise we all need to step up and take responsibility for this mess:
- Half of all species will be gone in 100 years [Prediction from Racing Extinction]

  • By 2050 there'll be more plastic in the ocean than fish [Prediction based upon weight from the World Economic Forum]

  • The rise in average temperatures that humans were exposed to is three times more than the rise of average global temperatures, meaning that 175 million more people have been exposed to heatwaves in 2015 than previously [Facts from Peter Cox]

  • The total biomass of flying insects has decreased by 75% in the past 25 years (that's my lifetime!) [Study in Germany by Hallmann et al.]

Now I know travelling around the world is by far eco-friendly, but we're doing everything we can to minimise the impact that we're having:

  • Unfortunately drinking water only comes in the form of plastic bottles in South East Asia. So we buy big 2L bottles to share rather than 2 smaller ones. We will also refill the big bottles from water fountains if we can. We'll also try to find a plastics bin to dispose of them in. (We did have a reusable drinking bottle with a built in water filter, but we could never clean it well enough and it didn't hold much water so we had to get rid of it.)

  • If the language barrier allows, we'll turn down the plastic straws and bags. For some reason most of South East Asia seems to think that every drink needs to be served with plastic straws, especially shops in Thailand! At shops we always shake our hands and heads and say no straws however that doesn't always translate. In restaurants if the waiter speaks English then we'll ask for no straws.

  • We always opt for public transport over private taxis, if renting a bicycle is a safe option then even better! (Obviously if it's 2am and we need to travel across a city then we'll just get a taxi.)

  • Josh had the idea to use a metal Lush tin to store any remnants of bars of soap from hotels so that we could take them onto our next place. It's a small thing to do but means we're not leaving the soap behind to be thrown away by the cleaners.

  • Refusing room cleans in hotels, we never clean our room every day at home so we really don't need those chemicals to be used now.

  • Going vegetarian. Well I say vegetarian… Some places we've visited just don't have vegetarian options and I've had to suck it up and eat meat. And sometimes I just simply haven't wanted the same boring vegetarian meal (South East Asia should look at my home cooking for more inspiring vegetarian meals!) so I've chosen to eat meat. I've massively reduced my meat intake though and that's the main thing.

  • Choosing businesses that have a sustainable ethos. Usually in the touristy areas you'll find a restaurant or cafe that advertises their eco business practice – normally including but not limited to the use of bamboo straws, using local produce, reducing the use of plastic containers for take away meals.

  • Buying quality products rather than cheap tat from the markets which will just end up in landfills. And in essence of that if our clothes start to fall apart after daily use and constant washing then I'm using a travel sewing kit to sew up the holes until we can find a similar product.

I honestly don't think it's possible to be eco friendly while travelling around the world, but I do think it's possible to reduce the impact that you're having. It's also possible to use the opportunity to learn more about the world and how/why we should save it.

I know that our lifestyle this year is far from perfect, but compared to other travellers we see we're still doing pretty damn well. And in our down time I'm making lists of how we're going to live more sustainably when we start living in a permanent place. It's also heart warming to see all the posts my Facebook friends are sharing about waste and plastic back at home. I'm definitely hopeful that the world is finally moving in the right direction, but there's still a lot more that we all need to be doing.

The main post image is from Kuta beach on Bali, which was one of the worst beaches for plastic waste. Much of which was washed up from elsewhere, having found its way into the sea.


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