By Sarah Pervez
Last month Time Magazine named Greta Thunberg “Time Person of the Year for 2019”. She has inspired a global movement to fight climate change which looks to be the biggest challenge of the next decade. As news comes in of temperatures soaring and fluctuating everywhere, ice caps melting, massive deforestation, bushfires getting out of hand and burning for months, water getting scarce and basic doom & gloom scenarios playing in our heads, the governments and organizations are simply not jumping to action quickly enough.
Hence it makes sense to take actions on an individual basis, to ensure we are doing our part in reducing our carbon footprint.
Last year Shehzeen Rehman aka The Desi Wonder Woman started her campaign of #DWWBYEBYEPLASTIC on her blog and Instagram page. She presented one challenge every month to ease into healthy green habits for the planet and it was heart-warming to see so many people joining in. She has inspired countless people into switching to cloth/reusable bags for grocery, bamboo toothbrushes, reusable travel mugs for their coffees amongst many others. They say to build a good habit you need 30 days and Shehzeen has helped people into easing into the process with her eco warrior campaign. It seems difficult at first, but once you build a daily habit, it becomes second nature to you.
But what happens when you travel and are away from the comfort of your home? A UN report claimed that 1.323 million people travelled in the year 2017 alone. And the numbers are only going to rise. They are predicting 1.8 billion tourists by 2030. With the advent of budget airlines, flux of travel information via websites like TripAdvisor, accommodations to suit every budget under the sun with the help of Booking.com and the fact that millennials prioritise travel more than any other generation, it makes sense that the tourism industry is only going to grow more and more. But that can also spell disaster for the planet. 1.8 billion tourists using an average of 2 single use plastic straws per day on their weekly holiday. Please do the math. It is in human nature to prefer convenience vs consciousness and it’s very easy to give a holiday to your good habits when you’re on holiday as well. We’ve all been there and done that.
So, what’s the solution? We can’t not travel. That is not even up for consideration. What we can do is travel responsibly and sustainably to ensure the beauty of our planet is safe for future generations to enjoy. For the local economy to bloom. A chance for our favourite destinations to breathe and thrive. And not turn into the post-apocalyptic landscape touted in Hollywood movies; which to be honest, looking at recent climate disasters seems like a very real and scary possibility.
We have rounded up some of the simplest and easiest steps that you can take to become an eco-conscious traveller. Whether it’s a day trip or you’re traveling for a week, a month or even a year, we have you covered. Best part is almost all products that we recommend are available in Pakistan! Check out Codegreenpk, Ecopakonline (available on daraz.pk) and Trashit on Instagram.
- Fly economy class and pack light:
Even though flights have the biggest CO2 emissions, sometimes taking a flight is unavoidable. You can help by flying economy class as it has a lower carbon footprint than business class apart from being light on our pockets too. For the packing part, I admit this one is a bit difficult to do. We all want those perfect insta worthy shots where our clothes match the backgrounds. Instead you can let the beauty of the place itself shine through. Plan a capsule wardrobe when packing and pack light. Packing light helps airplanes to use less fuel which in turn emits less CO2.
- Book eco-friendly accommodation:
Internationally there are lots of options popping up. They’re producing their own electricity with the help of solar panels, using leftover food as compost for their grounds, growing their own fruit & veg, providing water and toiletries in glass bottles and generally trying to reduce, recycle and reuse.
But if you can’t find one within your budget there are still some things you can do to help. Switch off all electricity and AC when stepping out, ask for a linen and towel change once a week like you’d do at home, be mindful of water usage and carry a bag for your litter and you’ll already have done so much for the environment. You can also help by booking a local hotel, home stay, guesthouse or Airbnb instead of a large chain hotel as those tend to produce more waste. According to a study by Cleantech group, Airbnb homes consume less energy than traditional accommodation per guest night by 63 percent and produce lower greenhouse gas emissions by 61 percent.
- Coffee to go please!
We all need our daily caffeine fix. In an ideal world I would love to stop to sit at a café in between all that sightseeing, sipping a delicious latte while I people watch. Reality is, I have kids, a busy itinerary and not enough days so we always end up ordering one “to go”. However, all places are happy to serve your hot beverage or juice in your own travel mug when you ask. In fact, some cafes actually offer a discount if you bring your own mug. Bonus!
- Water bottles to quench our thirst:
Always check the water supply situation at your destination before you travel. Most developed countries have drinkable tap water and water fountains available for the public in tourist areas so a personal water bottle would help you in every way.
Unfortunately, clean drinking water is generally an issue around Pakistan and Asian countries and bottled water becomes unavoidable. For that we suggest that every member of your traveling party carry their own water bottles which you can fill up by buying large water bottles instead of countless small ones. You can also refill the bottles from your hotel’s water dispenser if available. Healthy on your wallet too!
- A toothbrush to save the world:
Carrying your own bamboo toothbrush really does not take up much space and you will be doing such a huge favour to the environment. Codegreen has them in adult and kid sizes alike which are biodegradable.
You can call ahead and ask your hotel to remove dental kits from your room in advance because even if you don’t use them, chances are they might still throw them out and these will live on the planet and on your conscious… Forever!
- A shower that does not dirty up the planet:
Hotel toiletries in mini plastics are the bane of planet Earth’s life. We can help eliminate their need by using soaps, shampoo and conditioner bars. There are countless options in the market now that are all natural, smell nice, are kind to your hair and last long. Avoid products containing microbeads as those clog up the oceans and have a damaging effect on marine life, the environment and human health.
- Metal straws:
This one is a no brainer. It takes 5 seconds to produce a plastic straw and 500 years for it to break up. Yikes! The consequences for our planet are disastrous. It is also important to remind servers that you don’t want a straw before ordering so they don’t bring one for you. If you have a language barrier, simply use Google translate to tell them “No straws” or write it down in the local language and show them.
- Reusable bamboo cutlery, containers, food wraps and carry bags:
Bamboo cutlery is very handy and eco-friendly. These come in a handy pouch to put in your backpack or handbag. Takeaways are also unavoidable sometimes when you’re traveling with kids. Simply carry a Tupperware container in your backpack and say no to nasty plastic/styrofoam containers and cutlery. Clingwraps made of beeswax are also quite useful and eco-friendly at wrapping leftover sandwiches etc if you don’t have a container.
For all your shopping needs we suggest carrying 1-2 cloth bags. There are so many available in funky designs made from recycled cloth or waste products that you can pack in your backpack and refuse plastic bags while shopping. Captain Planet would be proud.
- Wipe your mascara off without wiping off earth:
Reusable make up wipes are the best alternative to the endless round cotton balls/wet wipes we use and discard. Wet wipes specially have wreaked havoc on waterway systems worldwide. Codegreen does the reusable wipes in packs of 3. You can also use small terry cloths and simply throw them in the wash afterwards.
- Plant a tree:
As cliched as this sounds it is true. Did you know that one tree can offset one ton of CO2 in its lifetime? A tonne of CO2 equals about a month of the energy use of an average house.The choices we make at home and on road have a big impact on our planet. Travelling anywhere means we will be generating a carbon footprint. So, to offset our CO2 emissions, we can plant a tree; in our home city before we travel and at the destination once we get there. One tree can literally make quite a difference.
There you have it. 10 easy steps you can take to travel sustainably. Even though sustainable travel may seem like a contradictory term in itself; we can still be mindful of the nature around us and make conscious choices. If we slowly try and be persistent with the changes, we can easily make a lifestyle shift to a way of life and travel that takes our environment into account as much as possible. There can never be a perfect zero waste travel but the whole point of a zero-waste lifestyle shift is the effort taken, not perfection. You can also ask for sustainable practices from whichever tour operator or accommodation provider you use, they will try and accommodate and then you become part of spreading the word about it! Demand for eco consciousness, supply will follow. Every little bit helps. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
Let’s all ensure we are combating human impact on our planet by reducing consumption and reusing waste to reduce waste. Do you have any tricks or travel hacks you use to ensure minimal footprint while traveling? Write to us and share your tips.