With a few new habits that won’t cost you anything, you can help make any place you choose to visit a more sustainable travel destination for years to come, whether it’s a Polynesian island, an African wildlife reserve or a historic European city.
1. Ditch the water bottle
Multiply a little plastic waste by a world of travelers and you have a monumental environmental problem. Nine out of 10 plastic water bottles wind up as garbage or litter, and it can take a thousand years for just one to biodegrade. Bring your own refillable bottle and a high-tech, lightweight purifier that will filter harmful pathogens out of the local water.
2. Eat local
‘Locavorism’ is an eco-friendly foodie trend that you can follow wherever you go. Search out restaurants that feature locally raised fruits and vegetables, grass-fed meats and wild-caught seafood on their menus. If you’re cooking for yourself, try to buy groceries grown locally. Farmers markets can be big fun – the best have a kid-friendly carnival atmosphere featuring live music, food stalls, and free samples.
3. Drink local
Coffee fields in Hawaii and Kenya, tea plantations in Japan and India, maté in Brazil – if you’re not drinking as the locals do, you’re missing out. Shrink your carbon footprint by skipping the bottled and canned drinks that you’re used to drinking at home (as imports, they’re probably more expensive anyway).
4. Buy local
The best souvenirs you can buy are often handmade, one-of-a-kind items. As you browse local markets, art galleries, and artisan craft workshops, you’ll get to learn more about cultural traditions at the same time. To tote, all of your shopping finds, bring a reusable sack, preferably one made from recycled materials.
Recycling bins are easier to find than ever before – on street corners, in public parks, and at beaches – but certainly are not everywhere you want one. On long road trips, stash empty bottles, cans, paper etc in the trunk of your car until the next recycling opportunity.
Once you’ve checked in, help reduce energy consumption by turning off all lights, electronics, and air-conditioning units whenever you leave your room. Take-out food containers are another common source of waste when traveling – try to patronize places that use plates and silverware made of 100% compostable plant-based materials.
Hang-dry and reuse your towels, and display the card to request that linens not be changed daily. For drinks and food on the go, carry your own commuter coffee mug and a reusable ‘spork.’