Travelling in a sustainable way – possible or illusion?
When we left Europe in 2018 to start our 11 months Latin America backpacking-trip, little did we worry about our ecological footprint. For us the trip itself was an eye-opener. Besides all the beauty we saw, we experienced first hand irresponsible tourism, towns that were basically drowning in plastic trash and unswimmable beaches. That changed us and it changed our approach to travelling.
The question that we have to ask ourselves is, can something like traveling even be done in a sustainable way? And if so, how much more expensive will that be?
That most of us cannot build a sailing boat and travel the oceans is probably clear. So if you travel intercontinental you will probably be forced to take a plane. Isn’t flying one of the worst things you can do for our planet?
Yes, it is. Calculating our carbon footprint for our flight from Europe to Latin America leads us to a shocking emission result of 5.2 tons of CO2.
Even if a flight cannot be avoided, there are still things we can do for the health of our planet. For example you can offset your emissions via various pages. While paying off your emissions you donate money for international projects that support sustainable development worldwide. That is definitely a start.
If you are already in the continent of your choice then try to travel countries slower (if time permits). First of all you will experience a country way better, the more time you stay in it, second of all you don’t always need to fly from country to country, there will often be other possibilities. Even if a bus doesn’t work on green fuels, it is less harmful using a bus than a plane. Sometimes you will even have the chance to take a boat (crossing borders in between Colombia/Brazil/Peru is doable via boat).
You are already getting it, having no carbon footprint while traveling is a mission that you will probably be failing at, but that does not mean that you cannot do anything about it. There are many ways to pollute less and to do better.
What other things can you do in order to be more sustainable while travelling?
Change your alimentation. Why? The meat and dairy industry is one of the biggest contributors and polluters. We are now since over a year meat-free and our alimentation is mainly plant-based (a change that was not easy, especially while travelling). We try to only buy fresh food from markets, which especially in South America is a very affordable option.
Limit your plastic usage/waste to a minimum. Use a refillable water bottle. You’ll be able to refill in most hostels worldwide. Don’t buy food wrapped in plastic and don’t go for take-away, simply eat fresh food. Again markets will be your best option.
Don’t support harmful tourism organizations even if they are the only tour operator for a must see attraction. For example don’t go with tour guides into the rainforest if they cannot treat nature, animals and indigenous with the right amount of respect they deserve. But how can I know that in advance? Google the operator, scroll through comments or better: ask them specific questions. Of course sometimes you simply don’t know it in advance, but you will learn from your experiences.
We care a lot about sustainability and are eager to reduce our ecological footprint as much as possible. On our Instagram-feed Naked_travelers we don’t only share our travel experiences, but also discuss sustainable traveling options. Check it out if you like to know more!