Getting out and about with a little idea for conservation can be both a cheaper, and a more fun experience for everyone involved—including the community you’re visiting.
10.11.2015 - 15.12.2015
What’s the best way to travel? The green way!
While it may not be the fastest (fast requires lots of energy, trying running and you’ll get the gist of it) or the most cosmopolitan (the Ritz Carlton in general has the upper hand on hostels but who’s counting the stars), but being good to the earth is so much better than just pampering yourself from location to location, because ultimately, all of those locations will disappear if we’re all not a little more careful.
And the even better part about riding it green? You’ll get to see and do things that no one staying in a penthouse is going to be able to experience, because no one who is throwing a towel out after one use is willing to climb to a sky temple (it’s not a fact maybe, but I feel pretty good about hedging my bets).
So take a load off on the couch, unroll your water bottle, and sign up for some volunteer projects, because it’s never been easier, or more fun, to take your travel a little cleaner.
==Take your own water bottle everywhere.==
Get rid of that plastic one you keep refilling in the sink—not only is it horrible for the environment for you to buy one in the first place (it’s a mark up around 2000% when you get bottled water) but it’s got a high chance of having BPA chemicals in its material composition (and that stuff can kill you.
So how do you save the world and get free water at the same time? Roll away water bottles, all day, every day. My favorites come from Vapur, bottles like the Element and the Eclipse offer a wide range of color and size options for the discerning backpacker. And not only does it mean cheaper sips with every thirst quench, but it also takes up less room in your bag. What could be bad about that?
Since people have finally mainstreamed hostels (Thank goodness! They needed the good PR...) it’s time to take on the next taboo accommodation: couchsurfing.
In the age of Airbnb and Uber, the share economy all-stars, it just makes sense to make good use of couchsurfing. I know, there’s plenty of ideas about risk and not being able to stay with a stranger and plenty of fear, but the truth is, staying with people who like to host tourists means you get an in-house guide to the new place you’ve decided to stay. I can’t say that I’ve ever had a bad experience (though an awkward run-in every once in awhile—it happens when you’re sharing showers!) and I love being with a local who can tell me exactly what’s worth seeing and what can be things that are worthy of a miss. Even reading guides isn’t quite as good as having a conversation so I suggest everyone at least give it a try!
==Take bus transportation.==
Buses (and trains) are way more eco friendly than their high flying counterparts, which is exactly why you should commit to seeing a little bit of the countryside (or in a bus case, a lot of highway) because it’s just that much better for the environment in terms of fuel used (7 times, if you’re curious. Flying uses 7 times more fuel).
And the good news is buses have come really far (joining the 21st century far) and include great things like bathrooms, snacks, wifi, and adjustable reclining chairs so that it doesn’t have to be the kind of experience that you probably have pictured in your mind with dread. Grab a book! Grab a friend! And grab a bus!
==Don’t buy cheap souvenirs.==
I’m talking shot glasses as well as those cheap iPhones you keep eyeing as a backup for the one you already have in your bag. I’ve got bad news about both.
First, that shot glass was probably made in China or Bangladesh, and the only time you should buy things from there is when you visit both of those places individually. When you outsource goods like that you undermine the current loot with a homemade tag, and I’m much more about the authentic, made by the locals, stuff anyway. Second, that iPhone isn’t doing anyone any favors if it comes with an iCloud lock on it (it means it was probably stolen and you’re taking part in the black market, and I’ve had a friend who got one. The juju is bad, guys. Really bad. So just buy local!
==Choose a volunteer project.==
My first project with GoEco was interning at a hostel 2 years ago, and not only did it help jumpstart my travelling career and make me unafraid of hostels at the same time, it also felt good because it turned me into the kind of traveller that was concerned how I was affecting the places that I went to. Now I’ve got a couple different programs under my belt, from medical assistance in Southeast Asia to animal conservation and rehabilitation in Africa, and there’s nothing that feels more rewarding that going abroad and putting some more good vibes out into the world (if you buy one of those stolen phones you can counter the bad karma here!).
Restaurants spend a lot of money and resources trying to get you into their restaurant, and then they spend more to keep you there, sending you out with takeout packing is just the cherry on top. So what do you do if you’re the social conscious kind of person who uses their cloth towels a couple more times than just one shower, ditto for the kitchen napkins? You eat street.
To say that street vendors aren’t using energy to get started isn’t only a lie, but it’s not what I’m pitching. I’m just saying that they use a lot less to send you out into the world with a doner kebab or a chicken satay than the Michelin star hotspot. So go get yourself a klobasa smothered in mustard and call it good for the environment—because when you compare it to the alternatives, it actually kind of is.
==Go with friends.==
There’s no doubt that adding friends to the lineup is going to make it more fun, but it’s also going to make it cheaper and more economically sound. Say you guys rent a hotel suite to share, a car to trek across South America, a table to eat at—all of these things are made better by your bigger numbers sharing in on the fun. Not only are you cutting down on cost for each different person with each additional person, you’re also more likely to not be wasteful, since someone in the group is going to pick up the slack. And sharing? Sharing is caring. So next time you want to head out into the world, grab your friends; they’d definitely like to get out too.
Simple steps are all it takes to getting the right combination for a fun, eco-friendly trip so why not take my advice and get packing today? I hear Kayak has some great daily deals on last minute trips and you don’t really need to finish that last paper, or that last office project....go live a little!