Soooo much buzz is happening around greener, more sustainable and eco friendlier travel this year. I could write another generic green travel tips post, but since there are over 1.7 million of those on Google and barely anyone talking about how they struggle to do any of them right I thought I’d share some insights on how I’ve handled it this year…spoiler alert: I failed, like a lot.
PICK THE RIGHT DESTINATIONS
Everyone preaches to choose alternative destinations over places that are suffering from overtourism and focus on places that prioritise sustainability. I didn’t. This year I went to Amsterdam and Barcelona among other destinations … two cities that are victims to over tourism. Me visiting my friends in Amsterdam, did not have the same effect as me visiting going to Barcelona for a quick city trip.
One of THE tips to decrease your carbon footprint is to avoid the plain and travel by train or even bus. I did a train trip from London to the Basque Country and I take the train within the UK. But the rest of my international trips this year were all flights because that was the easier choice. And I only set off my carbon emission for one of them, I can try to make it up a bit and mention that least they were all direct flights so that’s my footprint slightly reduced (ahem). At the destinations themselves I kept it to local transport to get around and didn’t use any cheeky Uber rides.
THINK ABOUT ACCOMMODATION
Booking eco-conscious accommodations hasn’t been a high priority. Sure, I stayed at a self-sufficient green camping site on Ameland, with friends or family in others’ places and hotels in New York and Bilbao. But I failed when it comes to Airbnb and booked a place in Barcelona that was solely there for tourists and therefore adding on to the making housing unaffordable issue for locals. My only excuse is that it’s more convenient when going with a group.
PLASTIC AND BYO
Refillable water bottle. Check! KeepCup? Check? Shopping bags? Check. Since it’s something I do at home it was a bit easier to do than some of the other things.
When I wrote my last post about greener travel fails I complained how I had to buy water bottles in Georgia because it was too hot, after that I bought an isolation bottle – the Dopper is my go to – and it works perfect. Thank God a lot of destinations now offer water fountains to refill your bottle. For one flight to Lanzarote I did buy a bottle, because I wasn’t sure I would have enough for the 4-hour flight. Also, on Lanzarote they recommended not to drink the tap water, so we bought a 5 litre bottle and used that to refill our own.
My KeepCup is everything! And I thought they were a thing all over the world as they are designed as per coffee shop sizes, but turns out in America they don’t do 8 OZ everywhere and I had to give in at a place because their small is European medium, so the barista didn’t know the measurements. I’m used to geting discount when bringing my own cup but that wasn’t a thing in New York either.
In Lanzarote and New York I got plastic bags, sometimes because my totebag wasn’t enough and sometimes because they pack it up your goods before you realise it. Some of those bags I’ve reused during my stay and some of them I’ve brought back to recycle.
I’m reading how everyone should find restaurants that use local ingredients and avoid foods that have to be flown or shipped in, but I found it more shocking how getting a plastic free lunch on the go is hard as everything is wrapped! The best chance is to sit down at a restaurant or go to a food market and hope they will put it in the lunch box that you brought.
I didn’t know people cut back on the weight they might be adding to the car or plane and only pack the essential items. True, my packing was kept to a minimal and I even kept it to hand luggage only for my 6-day trip to New York. But if I’m being honest, this was not necessarily for green reasons. No way am I paying that rip-off fee to check in a suitcase, I’m Dutch after all, so I rather re-wear.
While we are on the clothes topic I also read a report from Bernardos saying that Brits were expected to purchase over 50 million (million!) outfits that will only be worn once, just over the Summer! I’m the opposite and tend to pack my standard holiday abroad items for almost all of my trips.
I haven’t found a low waste toothpaste that has fluoride, I also don’t have a bamboo brush anymore because it just doesn’t work for me. I have found recyclable brushes for my electric toothbrush. They are on my list to buy for when I have gone through the plastic ones I bought in bulk. I use solid shampoo and soap bars, so that’s a little win. Though the shampoo bars have been a hit and miss so far, they usually work in the beginning but the dry my hair out so I go back and forth between that and bottles.
I only seem to do the things that will save me money or things I already do when I’m home. But when it comes to travel I don’t know yet if I’m a green, eco or sustainable traveller and that might be the main issue for me. For 2020 I’m going to read beyond the usual travel tips and educate myself on how what I do affects the local environment, the economy amd the people, and based on that make my ways and tips more practical. And who knows I might become the leave-nothing-but-footprints and take-nothing-but-pictures kind of person.
What were your 2019 green wins?