Most of us travel, for work or pleasure, at some point in our lives. While we cannot always control the carbon emissions of the planes we fly in, the chemicals used by the hotels in which we stay, or the plastics used in the souvenirs sold in the destinations we visit, we can choose more eco-friendly transportation, hotels, tour operators, and shopping tactics that do less damage to the environment, and create more benefits for local people.
As part of the NOW! Jakarta Sustainable Living Guide, we present a few tips that might help you use a lot less of the earth’s resources the next time you pack your backs and hit the road.
If your destination is easily accessed by road, and if you have the luxury of time, try driving with your fellow travellers or taking a bus or train. It could also help you save a little money.
If you must fly, consider flying a direct route, or one with the fewest layovers. Take-offs and landings create most carbon emissions.
If you’re able to, consider enrolling in the airline’s carbon offset programme. For a small fee, airlines contribute funds from these programmes to environmental sustainability projects. Most of the well-established airlines, such as Emirates and Jetstar which fly out of Jakarta, have these programmes.
When travelling overseas, do your research and check if the hotel you’re staying at has a green certification programme. Some of the popular ones include EarthCheck (Australia), Green Globe, Rainforest Alliance (Latin America, Caribbean) and Green Tourism Business Scheme (UK). Many hotels have local programmes that are worth checking into also. The website www.greenglobe.com has a list of green certified hotels around the world.
Take showers, not baths. Showers use just 10-25 gallons of water, while baths use up to 70 gallons. And remember to turn off the tap while you lather up or brush your teeth!
Hang up your towels after each use, which is the universal sign that you’d like to use them again.
If you’re staying at a hotel for a short period—perhaps for less than 5 days, use the ‘do not disturb’ sign when you’re not in the room. This prevents the use of strong chemicals everyday (which ultimately pollute the earth).
Invest in travel clothing made with fabrics that can be washed and dried with little effort. You can easily wash these in the sink or shower and dry them in the room near the window. Remember that hotel laundry services use several gallons of water, and for small amounts of clothes this is incredibly wasteful.
If you use the toiletries provided by the hotel, consider bringing any leftover soap or shampoo home and reusing the containers. Hotels usually discard partially used toiletries which is a waste of plastic.
Use public transport wherever possible. Most urban areas have them and it’s a great way to get more out of your trip. Many cities offer bike-share programmes which are a great way of getting around (while getting in some exercise!)
Eat and shop locally. Seek out independently owned restaurants (the food is so much better!) In addition to supporting businesses that depend on money from tourists and locals, you’ll also end up learning something about the culture in the city/country you’re visiting.
When shopping, try to bring along a canvas or cloth bag that you can use to bring your souvenirs back to your hotel. While you can’t help it if products are pre-wrapped in plastic, you can cut down on plastic use by avoiding the use of plastic bags from the store. Try to purchase something made in the area, rather than a product you can easily purchase in your home city/country.
Never purchase anything made from wildlife that was exploited. Besides, if you’re in a foreign country, remember not all products are permitted through customs.
This is obvious, but single use plastic bottles are among the worst offenders at landfills. Reusing these is not an option, given the potential health risks. There are a myriad styles of water bottles in the market today. Invest in a good one, and, as much as possible, fill it up wherever you go. With many airports now offering purified water filling stations past security, there is also no reason to purchase a plastic bottle near the airport gate either.
There are plenty of companies that make bamboo or metal straws that can be used multiple times. If buying for a larger group, there are cloloured ones available so you won’t mix these up.
While this list might seem daunting, it is do-able and will ultimately help our planet. Remember to learn to a few phrases of the language of the country you’re travelling to, if applicable, and be a participant instead of an observer wherever you go!