After 32 years on this planet, I am happy to report that I have finally developed into an eco conscious person, especially when I travel.
Living in South East Asia for 6 years I have seen first hand the massive consumption of single use plastic and the pollution it causes to countries where garbage disposal & recycling is not well operated and / or part of the mentality yet. Now living in Dubai, I am fully aware of my terrible impact on the environment, from driving a SUV, using the AC year round and working for a rather polluting industry.
I guess that is what pushed me to take steps toward a more eco friendly lifestyle. My 2019 New Year resolution is to reduce my plastic consumption, and I promised myself I will not buy a single bottle of shampoo, shower gel and laundry detergent ! It is June now and I holding on, so that is pretty good news.
But when it comes to travel, I find that I tend to be less careful and to indulge a little more, but I really want that to change. As a reminder to myself, and hopefully a guidance for you, I have rounded here 10 tips to be a more eco conscious when you travel.
1. Choose Eco friendly destinations
Pretty obvious I know, but if you are new to the whole eco conscious travel idea, maybe the easiest first step in simply to choose an eco friendly destination !
Some governments are stepping up their efforts to protect their countries and develop sustainable tourism practices, and I feel like it should be encouraged. A few countries that come to my mind for being particularly eco conscious are Iceland, Costa Rica and New Zealand. I haven’t visit any of these countries but I would love to. If you have, I would love to hear your experience in the comment section below.
TIPS TO REDUCE WASTE WHILE TRAVELING
2. Refuse plastic straws and cups
In my day to day life I made the small yet important move of switching from buying my daily iced coffee in a plastic cup to bringing my own mug and aluminium straw. While having this kind of routine at home is fairly easy, I find it more difficult to implement when traveling. But we should still make the effort! If you think travelling with your own cup / mug is too much, at least bring your own aluminium straw, it really doesn’t take any space.
Also, what about taking the time to just drink your coffee, your juice or have your lunch at the restaurant itself instead of taking it away ! Us Frenchies believe in the important of spending quality time at the lunch & dinner table, and that way you will have a good chance to drink and eat out of non plastic recipient.
The tricky thing though is to remember to ask for no straw / no plastic cup at the time of order … I am still trying to get into that habit.
3. Switch from cotton pads to reusable wipes
Did you know that most wet wipes are made from polyester, polypropylene, cotton, wood pulp, or rayon fibers, most of it non biodegradable … And did you know that it requires on average 10,000 litres of water to produce 1kg of cotton … When I think about the millions of people without a regular access to clean water, and the countries going through massive droughts, that makes me seriously question my need to use thousands of cotton pads a year.
So why not switching to reusable wipes? This is new to me, but I find it pretty amazing. I recently purchased bamboo based face wipes on Etsy (I know, I know, terrible carbon footprint, but I am really trying my best with the limited options I have in Dubai), and I love it. No more cotton pads thrown down the toilets everyday. I use these wipes to remove my make-up, wash my face and apply toner. Every weekend it goes to the washing machine, and it is ready to be used again. While traveling, it takes minimal space in my toiletries bag and dries up pretty quickly during the day.
4. Carry a tote bags
Carrying a tote bag is the perfect alternative to plastic shopping bags. It takes virtually zero space in the suitcase and I use it for everything : going to the beach, carrying my sports clothes, grocery shopping, giving my laundry to wash etc … However, it came to my attention recently that the explosion of tote bag production is also leading to a huge water overconsumption (cf my comments earlier about the cotton production), so make sure you have 1 and use it well, rather than having 20 lying around in your house. Better even, switch over to a bamboo fibres one.
5. Carry your own refillable bottle of water
Instead of buying plastic bottles of water, consider carrying a BPA free refillable water bottle. In most developed country you can simply refill from the tap, or even from public fountains (Paris for example still has some drinking water fountains). In developing countries where the tap water might not be safe to drink, it is a little bit more tricky but you can try asking your hotel to refill your bottle. You can also purchase a filtering water bottle that will make almost of water source safe. I am planning to do so for my upcoming African safari, and will report on that later !
There is also water fountains in most of the airports and planes. So no excuse now, ditch the plastic bottle !
6. Carry packaging free cosmetic products
For the longest time I enjoyed deeply the tiny hotel amenities. Whenever I would find my I had my favourite brands like L’Occitane, Bulgari, Nuxe and Acqua Di Parma, I would not hesitate to hide all of them in my suitcase the first day to make sure it as replenish, and would sometime even take a few straight out of the cleaning lady cart !! #noshamethen #butabitofshamenow
Today, thinking about the amount of plastic I used all these years make some cringe. So since the beginning of the year, I have switched over to solid shampoo and soap and it turns out to be perfect for my day to day life, but also particularly convenient to travel with. I buy solid shampoos and soap from Lush (because that is my easiest option here in Dubai), and I really like how small sized, light weighted and extra long lasting these products are. Lush has plenty more “naked product” options such as conditioners, perfumes, body lotion, toner etc. Obviously to be consistent with you eco effort, it is better to purchase these products locally, but just in case you can’t , below is a list of websites you could purchase from :
- www.lush.com – I love love love these brands, despite some green washing claims.
- https://global.ethiquebeauty.com – Australian brand selling plastic are plant based, sustainable beauty products.
- https://www.pachamamai.com – A French brand selling 100% natural & plastic free products
- https://www.lamazuna.com/fr/ – Another French brand of solid cosmetics
By the way … don’t get me wrong, I am no saint and I totally get it : Hotel amenities are awesome perks and I am still enjoying it once in a while ! One think I still always do : Steal all of the solid soaps! #sorrynotsorry
TIPS TO REDUCE YOUR ENERGY
& WATER CONSUMPTION WHILE TRAVELING
7. Act in the hotel like you would at home
Do you wash you towels or change your bedsheets every single day at home ? I am pretty sure you don’t, so why do it when you are staying in a hotel ? I get it, it is a great feeling to go back to your hotel room and everything is clean and tidy ! But seriously, it is a bit over the top.
Nowadays most hotels have a little sign that you can leave on the bed if you dont wan’t your bedsheets changed, and will suggest you leave your towels on the rack if you don’t want fresh ones. If you want to go even further leave the “Do not Disturb” sign on your door to avoid the daily use of chemicals.
Worry not, most hotels change the linen after 3 nights anyway. But at least you have done your part.
Talking about hotels, you can find reviews of some of my all time favourite hotels here.
8. Use public transportation
If you have time, consider travelling by train, bus or boat rather than planes to lesser your environmental impact.
On top of being an more eco conscious way to travel, public transport is a great way to discover a country and interact with locals . Travelling through Sri Lanka by bus & trains many years ago is part of my favorite memories ever, taking night trains through India saved me lots of money, and the 10h bus ride I took across Myanmar left me with some really funny stories to tell !
Using public transport in developing country is also usually a very economical solution.
TIPS TO PROTECT NATURE WHILE TRAVELING
9. Buy Eco friendly sun lotion
To be honest I only recently discovered that most of the sun lotions were devastating for the environment, the ocean and the corals. Apparently scientists have expressed concerns for many years about two chemical used in sun protection products : oxybenzone and octinoxate. Oxybenxzone in particular causes corals to bleach and reduces their resilience to climate change. It also prevent the growth of baby corals, therefore reducing the natural reproduction of the coral reefs. And it is only a matter of time before the adult coral disappear. Some islands like Palau in the Pacific Ocean, Bonaire in the Caribbean and Hawaii have already started banning sunscreens containing these ingredients. To know more you can read the full BBC article here : https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-46046064
To choose your sunlotion, the first step would be to scrutinise the ingredient list, and discard anything with oxybenzone and octinoxate and look for non nano zinc oxyde instead. You can also take a look at this list of 11 brands that are safe for the marine life. https://www.travelandleisure.com/style/beauty/reef-safe-sunscreen. For my fellow Franchies here is another one : https://www.cosmopolitan.fr/les-cremes-solaires-non-nocives-pour-l-environnement,1999331.asp.
If you have other brands to recommend, I would love to hear so in the comments below.
10. Keep your distance with wildlife
Wild animals are supposed to be just that … wild ! So anytime you come in close contact with them, through any kind of tourism organisation, they must have been broken somehow to be domesticated.
Riding an elephant or cuddling a tiger in Thailand might seem like the ultimate travel experience, but think about it … It is just not normal for these animals, and they would probably be much better roaming around freely and going about their lives.
Also, if you encounter animals in the wild, don’t feed them. You might think of it as a nice gesture, but there is a very high chance that the food is not suitable for their digestive system.
Other animals interactions I have observe during my travels and think you could avoid :
- Riding a donkey up hundred of stairs in Petra, Jordan
- Playing with monkey & snakes in Marrakech , Morocco
- Dolphin watching with dozens of boats in Zanzibar, Tanzania (Read this article to know more)
- Playing with turtles while diving
- Riding an elephant in Bali (Read this article to know more)
I could go on and on with many more recommendations, but I think these 10 tips are already a good way to start being more eco conscious when you travel.
If you would like to share your experience about being more eco conscious while you travel, please leave a comment below, I would be very happy to exchange with you on the topic. Until then, think about the planet, be good !