5 Sustainable Travel Essentials For The Eco-Conscious Tourist
Traveling has a way of changing people — I know it changed me. It is one of the few things that we can “buy” that endlessly gives back to us over time. Whether it is traveling locally or far across the world, the act of travel has forever been a means for people to step outside their comfort zones, and open their eyes and minds to the potential of something new.
Unfortunately, today travel tends to come with a big price on the environment as tourism has exploded around the world, often compromising communities with excessive waste, water pollution, noise pollution, soil erosion, and other unintended impacts. While these negative impacts are significant, there are ways in which they can be improved and eliminated. Tourism has the capacity to improve awareness of environmental issues and historic sites, and can serve an a funding source for protecting natural resources and conservation areas — we just have to demand a change in the way we as people experience travel, and the way travel companies provide it.
Tourism is a huge source of economic growth globally, in fact it makes up more than 10% of our global GDP according to a 2017 report from the World Travel and Tourism Council. This is why tourism is an industry that with policy change and innovation could make a significant impact on the protection of our planet, while also continuing to be a source of economic sustainability for countries around the world who depend on tourism for their nations overall GDP.
What is exciting is that we are already beginning to see huge hotel chains like Hilton recognize the value eco-tourism and sustainable business practices hold. Hilton has announced that it will cut its environmental footprint in half and double its social impact investment by 2030. This is the first large scale hotel chain to make progressive business initiatives based on science-based targets that will result in a significant reduction in waste and carbon emissions globally.
But with hotels, airlines, and other aspects of the tourism industry beginning to innovate and implement eco-tourism practices, where do tourists stand in the equation? What is the role and responsibility of tourists to also make a positive impact each and every time we set off to explore the world?
While there are many answers to this question from the accommodations we support, to how we offset our travel based carbon emissions, today I want to discuss five essentials that tourists could use to help leave the locations they travel to just as they found them. It is our responsibility as tourists to treat our host-countries and communities with respect, and that means reducing and ideally eliminating the waste we create when we visit them.
5 Sustainable Travel Essentials For The Eco-Conscious Tourist
Sustainably Made Backpack:
I will always and forever be team backpack when it comes to traveling. A backpack is one of the easiest ways that you can free up your hands while traveling (so you can take all those picutres) and is perfect for expanding and collapsing to meet your needs.
This Scoutmaster Backpack is my favorite backpack to bring with me while traveling since it is unisex (so my husband and I can take turns carrying it) and is sustainably made in the USA by Duluth Pack, one of the oldest canvas and leather bag making companies in the USA.
I first discovered this bag from BuyMeOnce (a company that is committed to making it easier for consumers to choose items that were made to last a lifetime), and what I love about this bag is that it rolls from the top making it great for protecting against pickpocketing, and can be rolled to a small or very large size depending on your needs.
But what does a backpack have to do with being an eco-tourist? Well our gear as tourists is very important, and investing in gear that can last you a lifetime is one of the best ways you can avoid tourism created consumer waste. I also find that I don't like to carry reusable bags with me while traveling since they can easily become combersome and subject to pick pocketers so this backpack is perfect for holding anything I buy during my trips.
While many countries have already ellimated the use of single use disposable plastic bags, many have not, and this backpack makes it possible for me to never need to take a single use plastic bag while traveling.
Reusable Travel Mug and Water Bottle
You know all those plastic cups you see in your hotel rooms, at coffee shops, and that trendy smoothie bar? They are creating an abundance of plastic waste that is entirely unnecessary and is polluting the local communities you are exploring. How would you feel if someone came to your home and then created a whole bunch of waste that wouldn’t break down for 450 years and then flew home, leaving you to clean up the mess. This is exactly what we are doing when we create plastic waste in the countries we visit and it is entirely preventable.
I love this travel mug that I will use for warm or cold beverages. It has completely elliminated my need for single waste plastic cups while traveling, and I always use it now while flying instead of accepting those small plastic cups on airplanes. I also use it all the time at coffee shops and have never had a coffee shop question me when I ask to use it instead of their to-go cups.
I also always have a reusable water bottle with me when I travel so that I can avoid plastic water bottles in hotels, on airplanes, and out site seeing. Start getting in the habit of saying no to the plastic water bottles you hotel may give you on arrival and instead ask what options they have for filling your reusable bottle. The more people ask for NO PLASTIC the more incentivized hotels will be to ellimate them for a more eco-friendly, and economic option.
Reusable Cutlery Set
Similar to bringing your own reusable mug and water bottle, bringing a reusable set of cutlery and a reusable straw will help you eliminate the need for single use plastic straws and cutlery while traveling. I find carrying a reusable cutlery set incredibly helpful for airports and when traveling in the USA where plastic straws and cutlery are still very prominent.
Travel Toiletry Kit
You are an adult, you can absolutely remember to bring travel toiletries with you when you travel. While it may seem nice that hotels provide complimentary toiletries, these single use plastic bottles and soaps are creating an abundance of single use plastic and soap waste. In fact, many hotels are now looking into ways that they can recycle used soaps and eliminate single use plastic toiletries all together. To help encourage this, and to avoid creating unnecessary waste of your own, I would highly recommend bringing a travel toiletry kit.
I would almost guarantee that your favorite body and haircare brands have a travel option, which would be great to purchase once and then refill as needed from your regular size containers at home.
I love this Grab and Go bag from Duluth Pack that is available at BuyMeOnce. Its made using sustainable practices in the USA and is a great way to keep your toiletries organized while traveling. I find that the hardest part to remembering to bring your own toiletries is just having them all together and organized in the first place, which is why a travel toiletry bag is key for every eco-conscious traveler.
If you like traveling in developing countries, most likely finding safe water to drink at some point is going to be an issue. But if you are like me and you don’t want to rely on plastic water bottles to stay hydrated while traveling in countries where the tap water isn’t safe, investing in a steripen may be just what you need.
What I love about keeping a steripen with me while traveling is that it can make questionable water safe to drink within seconds. The ultraviolet light from the steripen kills 99% of harmful bacteria, and while you may still need to filter your water, the steripen is a great option to help you avoid needing to buy plastic water bottles while traveling.
With these few essentials on hand while traveling you will be able to eliminate so much of your personal waste and will be able to leave the countries and communities you visit without an abundance of plastic waste trailing behind you. We can change the way tourism affects our planet, and it starts with your next adventure.