Hello everyone, I hope you’re all well.
As some parts of the world are starting to open up again, I figured now would be the perfect time to reflect on the ways we were traveling pre-pandemic and how we can try to make them more sustainable now for those who are able to go on the road soon. But even if you’re not leaving for a trip anytime in the near future, that doesn’t mean you can’t include some more sustainable options into your daily life. Many sustainable practices we concern ourselves with every day can easily be applied to our travels once they’ve become a habit and part of our regular routine, so why not start at home before packing your bags if you’re trying to reduce your ecological footprint on your next journey. Obviously, traveling always has some sort of negative effect on the environment but it’s up to us how big or small that ends up being. This post doesn’t discuss sustainable alternatives of transportation to destinations, accommodations, etc. but rather talks about practices that can be implemented both in your everyday life at home as well as your travels. If you’re interested in reading about other ways to make travel more sustainable such as the topics mentioned above, be sure to drop a comment and let me know! For those who are looking for the specific products I take on my trips, you can check out my post on Sustainable Travel Essentials.
The first change you can implement in your day to day is reflecting on your diet choices. We have to fuel our bodies with nutrients every single day so by trying to make your diet more sustainable you can achieve a very effective change which can be carried on once you’re on the road. By incorporating more seasonal, regional and organic products into your meals you can significantly reduce the carbon emissions of your food (e.g. through shorter hauls of regional products). Another change that can make your diet more sustainable is reducing your consumption of meat, fish and dairy products or leaving them out altogether. I actually made the choice to become fully vegetarian (by now I’m about 90% vegan and 10% vegetarian) while backpacking from Lima to Santiago on my own when I came to the conclusion that I personally just could not contribute to the climate crisis in that way any longer and that it wasn’t compatible with my otherwise already quite sustainable lifestyle anymore. I’m not here to be obnoxious and try to convince everyone to become vegan or vegetarian – you do you – I merely want to try to start an open conversation and reflect on our diet choices. I’m in no way perfect just because I don’t eat meat and fish and barely any dairy – I do buy the occasional avocado or products in plastic packaging. So I don’t want to point any fingers. Nobody’s perfect and that’s not the goal, the goal is simply to reflect on our behavior and try to find a compromise that works for one personally. This being said, once you start to make your buying decisions more conscious so that they align with your values (which – I assume, since you’re reading this post – are to be mindful of the environment), it will become so natural to you that you will have no problem implementing the same practices while traveling.
Especially over the past year it has become more obvious than ever how important it is to support the local economy – local shops, restaurants, street vendors, etc. The pandemic has made many people more aware of this issue and it’s especially important to consider when you’re on the road, above all in economically less fortunate countries. Although it may sound like the easiest and safest option to eat at a place you already know (e.g. fast food chains), most of the money you’re spending there will not benefit the local community and economy. Even if you’re not ready to try some street food, you will still be able to find many local options or even locally-owned international cuisine if you’d rather play it safe. There are plenty of guide books, websites and blogs that can recommend you something local that you will enjoy (I have incorporated some recommendations in my posts on La Paz and Rome, my American Food Guide and on many other places on my Instagram). Also at home I always prefer to go to local coffee shops and restaurants that are unique to my city and benefit my community and local economy rather than some big international corporation. Especially when it comes to clothes, considering what brands you’re buying from can make a big difference, at home and on the road. Fast fashion companies exploit their workers and their products aren’t sustainable when you take a look at the materials they are made of and how long (or rather “short”) they’re meant to last you. Making fair and sustainable fashion is a hard task, but there are quite a few brands that are making a difference. Obviously, these alternatives are way out of budget for a lot of people (including me as a student and backpacker that’s constantly saving money to book their next trip). In any case, I haven’t shopped any new fast fashion items in about two years because I rely largely on second hand, which is probably the most sustainable and, at the same time, cheapest option that everyone who is used to buying fast fashion can afford and even save money in comparison. Whenever I’m visiting family in the U.S., I always make sure to go to my favorite thrift stores instead of the mall now. By supporting a local fashion label or thrift store, you can have a positive impact on your own community or the one of your travel destination as well as the environment.
Since I have already written a separate post about my Sustainable Travel Essentials, I won’t go into depth about my skin care products. When I started to make the switch to natural and plastic-free skin care around six or seven years ago, I felt the urge to subsitute every produt at once but throwing away perfectly good items is not the most sustainable way to go about it either. If you do want to get rid of your non-natural products immediately, you can always donate them (e.g. to a shelter) or give them away to friends. Still, there’s no harm in using up what you have and once you’ve run out of a product, evalute if it needs to be substituted (e.g. conditioner; I never imagined I could live without it and now it’s been well over two years since I’ve last used one although I have curly hair) and if so, research which sustainable options suit you. As is the case with any skin care product, you may not find the perfect fit right away, but the same would happen with a conventional item. So don’t give up and just try something else, we’re all different so what works for me will not necessarily work for you (and the other way around). Especially for soaps, I love checking with local stores and you can always find great local vendors when you’re traveling as well (soaps etc. also work as a lightweight souvenir to bring home!).
Lastly, I can’t leave transportation totally out of the picture, as most of us rely on it in our every day lives. If we’re used to taking the car to go to the grocery store or work even if we live close by, we’re probably more likely to call an Uber or Beat for every short trip when we’re traveling, too. (This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use those transportation services for safety reasons anymore, e.g. when you need to get somewhere at night alone in a region like Latin America. Then, by all means, don’t feel bad about making use of those options even if it is just a short trip.) If you live in a city like me, you can reduce your carbon emissions by walking to the grocery store, taking your bike to work or using public transportation. Of course, this doesn’t apply to all living situations (e.g. living in a remote area), but if you can reach your friends’ houses or your workplace on foot or by bike, it’s easy to leave the car at home more often and get you excited about exploring a different city on a walking tour soon.
If you’re interested in further posts on this topic, feel free to let me know in the comments or on Instagram (@flightsandfreeways), where I also share some more ideas to implement sustainable practices into your at home life and travels. I would also love to hear which sustainable practices you have already implemented as I’m always looking to improve myself and learn more!
Talk to you soon,
I do not work for/ get paid by any of the brands mentioned (unpaid ad). None of the links in this post are affiliate links, they lead to other posts on this website or my own Instagram page.
All photos belong to me.