It was earth day yesterday, which got me thinking about our ecological and carbon footprints as travellers. We make pretty big impacts on the environment, from the amount of flights we take to all the bottled water we drink in countries where we can’t drink the tap water. What do you think happens to all that plastic once we’re gone? So we’ve decided to put together a list of things we backpackers/travellers can do to make our footprints smaller:
1. Never buy bottled water at home.
The majority of us come from places where the tap water is perfectly drinkable. Take advantage of this, it’s a basic human right probably half the world’s population does not have. Buy a reusable water bottle, and if you don’t like your tap water, buy a Brita filter.
2. Plant some trees or grow a garden.
It may seem so insignificant but plants are never a bad idea, they produce clean oxygen and remove toxins from the air. Planting a few trees is something you can do with little effort that has long-term rewards for the environment. Gardens can provide fruits and vegetables so you don’t have to buy them from the shop. Major supermarkets have huge carbon and ecological footprints from the amount of international shipping they do. Plus it’s always a good idea to support locally grown goods.
- www.myclimate.org can calculate your carbon footprint for each flight you take.
- www.nature.org can calculate personal and household carbon footprints based on travel, home energy, food and diet, and recycling and waste.
- And websites like onetreeplanted.org plant trees in countries that need it the most with the help of fundraisers and donations.
- One flight from Canada to Australia, one way, per traveller, can produce up to 2.5 metric tons or about 5,512 pounds of carbon dioxide. A maturing tree can absorb around 48 pounds of carbon dioxide a year. That means it would take roughly 114-115 trees/years to cancel out that one flight. Now think about how many flights we take on average, most avid travellers will fly numerous times in a year, that’s a lot of carbon dioxide.
3. Take more public transport at home and abroad.
With the amount of flying we do we should be cutting back in other aspects of daily life. Try renting a bike/scooter or taking the bus instead of hiring a taxi or private car. In most places public transport is relatively simple to figure out as long as you have patience and a sense of adventure.
- At home try car pooling, it not only helps your carbon footprint, it also helps the footprints of everyone else in the car.
4. Try and use as many eco-friendly tour operators as possible.
A lot of tour agencies these days are doing what they can to protect the environment, so support them rather than another company who is only worried about pure gain and profits for themselves.
5. Look into UV water purifiers.
They allow you to drink the water anywhere as long as it’s treated with the device. We were offered this option from our travel health nurse, however we didn’t end up getting one but next time we travel we will be looking more into it. It’s disgusting how much plastic we leave behind for other countries to deal with, especially in countries that don’t have to means to properly dispose of it all.
Below are just a couple of options, it’s best to consult your travel health clinic about what’s better suited to your own travel needs.
6. Give back where and when you can.
Whether its conservation or volunteering with animals. Any form of giving back to the environment or communities is self rewarding as well as rewarding for the planet.
- With the amount of Elephants that are abused and extorted for the entertainment of tourists around here we’ve decided to give back and support the companies trying to prevent it all. We are volunteering at an elephant camp that looks after and rehabilitates these previously abused beauties. Here, we cannot ride them and they do not put on shows for us; they are not there for us, we are there for them.
These are all things anybody can and should be doing whether you’re an avid traveller or not. And there are many other things out there that can be done, we just feel like these are simple things every traveller can easily do without breaking budgets.
It’s a privilege to travel, not a right. We should be doing whatever we can to help the countries we visit and this planet we live on so that travelling is still a possibility in the future, not only for us but for our kids, grandkids and the generations to follow.