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Travel Tips: Sustainability

by Vanessa Ullman

photography courtesy of We Are Complicated

It’s 2018. Straws are out, reusable bags are in. Fewer and fewer adults are choosing to buy cars, paving the way for rideshare apps to skyrocket in volume. Recycling bins are as abundant as smartphones, and plastic packaging is a faux pas.

With all of this emphasis on living an ecofriendly lifestyle, it is easy to forget about sustainability practices when you are on the go.

While air travel does account for a lot of CO2, which increases the Earth’s already high carbon footprint, it might be the only option for many vacation spots. So, if air travel is unavoidable, and in some cases, it is, there are other steps you can take to reduce waste and keep the Earth green across the globe.

According to Costas Christ, head of Beyond Green Travel and recognized editor and columnist for National Geographic Traveler, to travel sustainably one should implement the following routines.

Such routines include “employing environmentally friendly practices (reduce, reuse, recycle); protecting cultural and natural heritage (restoring historic buildings or saving endangered species); and providing tangible social and economic benefits for local communities (ranging from upholding the rights of indigenous peoples to supporting fair wages for employees),” Christ wrote in an article for National Geographic.

One of his less widely known tips? Not buying wildlife products, such as seashells or animal fur. This practice is dangerous for tourists because it “inadvertently helping to support a growing marketplace for trafficking rare and endangered wildlife products as souvenirs,” Christ wrote.

This cause hits home for Christ, who works with National Geographic, as the company has a section dedicated to stopping the exploitation of wildlife, titled Wildlife Watch.

Although the wildlife is off limits, the local hotels, businesses and other entities should be celebrated. Petra Thomas, director of a sustainability-focused German tourism company Forum Anders Reisen, noted this in an interview with German news site, Spiegel Online.

“It's best to frequent locally owned or family-run lodgings rather than international hotel chains,” Thomas said. “Additionally, you can eat at small restaurants, shop at markets and take three-wheeled rickshaw taxis whenever possible. That way you're supporting the local economy.”

When shopping local, an easy fix for any traveler is making the switch to reusable bags to as oppose to plastic bags. The U.S. alone wastes 1.8 million plastic bags per week, so every effort helps keep that number on a steady decline.

Along with cloth bags, the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) suggests taking shorter showers to conserve water while on vacation. According to Sustainability @ BU, even just decreasing your shower length by a few minutes can save ten gallons of water.

Sustainability practices can extend beyond a hotel room. If you are in an urban environment, try choosing the most ecofriendly transportation routes while sightseeing, such as by foot.

Although not all places are “walking-friendly,” many cities in the U.S., and abroad, have tourist-friendly train, bus or tram systems. From the London Tube, to Hong Kong’s MTR, it is not difficult to find a reliable transit system outside of the U.S.

It may be hard to keep sustainability in mind while planning every detail of a vacation, but it is not hard to make small changes that can positively impact the environment.

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