It’s that time of the year again: a time where many students decide to embark on life changing trips and well needed adventures after months of constant studying, poor eating and little sleeping. It seems like students have discovered the art of traveling and the richness of culture, knowledge and food that comes with it. According to the World Travel Market in London, England, young travelers represent 20% of international travelers. The Millennial Traveller report states that by 2030, 320 million young travelers will embark on international trips.
While traveling enriches the soul and creates an exotic experience for young travelers, it can be quite damaging to the environment. According to the David Suzuki Foundation, the air travel industry has a disproportionately large impact on the climate system. Not to mention that an increase of people traveling to other countries creates a higher demand on their resources and can cause more strain on already struggling areas.
This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t travel, but there are many ways that you can decrease your environmental footprint to curb some of these damaging issues. Here are some ways that students and anyone else embarking on a journey can take into consideration when traveling for long periods of time and across multiple places.
Book non-stop flights whenever you can and where the budget allows. Why? Take offs and landing create the most carbon emissions of an airplane. In fact, in short flights, as much as 25% of the total fuel consumed is used at the time of take-off. So if it is in the budget try to get the non-stop. Let’s face it, non-stop flights are just more comfortable anyway!
Bus, train or anything else, really.
If you have the time, take a bus or train, walk, run, rollerblade, bike, ride a boat. Really, anything is much better than flying. Plus, the train systems in places like Europe and Asia are excellent and can take you anywhere and can double as a hostel when traveling long distances! So if you are going across all of Europe in a short period of time, opt for one of these methods of transportation instead. Not to mention that walking around cities is a great way to find little hole-in-the-wall restaurants and sites that only you will have seen.
Bring a Reusable Water Bottle
Using a reusable water bottle will not only allow you eliminate plastic during your time of traveling but you can save some money too! You could also opt for a water bottle that contains a filter. Try this Bobble Water Bottle from Amazon.ca!
This is a no brainer. There are many benefits to bringing around a reusable water bottle when traveling unless you are highly sensitive to foreign water or if you are traveling to a country with water that is not very clean. If you need to purchase bottled water, make sure you ALWAYS recycle them.
Stick to Marked Hiking Paths
This may seem strange but they are marked for a reason. If you are hiking with a large group, try and stay within the path provided. Most of the time the path is marked so travelers avoid harming native flora. Bonus: Pick up trash throughout the hike and help clean up the environment.
This is exactly what it sounds like. Volunteer as part of your adventure and give back to the communities you are encountering. Try to voluntour with an NGO that really gives back to the environment and culture such as Global Vision International, GIVE and Love Volunteers. Check out this link before planning a voluntour to understand the do’s and don’t of the vacation: http://travel.usnews.com/features/voluntourism-101-the-dos-and-donts-for-planning-a-volunteer-vacation/
Try to support the local economy in the place you are traveling to. Look for restaurants that are promoting local produce or products. Whatever you do, do NOT eat endangered species food like shellfish or turtle. Also, try and buy souvenirs made by the local community. There are so many vendors that are selling cheap trinkets that have been imported from other countries. Check for signatures or stamps, move away from the main streets in the city, be aware of pushy or easily negotiable vendors and if you really want to know the authenticity, ask to meet the artisan. Chances are they would be more than happy to speak to you and you might even get a great story about the item you want to purchase.
Don’t Over Pack
This might sound like something you would roll your eyes about when your mother says it to you, but over packing can lead to the disposing of personal items. Many travelers over pack to be prepared for the unexpected and end up leaving behind clothing and other items to make room for the souvenirs they have bought. This creates unnecessary waste that could easily be sent to the landfill. When you go traveling, you want to leave enough room in your backpack or suitcase to bring home your newly purchased souvenirs, trinkets and clothing. Get a friend to help you and only pack your favourite clothes to avoid the “I won’t miss it” attitude on your travels.
All in all, there are many things you can do to lower your environmental footprint while traveling abroad that won’t hurt your experience or your wallet. Remember to just be mindful of your impact on other countries and places in the world and have an amazing time!