7 Environmental Tips for Travel
Traveling is one of the best human experiences. Just thinking of discovering new cultures, sailing new seas, or exploring new seas can give goosebumps of anticipation.
Unfortunately, traveling is also one of the biggest climate change contributors. As a matter of fact, “tourism is responsible for nearly one tenth of the world’s carbon emissions”, a recent study concluded (Independent, 2018).
Fortunately, there are many things any explorer can do to minimize their impact not only at home, but also overseas.
Join A Reforestation Program
There is no real way around the fact that travelers need to fly. While the CO2 emissions per passenger are not as high as individual transportation at home, the number of passengers keeps increasing. This, in turn, adds to global climate change. However, we can all act to reduce our personal carbon footprint. Offsetting carbon emissions is a good way to do it.
A lot of destinations divers love to visit are threatened by deforestation. Indonesia and Malaysia score high on this list because of intense palm oil cultivation. Mangrove forests play an important role in carbon reduction and keeping the ocean healthy. These coastal forests are also threatened by human activities throughout the world.
Most of these countries have NGOs with conservation programs that preserve existing forests and initiate reforestation of degraded lands. By helping them, you can offset your flights carbon footprint while helping to restore forests.
Top Tip: share with your community the CO2 emissions you are offsetting and encourage your friends to match!
Minimize Plastic-Wrapped Snacks and Drinks
Many destinations that divers travel to are located in warm climates. Therefore, it’s essential to stay hydrated. Sadly, for the unprepared, it often means buying a lot of plastic water bottles. Instead, it’s highly recommended to bring a refillable bottle that can be used in the plane and throughout your holiday. While the bottle needs to be empty prior to airport security checks, refill stations are often available and flight attendants will be happy to fill it.
Let’s be honest, it’s also very hard to avoid snacks wrapped in plastic. We all end up creating plastic waste because it’s hard to shop otherwise. That being said, we can reduce their use and make sure that the local waste management system is taking care of them.
Top Tip: Don’t forget to give bonus points to liveaboard companies providing a water dispenser and a free refillable bottle!
Refuse Single Use Plastics
Be it bags, straws, or bottles, single-use plastic is killing wildlife at an alarming rate. Everyone in the diving community has come across plastic floating in the ocean or stuck in corals. No one will lay blame if you forget to tell the waiter to skip the straw. We all have a responsibility to refuse these items as often as possible.
Great alternatives exist in the form of stainless steel or bamboo straws for drinks. Don’t forget to pack reusable tote bags or reusable bottles and cups.
Top Tip: cocktails can be sipped directly from the glass. It’s proven!
Air Conditioning: Extreme Heat Only!
We all seek warm water to dive, snorkel, or swim in. The logical “downside” is that the temperature above water is normally high. Since none of us want the reverse, it’s advised to use A/C sparingly and to keep it to a reasonable temperature when the heat is unbearable. Try the dry mode, it uses less energy and often gets the room cooler faster.
Top Tip: despite common belief, cold drinks warm you up while hot ones will activate your sweat glands and ultimately cool you down. Time for a cuppa?
Use Chemical-Free Cleaning Products
Sunblocks, soaps, shampoos, and other cosmetics are full of chemicals and/or micro-plastics harmful for the environment. It can be hard to find sustainable alternatives locally, so it’s better to pack sustainable alternatives to reduce the discharge of foul water when on a liveaboard.
Top Tip: share your organic sunblock/shampoo to those who have chemical-based ones!
Minimise Your Water Use
Water is not always accessible to everyone and a shortage is quickly becoming one of the major threats in certain areas of the world. Thus, it’s strongly encouraged to avoid taking long, hot showers.
While many have a hard time believing it, tropical destinations also suffer from water shortages. This is particularly true on small islands with a lot of visitors. Don’t be fooled by the presence of rivers, lakes, or waterfalls. Mass tourism consumes a lot of the local resources that, despite monsoon seasons, fail to replenish the groundwater reserves to meet the demand.
If any water activity is planned in the morning, skipping the shower is also allowed. There is little use of showering if the plan is to take a dip soon after! It’s also important to communicate to your host your wish to reuse linen and towels that are often changed every day. We reuse them at home, so let’s not fall into convenience at the expense of water reserves.
Top Tip: get wet – turn off the shower – soap yourself – open the shower and rinse off.
Bring Rechargeable Batteries
Far too many destinations aren’t well equipped with battery recycling systems. The chemicals that batteries contain are very harmful to the environment. How do we fix the issue? The answer is simple: rechargeable batteries. With a couple of rechargeable battery packs for every device, there is little risk of running out of power and it’s a great start for protecting the environment.
Top Tip: bring your used batteries home if there is no battery recycling offered at the destination.
Last, but not least, talk about your wish for sustainable travel to fellow travelers, travel agents, and hosts. Their offerings are driven by what clients seek, therefore, the more often operators receive requests about being ecologically responsible, the more they will provide these services.
We all know Mahatma Gandhi’s quote “Be the change that you wish to see in the world”. What a great way to honour Gandhi’s philosophy with the idea that preserving the environment starts with YOU!