Welcome to Boot Camp: Know Your Green Basics Before You Leave Home
Article by Mary Picard
Whether you’re travelling 6 kilometres or 6000. Adopt these simple habits to help fight climate change, reduce pollution and help ease other forms of pressure on our planet.
Bring your own reusable water bottle. Fill it up at home or after you’ve gone through airport security. Unless you’re running a marathon, 500ml should last you at least a couple of hours. According to Businessinsider.com, bottled water costs between 300 to 2000 times more than tap water. That’s a lot of money and a lot of plastic that won’t go away. If you are concerned about the quality of tap water, restaurants, bars – even some mosques can give you a refill of filtered water. Hotel gyms usually have tanks of filtered water that you can use for refills. Let your hotel know you value a place to refill your reusable water bottle, not single-use plastic bottles.
Walk, ride a bicycle or paddle whenever you can. Go motorless! Its good for you and even a 5 minute car journey adds particulates and carbon into the atmosphere. Walking even short distances is a great way to add moderate physical activity into your day – something health experts say adds years to your life. Slowing down has the added benefit of allowing you to see details you would not see from a car or bus. Isn’t that what vacation is all about?
Avoid single-use plastic, like water bottles, carrier bags and drinking straws. Just think, every piece of plastic you have ever used is still out there somewhere. Alarmingly, more and more of our food now comes covered in plastic. Tell your server “No Straw Please”. If you are buying a single portion drink, try to choose one in an aluminum can or glass bottle. Both these options are more easily recycled. If you travel with a backpack, buy some bamboo chopsticks and a spork and carry them with you to avoid disposable eating utensils. Carrying a small reusable carrier bag will save you from needing dozens of plastic bags throughout the course of a year. Just think, if you buy one single use bottle of water per day, and then switch to carrying your own tap or filtered water, just one can person eliminate 365 empty plastic bottles from rattling around our planet. That’s a lot of plastic, and that’s only one person.
Eat less meat. Animal agriculture is a huge source of greenhouse gas emissions. Reducing your meat consumption even by just one or two meals a week can have an impact. Health experts say that eating less meat is better for us. Remember too that if you’re travelling in a warm climate, spoiled meat is often times the cause of food poisoning. And when on vacation, never eat bush meat or endangered seafood. It encourages poaching and threatens the wildlife you are there to visit. Remember, you don’t have to cut meat consumption out of your life entirely, but even just reducing a bit is good for both person and planet.
In Asia you would never find a lionfish on your plate. However, they have become a prolific invasive species spreading down further and further, from North to South America. Locals and tourists alike are now being encouraged to hunt and eat this venomous fish. Of course removing their venomous spines first, before eating the delicious white meat (it makes great ceviche)!
At hotels and at home, always turn off the lights and minimize the climate control settings as you leave for the day. Its pretty basic stuff, but when you add up the numbers of us stepping out for the day, this little habit adds up to big carbon savings. Unplug any chargers not in use and turn off your aircon. That electricity, aircon or heat is being produced by some sort of carbon emitting power generation, so keep usage to a minimum.
Leave a note on your pillow and sheets reminding hotel staff not to change them unless they truly need it. The same goes for towels --only change them when they need it. It’s one of our pet peeves here at Wild Creatures. How many times do you go to a hotel with the nice little eco-friendly placard stating they don’t change the linens everyday – only to find out that, yes they do? This is a huge waste of water, electricity and cleaning products. Become a mini-activist and politely ask housekeeping not to swap stuff out. Your comments will eventually work its way up the chain of command.
Tip hotel housekeeping staff at the time of your departure. This item doesn’t apply in all parts of the world – definitely check out local tipping and gratuity customs before you visit. When is it appropriate? Theoretically, we’d all like to think that hotels pay their workers a living wage, and perhaps they do. But in many places hotels rely on students, rural or migrant workers to take on cleaning roles. These people oftentimes support extended family networks and the tip money will go to paying for medical expenses, food, school fees and books, etc. So ask yourself –what is the custom in this country and who are the people doing the cleaning? 1 USD per day of your hotel stay as a baseline calculation and leave it in an envelope at the end of your stay. Chances are, the money will be going to improve the lives of others.
Make eco-friendly choices: never buy shells, dried seahorses or any Chinese medicine that uses endangered and threatened aniamls in its ingredients.
Make eco-friendly choices for accommodation, tours and all aspects of your life. You have power as the consumer to pick tours, hotels, lodges that are sustainable and environmentally friendly. By supporting these green businesses you are supporting the environment. Organisations like Toftigers in India list all the most environmentally sound accommodation and tour options. Follow the link below to learn more. If you find you are perhaps in not the most energy efficient establishment then let hotel management, tour operators and restaurants know that environmental considerations are important to you! As more of us do this, it gives the tourism industry permission to make these best practices commonplace. You can tell them in person, through surveys, online reviews or other forms of social media. Be polite and friendly about it. Celebrate the good stuff as well as highlighting the bad. Businesses and organizations are paying attention. Beyond this, make eco-friendly choices in all aspects of your life. Buy products that don't have harmful microbeads, are not tested on animals and are bio-degradable. Don't buy clothes made in sweatshops, or shell jewellery that has been stolen from the sea. We as consumers have the power to change businesses and organisations for the better.
These 8 green basics are as important in everyday life as on holiday – and they really are right at your fingertips. Not only will you be helping reduce pollution and carbon emissions, but by doing things like walking more and eating less meat, you will be boosting your own wellness too. So remember, a green basic isn’t just better the planet, its better for you too!