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Travel with care | How to make every day Earth Day

How to make every day earth day

Today, Saturday 22 April, is Earth Day: our annual reminder to take better care of our planet.

But sadly, days like this tend to come and go with little more than brief recognition, and all the while our beautiful, delicate home continues to get sicker. Climate change is one of the most urgent problems Earth faces today, and it’s not a far-off threat. It is real, disastrous, it’s happening to our planet right now – and we are to blame.

As travellers, we’re acutely aware that travel (particularly air travel) is sadly one of the largest contributors to global warming. But we also adore our planet and want to make sure that the places we’ve been fortunate enough to visit in our lifetime will continue to be there for our children and grandchildren as well. So how can we ensure that our adventure also preserves our home, and its awe-inspiring landscapes and intriguing cultures?  It’s all about attitude, and choice. From the food we eat, the products we buy, and the way we travel, the little choices we make every day add up to a huge difference in our world.

Here are some of the ways you can make every day Earth Day when you travel.

TRAVEL WITH CARE | HOW TO MAKE EVERY DAY EARTH DAY

CHOOSE A TRAVEL BRAND THAT REFLECTS YOUR VALUES

Travel is a huge purchase, and chances are unless you’re buying a house or car, it’s the largest one you’re going to make this year. You wouldn’t buy from a company that exploits people or places (hopefully), so why should your travels be any different?

Do your research, and choose a travel brand that reflects your values and beliefs: do they care about the communities they visit? Protecting our planet as they travel? Do they condone cruel practices like elephant rides or lion walks? Do they give back to local communities? And more importantly – do they actually live by these values or are they just words on a page? Personally, we choose Intrepid Travel, because in our view they do this better than anyone else, and we admire the way they live and breathe sustainable travel.

DO YOUR PART: 10 WAYS TO BE AN ANIMAL FRIENDLY TRAVELLER

STOP BUYING BOTTLED WATER

Please, just stop. For a start, it’s illogical: in most developed countries we have clean, fresh, free drinking water available straight from our taps – yet we insist on buying bottled water that is more than 300 times the price. Would you pay 300 times extra for a meal, or a bus ride, or that new pair of jeans?

Then there’s the havoc it wreaks on our planet. Every year, as a global population we consume 60 billion bottles of water. But what’s the real environmental cost of producing these? The maths goes a little like this…

For every one 1-litre bottle of water produced = we need another 2 litres of water + 200mL of oil.

That means, in times of severe water scarcity around the planet, we’re using up to 3 times the amount of water. How’s that for inefficiency? Then there are the millions of litres of oil required to run processing plants and transport bottles to stores, and it’s all starting to add up to a huge resource drain. Given that only 1 in 5 of those bottles will actually be recycled and it takes up to 700 years for plastic to begin decomposing (not finish), that’s an awful lot of plastic choking up our environment.

The solution? Switch to a reusable water canteen or drink bottle instead, and bring some water purification tablets with you when you travel. Your water will stay cooler, and you can enjoy the feeling of making a world of difference.

NO STRAW, PLEASE

Picture this: you’re enjoying a fun night out at a cool beachside bar in Cambodia. The conversation is flowing, as are the cocktails; each arriving with two little straws to make it easier for you to drink without bumping your teeth on ice or fruit while you dance and chat. You have one drink, then another, or maybe five… every one served with a new straw or two. By the end of the night, those five drinks have probably cost 10 straws – each used once before being thrown straight into the bin (or on the floor).

WHY TRIPADVISOR’S WILDLIFE ATTRACTION BAN IS AWESOME NEWS

SAY NO TO PLASTIC

When we first arrived in the UK, where we’re currently based, we were shocked by how much unnecessary plastic packaging is used everywhere. At Tesco, tomatoes come wrapped in plastic, you can buy 12 packs of chicken fillets that are individually wrapped, then wrapped in a plastic bag, and avocados (which have their own protective skin) come into twos… you guessed it, wrapped in plastic. In other parts of the world, little plastic bags and Styrofoam containers are used for everything from serving food and drinks at food stalls to pretty much any other use you can think of.

Just little bottles, plastic bags are non-biodegradable, and you only need to travel through developing countries to understand how out of control the littering of plastic bags has become. While many are introducing new policies (Kenya and Uganda have now banned all plastic bags, while the UK charges 5p per bag), the majority ends up in our oceans – just google the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Until we live in a plastic-free society, pack a few lightweight canvas bags, shop at local markets rather than big supermarkets, and wave a big fat ‘bye Felicia’ to the plastic bags in your life.

LOWER YOUR CARBON FOOTPRINT: SLEEP, EAT, TRAVEL LOCAL 

Along with the simple stuff like water canisters and canvas bags, the choices you make about the way you travel can have a huge impact on the health of the planet too. Sadly, between air travel, large hotel chains, and private transport, the travel industry tends to be a pretty big spender when it comes to carbon emissions – the largest contributor to global warming.

But you don’t have to cancel all travel plans and stay at home forever. By choosing to sleep, eat, and travel like a local you can drastically reduce your carbon footprint and help to keep our planet’s lungs clean and healthy for centuries to come. Stay in locally owned guesthouses instead of large energy-intensive hotels, take local transport instead of hiring a private car, and buy from local markets and food stalls which cut down on emissions produced by food transport. Plus, your hard earned dollars will go straight to supporting the local communities you’re in, rather than going straight to the pockets of large corporations and you have a more authentic experience too. Win, win! Travelling with a brand? Choose one that is carbon neutral.

STICK TO THE TRAILS

We’re all about taking the path less travelled, and exploring pristine wilderness – but trampling a delicate ecosystem is a totally different thing. Did you know that a single wrong step of the boot can take the local flora years to regenerate? It literally expands the impact of your footprint. Whether you’re hiking, exploring desert landscapes, or wandering along a coastline, stick to the trails and leave no trace behind.

A TOUR WITH A DIFFERENCE: THE FACES OF IMIZAMO YETHU, CAPE TOWN

CUT DOWN YOUR MEAT CONSUMPTION

Here are some stats that will blow your mind:

Stats like that are horribly depressing, but the good news is, simply cutting back on the amount of meat you eat makes a huge difference. On our travels last year, we actually witnessed huge tracts of forest land that had been cleared for animal grazing or crop farming for the livestock industry. It was pretty heart-breaking to see the impact of this so directly, and at the end of our travel we decided that the meat industry was no longer something we wanted to support. We now eat a 95% vegetarian diet and allow ourselves a treat (generally chicken) every month or so. If every single person on the planet cut meat from their diet a couple of times a week, we’d save the equivalent of 7 million cars on the road. Massive, right?

STOP RIDING ELEPHANTS AND GOING ON LION WALKS

Alright, this isn’t exactly how to help our planet in times of climate change, but while we’re on the topic of caring for our planet this is a big one. Please, please stop riding elephants, going on lion walks, taking photos with drugged up tigers, and visiting zoos. Simply put: elephants are cruelly tortured during their training, no lion or tiger would placidly lie around next to hordes of tourists snapping photos, and no animal should have to perform for a human, ever. Remember the Tiger Temple in Thailand? The one where you could snap photos next to tigers, and it was ok ‘because they were looked after by caring monks’? Turns out it was one of the worst of the biggest offenders when it comes to animal abuse, speed breeding, and corruption. No animal attraction is a good attraction.

Think we’ve missed something? Share your tips on how to be a responsible, caring traveller below! 

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How to make everyday earth day

#ICHOSETOWANDER - The Common Wanderer

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18 Comments

  • Reply
    Life with Larissa
    April 22, 2017 at 2:44 pm

    It’s actually crazy how much plastic we as a world go through (and I’m including myself in there too). I recently just learned how they treat the animals on the elephant rides or the lion walks, and it breaks my heart. I shall never engage in such cruelty. I agree: as lovers of travel, we have a duty to help preserve this Earth…not only on Earth Day, but all year round.

    • Reply
      The Common Wanderer
      April 22, 2017 at 3:51 pm

      It’s heartbreaking when you realise how large the consumption is, and the impact that it’s having on the planet! Hopefully, the mentality starts to shift soon. Good on you for making the choice not to support animal cruelty. The more people who unite against it, the easier it is to make change 🙂 Happy travels!

  • Reply
    Alice Chen
    April 22, 2017 at 3:18 pm

    I definitely never thought about straws! I always use my own water bottle when I can.

    • Reply
      The Common Wanderer
      April 22, 2017 at 4:18 pm

      yeah, it’s something we only realised a couple of months ago! But once you start to notice them you realise how quickly it all adds up

  • Reply
    Kristine Li
    April 22, 2017 at 3:33 pm

    Very informative article, thanks for sharing! The part about sticking to the trails is new to me, I felt like I’ve gained so much earth-friendly information from this post! =)

  • Reply
    borderfreeproductions
    April 22, 2017 at 3:51 pm

    Some really great tips here! Happiness is earth day every day.

  • Reply
    Penelopi
    April 22, 2017 at 4:56 pm

    Great Post! I love this straw idea! I totally agree with the Elephants point, I never ride them.

  • Reply
    Lisa Michele Burns
    April 22, 2017 at 5:19 pm

    Some really good points here, especially the sticking to the trails! In Iceland I got so cranky when I saw people tramping off the path and destroying the landscape just to get a better photo!

    • Reply
      The Common Wanderer
      April 22, 2017 at 6:48 pm

      oooh that makes us so mad! and when people are in national parks, right next to signs that say ‘revegetation in progress, do not walk’ and then continue to walk right past them. We’re dying to get to Iceland, looks so beautiful.

  • Reply
    GirlAstray
    April 22, 2017 at 5:56 pm

    The straws are a good point! If everyone does a little effort, we can change the world. Very inspiring!

    • Reply
      The Common Wanderer
      April 22, 2017 at 7:16 pm

      Exactly – small things add up to big change! Thanks so much for reading

  • Reply
    Bri
    April 22, 2017 at 8:12 pm

    I became a vegetarian for ethic reasons (animal cruelty and it helps the Earth!) so I LOVE this post. I also try to avoid plastic as often as possible as well as any attraction that involves an animal. More people should treat every day like Earth Day.

  • Reply
    Patricia
    April 22, 2017 at 10:14 pm

    Excellent article, an eye opener. Never agreed with zoos, except for preservation breeding and recovery for injured and sick animals. Sad to see people riding elephants and posing with lions and tigers, what a miserable existence for these poor animals.

  • Reply
    Iulia
    April 24, 2017 at 10:42 am

    Really great post, and I totally share your beliefs!

    I come from Romania, a country so beautiful but because it was for half a century under communist regime, lost a lot of momentum and now struggles to become a well worth European country. That being said, it also has a long way to become a eco friendly.
    Also, travelling broadens your views so much, but on some occasions it’s hard to remain eco friendly. I remember while on Ciprus, we went to this camel park, where we could feed the camels, ride the camels and drink camel milk, and while it was fun to see them and touch them and they were looking healthy in my humble opinion, on a second thought they were still prisoners out of their natural habitat, and they had to remain there all they and be available for the tourists.

    I have also started my own little travel corner at
    https://egodiary.com/

    I hope you’ll check some time and maybe find inspiration as I get from your articles.

    Thank you.

  • Reply
    Sophie Nadeau
    May 1, 2017 at 12:03 pm

    I loved your talk about the GVG + Intrepid Meet Up the other day! These are some really good pointers and what really stuck with me from the talk was when you mentioned drinking straws at bars etc. I’ve been thinking about it a lot ever since; it’s so shocking how much plastic is wasted every day just in drinking straws and water bottles!

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