HOW TO TRAVEL SUSTAINABLY
Arti joined us in Bali for the March 2018 retreat, and here shares her top 5 ways you can travel sustainably!
There’s nothing quite like the feeling of booking a vacation to a sunny, beach destination. As you prepare for your trip, you envision white sand, blue water, and miles of pristine beach. This was the image I had in my head prior to leaving for Bali for the Pangea Dreams Retreat. After touring around coastal towns like Seminyak and Canggu, climbing Mount Batur, and strolling around Ubud, the reality of what tourism does to a country was really made apparent. While some parts were exactly as I had hoped, others were littered with garbage to a shocking degree.
I couldn’t believe that in the remote passes of the Mount Batur volcano, empty plastic water bottles were tucked into rock crevasses, and on the beaches of Canggu, toothbrushes, plastic water bottles, plastic straws, and just junk littered the beaches. Mounds of plastic water bottles and garbage would be sitting on the side of the road in Ubud, with even more floating in sewage along the street.
As a tourist, not only do you get to soak in the vibes of the place that you are visiting, but you do have a social responsibility when it comes to helping preserve the environment. Here are five ways to travel sustainably that you can implement on your next trip!
5 WAYS TO TRAVEL SUSTAINABLY
1. Refuse the Straw
One of the biggest polluters of the oceans and beaches are plastic straws. For something that is used one time, for one drink, for one person, the impact of its life after-use is massive. Here’s an alarming stat: every single plastic straw that has ever been used in the history of the world is still in existence today. Scary, right? Not only does this pollute the environment, but it has horrible effects on marine life. Sea turtles have been found with straws impaling their bodies and nostrils, whales have been found with stomachs full of plastic straws, and small fish are known to nibble at the straws as they break down into micro-plastics, meaning they end up in our food.
What You Can Do:
While a lot of Bali restaurants use bamboo, paper, stainless steel, or glass straws in place of plastic ones, there are still a ton that don’t, and globally, thousands upon thousands that don’t. Be proactive in protecting our precious oceans and actively refuse a straw every time you order a drink. Better yet, carry your own bamboo or stainless steel straw with you, to enjoy your beverage in a sustainable way.
2. Carry Your Own Utensils
Like with plastic straws, plastic cutlery is one-time use. This means that similarly, you enjoy your meal and the cutlery that was used for maybe 30 minutes is now subject to an eternity on this planet. Airplanes are super wasteful nowadays where they’ve replaced metal utensils with plastic ones. Many fast food joints, takeaways places, or street food stalls give you plastic utensils to use for your meal. These utensils end up on beaches, in the ocean, in the stomachs of marine and land animals, and most alarmingly, as micro-plastics in our food.
What You Can Do:
Many people have started carrying their own bamboo utensils with them when they travel. Having your own utensils with you means that you drastically reduce your own ecological footprint, as well as prevent those many more one-time use plastic utensils from ending up on beaches and in the ocean. The travel utensils that are available are sustainably made, packaged in cute pouches, and take up very little space in your bag.
3. Eat Local
When traveling, it’s always amazing to check out the local cuisine and indulge in fare from the country you’re in. Often times, eating the same thing over and over again on your trip can get repetitive, so switching it up to incorporate some of the other restaurants that are around is great. Many restaurants are chains that are present all over the world, and the ingredients are flown in, in order to preserve the taste they’re known for. This is especially true for island nations that struggle to provide travellers with flavours that they're accustomed to but that are hard to find on the island. This isn’t always the best practice, as the ecological footprint of that food is extremely huge. Additionally, local farmers and growers lose out, and often have to abandon their farms as demand for international chains grow.
What You Can Do:
Support restaurants and cafes that specifically mention their commitment to sustainability, locally-sourced ingredients (we guarantee the food tastes insanely better), and the local farms that they buy their produce from. There’s definitely a growing demand for transparency, locally-sourced, fresh ingredients, and support of local people, so as you travel, keep an eye out for these kinds of cafes, or look them up prior to traveling.
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4. Refuse Animal Cruelty
When you say animal cruelty, most people agree that they would never support it. The problem is that animal cruelty can be masked in ways in which you don’t realize you’re supporting it, or in ways where you don’t realize that the animal is experiencing pain. In many developing nations, especially in Asia, indulging in experiences like elephant riding, is massively popular. The tour guides try to tell you that the elephants are trained for this, that they don’t feel pain, and that they’ve been used for hundreds of years as a mode of transport. The reality is that while they have culturally been used for transport, taking tourists around and around all day in chains is not their idea of fun. Most times, these animals (camels, elephants, horses etc) are treated very poorly and suffer a great deal of pain. Even if you are not actively riding the animal, going to a park or grounds for another activity that has animal riding on site, is a form of support. In Bali, Luwak coffee is quite popular, but a terrible thing to support as the animals are caged, force-fed, and treated awfully. Monkeys that are made to perform, bears that are forced to dance, any animals kept in cages, birds in confinement – all of it is simply for profit, without the animal’s well-being in mind.
What You Can Do:
Refuse to support any organization or tour package that supports any sort of animal entertainment. Be conscious of your behaviour, and despite what the locals might say, assess the situation for yourself. Make a personal oath to stop riding any animals in confinement, because undoubtedly, this is a form of torture. Refuse entry into places like SeaWorld or places where animals are made to perform. Be cautious of visiting zoos in Asia, as their standards are exceptionally low. And beware of products being sold that have used animals in their production. Opt for sanctuaries, certified organizations and orphanages, but do your research beforehand to ensure these places are legitimate, and not money-grabs.
5. It’s All About the Simple Changes
Making an impact on the world can be as small as changing a habit that you do, rather than a full-fledged global movement. When we stay in hotels, we’re so accustomed to having fresh towels every day, a change of linens, and new bottles of water replaced in our rooms. While this might feel like the luxury we don’t get at home, we have to recognize just how wasteful this is. A new towel and new sheets every day means a TON of more laundry for the hotel to do. This means more water wastage, more electricity used, and more emissions sent into the world. The replacing of plastic water bottles in our hotel rooms every day means that the oceans get to receive more plastic pollution.
What You Can Do:
Many hotels now only replace your towels if you leave them on the floor. Re-use your towel when on vacation, as you would at home, and perhaps leave a note for housekeeping to not replace your bed linens. Don’t grab the water bottle that’s on the nightstand, and instead, carry your own reusable bottle and fill it up in the dining room, or from a fill station/water fountain. The small changes add up, and soon, you’ll be thinking in a more conscious way. There might be other things you notice that your hotel does that’s not sustainable, and by refusing those things, you’re becoming an active agent of social change.
Traveling sustainably doesn’t have to mean changing who you are and the experiences you have. By becoming aware of your consuming habits, you’re changing the impact you have on a place. There is no higher form of respect for this planet and for another nation than by leaving it in the same or better state it was in when you found it, and in order to visit places with those pristine beaches in mind, your actions will help preserve them.
About the author: Arti is a world-traveler and conscious consumer, actively promoting sustainable living and everything good. With her platform, Forage and Sustain, her goal is to inspire others to live their best sustainable life, without compromising on style.
Arti was part of Pangea Dreams Retreat in Bali in March 2018, and with a love for adventure, yoga, and good reads, she's aiming to spread her message world-wide!
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