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Sustainable Travel: 7 steps to make your journey a little sweeter

by Michelle Konov

Travel is back on the table! It’s been a while for many of us. Between government restrictions and quarantine requirements, this summer might be our first time doing some travel, especially overseas. [Does that not feel bizarre?]

While jumping on a plane or taking a long car trip isn’t necessarily sustainable, the escape of going somewhere and trying something new is something that we all might need after being cooped up for two whole years. Still, there are some small ways that we can make our trips more friendly to the environment.

1. Sustainable Packing

When you think of sustainable packing, probably the first thing you think of is your clothing – and you’d be right. The more we pack, the more fuel it costs to get us from point A to point B, regardless of how much you think you’re going to need 3 outfits a day. Realistically speaking, probably one outfit a day is what you’re going to need.

Consider bringing with you or investing in pieces that you can mix and match in a cohesive way and bring along a small collection of small accessories instead of bulking up with more cloth. One of my favorite YouTubers, Kaiti Yoo, has a great video on building a closet of clothes you will actually wear. This can be super easily applied to what you bring with you on a trip!

But packing sustainably is not just thinking about how much clothing you bring with you. It’s also focusing on toiletries and minimizing plastic use.

It’s not something we usually think of, right? I used to just toss in little bottles I’d gotten as samples from stores and use them up before throwing them away immediately. That kind of plastic waste is so ingrained that it just doesn’t even come to mind.

Consider solid shampoos and conditioners

These are just as good as your liquid versions – even better, perhaps, because they don’t get flagged in customs. You can take them right on through without even worrying about whether they’ll spill or they’ll take them away because you accidently put them in your carry-on.

Plus, they take up less space, and they’re surprisingly easy to use!

Can’t forget the bamboo toothbrush

This one is pretty self-explanatory, but if you’re wondering what makes bamboo toothbrush better than the usual (plastic) ones we use:

  • Bamboo grows fast. (Like. 1meter+ per day fast).
  • They are 100% biodegradable.
  • They are antimicrobial, meaning they resist bacteria growth.
  • They last a long time.

There are many reasons to switch over, and all of them are great for the planet – and for you, too! Make sure you get one that comes in a (sustainable) pouch that’s easy to carry, for the extra convenience.

2. The water bottle

We’ve said it a lot in other blog posts, but having a water bottle with you at all times will help prevent you from having to buy plastic ones. It also helps in airports. As long as it’s empty when you’re going through security, you can take it through with you. Every airport has water fountains where you can refill your water bottle. For free. No more 3-5 dollar water bottles – your wallet will thank you.

This Earthistic pure copper bottle is loaded with Ayurvedic benefits too, that will keep you feeling lighter and more energized throughout the day.

There won’t always be a place to drop by and get water, which is why a bigger bottle (1000ml at least) is going to come in clutch. It might be a little heavier, but it’ll ensure you stay hydrated and happy throughout the day. Just fill up whenever you get the chance and revel in the coolness of fresh water throughout the day!

It’s a win-win-win situation: saving some money while you travel, knowing what you have is safe, and staying hydrated all the time… all while saving the environment a little. Bam!

2.5 Reusable coffee cup

If you’re like me and you can’t live without a coffee or a tea in your hand at all times, you might also want to invest in a reusable coffee cup.

There’s a lot of good ones floating around the internet, but a couple of our our favorites:

bamboo cutlery, bamboo, reusable
3. Get your own cutlery set

There are times where you’re traveling and you find a delicious looking food truck – and they’re offering you a plastic fork and knife. Well, you’ve got nothing else with you, so you dig right in and, of course, it’s the best thing you’ve ever had. Still, there’s a bit of guilt in eating it because of that plastic fork and knife.

Getting your own cutlery set, like this bamboo one from Tru Earth – a personal favorite of mine that I use every day at work – is an easy way to get rid of that niggling guilt. It even comes with a bamboo straw and chopsticks!

4. Take the scenic route

So you’re on vacation now, and life is good. The locals recommend taking a taxi to your next destination, so you hop right in, right? No way!

Walking or renting a bike to get around is the best way to learn about the place you’re going. Google maps gets us around enough that you can find your way even if it’s a bit complicated.

Taking the scenic route is what a vacation’s all about! You don’t want to spend your precious vacation time inside a cab, paying someone to take you around in a big metal box when you could be enjoying the sights on a walk.

Pop into a cafe you pass along the way, or a little shop that catches your eye. Stop by a museum with a bit of a hidden sign that you couldn’t see from the road. Do your vacation your way.

scenic route, walk, enjoy, vacation
5. Seek out local experiences

This might sound a little bit obvious, but perhaps the best experience while you’re in a completely foreign place is experiencing the foreign things it has to offer. A lot of people fall into tourist traps, and end up going to places like markets where the products are mass-produced.

We’re not gullible or anything, it’s just what we’re directed to. Doing a little bit of research on the place you’re going to can really save you from this. withlocals.com is one site where you can check out some cool local experiences that will save you from those tourist traps.

But how is this sustainable? A lot of tourist experiences are conducted either by big companies that don’t care to use local materials, or in a wasteful way, taking you from one part of the city to another in a bus. Going local is a great way to get off the beaten path in a less wasteful way.

local, market, local experience
6. On a similar note, buy local

This one’s pretty self-explanatory. Instead of going into a big supermarket, check out the little shops. Rather than going to a chain coffee shop (ahemStarbucksahem) check out some of the little local coffee shops in the area. You’ll probably thank yourself later, for the experience!

7. Two words: farm-to-table restaurants

These aren’t available everywhere, of course, but they are potentially the best way to stay sustainable while you’re on vacation. This cuts down the transportation of the food you’re buying, as usually it’s in the area. Less fuel is consumed and less emissions are released.

You also get a lot of in-season food, which means that you’re trying something new and enjoying the fully local experience.

You get fresh ingredients that taste delicious and natural. You know that the produce they’re using for the day was just picked and is at its peak tastiness.

You’re supporting local business: not just the restaurant you’re in. Farm-to-table restaurants tend to support other local businesses. Bakers, artists, farmers, and other local suppliers are often in the mix.

Plus, it’s a great way to educate your children by showing them that sustainability can also be delicious.

farm to table, restaurant, local experience

In just 7 steps, you can not only make your travel more sustainable, you can also have a greater experience. It’s a little bit more prep than maybe we’re used to, but even a little goes a long way.

Give it a bit of thought and don’t forget that water bottle!

It’s all in the details~

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