Updated: Mar 24
So, if you don't know already, I'm a big traveller. I love seeing new places, getting to know different cultures, meeting new people, exploring and just getting to see how each country differs. I'm at my happiest when I have the privilege of exploring somewhere new. I think travel is important too as it helps open your eyes to how other people live, it allows you to grow, and gives you opportunities to learn and expand your knowledge.
But as with all things in life, there are definitely ways you can make your travelling greener.
Alright, first things first - packing. Now there's only so many things we can change here. Few things I would suggest are if you're needing to buy luggage either buy second hand or if you'll be using more than just a couple times get good quality items that will last you so you hopefully won't have to buy more in the future. Another tip -instead of buying travel toiletries buy refillable bottles and just decant from your large bottles, or you can one up that and buy a soap dish and use bar soap, although it's important to remember to buy soap that isn't packaged in plastic, that will kind of defeat the purpose. This shouldn't be too hard to find, here there so many little locally run shops that sell soap and of course, you have lush. For your soap dish go for either a tin one as these will last for pretty much ever, (as long as they don't rust!) and once you're done donate to charity, or if it breaks recycle it. Lush is just about the only place I've found them though apparently napiers does them too. Alternatively, you can buy a biodegradable & compostable one here which sounds pretty cool! And why not buy a couple extra dishes then you could also use them for your shampoo and conditioner bars!
I want to move on to probably the second most important part of this post - travelling to and from your destination. I was talking to a friend recently about this and it got me thinking, it was actually this that inspired me to write this blog! So you should be aware of the fact that pretty much every mode of transport is bad for the environment. Now if you feel up for walking or cycling to your next holiday destination then great, round of applause for you! But personally I'll pass, I love exercise and all but I don't think I can cycle that far. Next best options are train (electric not steam of course) and sailboat. Now, these do both take quite a bit of time, but you can't deny the train is not a bad way to travel. If you get seasick like myself by boat might not be the best way to go, it's also quite rare to find sailboat crossings. Check out Slow Travel who provide various alternative methods of travel such as by freighters transporting goods across the seas. This reduces your impact as this ship would be crossing anyway you're just tagging along. Ferry's and cars aren't great as they produce CO2 and other harmful gas and then you have planes which produce the most emissions. So if you really want to do that road trip, cruise or maybe you can only get to your destination by ferry or plane then you can offset your carbon emissions. My friend gave me a link to a company that allows you to do this called Atmosfair it calculates the amount you should donate for you if you put in your departure and arrival cities and allows you to donate to 3 different carbon offsetting projects. A cool feature on this site is for some routes it shows you the differences between airlines. On one of my flights, it said that easy jet had the lowest CO2 emissions, so you can use this to help you choose between flight as well. After a bit of research, I also found United nations site which offers a wider range of projects at varying prices per tonne of carbon. I didn't find this site as easy or accurate when it came to calculating how much carbon you should be offsetting, however. I ended up using the two in conjunction with each other.
Moving on to my final section. I would regard this as arguably the most important choice you have while travelling. What attractions do you see? For the best part, your choice has little impact besides maybe choosing to see stuff within walking distance of your accommodation or choosing public transport to get there over a taxi. But, when it comes to some attractions you definitely need to do your research first. I am primarily talking about animal attractions. I cannot stress enough that you should avoid certain attractions that use animals for entertainment. I am talking about circuses that use wild animals. Camps that allow you to ride elephants. Anywhere that allows you to get up and cuddle with an animal in particular predators. And avoid anyone walking about with an animal offering to take your photo with it.
I'll go into these in a bit more detail because it's important that you understand why these things are wrong and cruel.
Circuses. For wild animals such as lions, elephants and bears to perform such tricks, they need to go through more than just the training you would use to train your pet dog. These animals are wild, it is not in their behaviour to do what their told, you, therefore, need to control their wild side first. To do so these animals will be tortured into submission, drugged so they are calm enough to not kill their captor, often teeth and claws will be removed for humans protection and they will be kept chained up in confined and inhumane spaces. These are wild animals and should not be used for our entertainment.
Camps and "sanctuaries". Often in areas of Asia including Thailand and India, you will find camps and sanctuaries that will allow you to bath an elephant, give it its lunch then it'll take you for a ride, or something along those lines. Sounds tempting right? Getting to be up close to the beautiful, majestic animals. They all look great, the elephants look like they're having a great time. However. 9 times out of 10 there's a lot going on behind the scenes, and there's a reason you don't see it. The most obvious thing is the use of chains, generally, they will say they are just there for your safety in case the elephant tried to escape and that they're not chained up over night. What you don't see is them being chained up at night in confined, inhumane conditions. Diet - in the wild elephants eat mostly different types of grass. Here they will most likely be given fruit which is highly addictive and, although good in small quantities, can be harmful in large quantities. Training - as with the circus the elephants need to through brutal training to get to a stage where they are controllable. In Thailand, the elephants will be put in what is called a "crusher" which is a small wooden cage in which, as the name suggests, the elephant is crushed. They will do this until the elephants' spirit is broken. It's said that the Mahouts can see their spirit leave in their eyes. The elephant is then trained through negative reinforcement via the use of a bullhook to obey the trainer. It is then able to do things like paint for you, lift you up with its trunk and even take you for a ride. Sometimes, overworked elephants who are continually carrying people on the arch of their backs will end up with broken backs as their spines are not designed to carry excess weight. So next time you plan to visit one of these places, please do your research first. Do they allow you to ride them? If so this should be an instant no. Check reviews. Look at photos - elephants shouldn't be constantly kept in the sun, nor should they be chained to a fence, and they should not be kept alone as they are very sociable animals and solitude can cause them great stress and anxiety.
Another attraction Thailand was famous for was it's Tiger Temple. This has recently been shut down due to its abuse of the tigers. Any place where you can get that close to tigers is almost guaranteed to be bad news. Many of these tigers were cubs taken from mothers or orphaned due to poachers. They would then be drugged and chained up to allow visitors to get selfies with these beautiful creates. Many were also found with wounds from abusive keepers.
Finally, you often get locals walking about with animals, most commonly monkeys, by beaches or in towns offering to take your photo with it for a small fee. Do not accept this. This is wrong on so many levels. These animals will have been initially stolen from their natural habitat by poachers, they might have been orphans due to the illegal pet trade or bush meat trade. Now they are forced to walk in direct sunlight for hours on end for your benefit. These animals often suffer from dehydration, starvation, exhaustion, anxiety and stress from crowds of people and not being able to socialise with their own species, the list goes on.
So if your guilty of any of playing into any these tourist attractions, or if you've been blissfully ignorant until now, next time ask yourself - if it worth it? All this suffering for your latest Instagram post or profile picture? All that pain so your entertainment?