We know that often people think that traveling and a sustainable lifestyle doesn’t work with each other. They come up with the argument that flying cases so many Co2 emissions, and that’s really bad for the environment. And they are right in that one single point, and we don’t want to tell you that it’s not bad if we are often flying. But we think that especially travelers are mostly the people that are most aware of environmental issues. The reason is that they have seen problems like plastic pollution and dead reefs with their own eyes. They have as well seen some of the most beautiful places, and they know exactly what we have to lose if we don’t care for our planet more. This leads to a passion of wanting to do something about it and changing its own footprint. That is why we think that traveling is actually good to get a more sustainable thinking person, but there is a lot to consider to really be the most sustainable traveler you can be.
We wrote this blog post to share our own experiences and to inspire others to get a more sustainable thinking traveler or person too. We are certainly not perfect, and we find things that we can get better all the time. And that’s what we think is a sustainable journey about — realizing what you can get better at and do it step by step and getting better at this constantly. No one changes from one day to the other. We hope this gives you valuable tips and information, and if you have something to add, we look forward to hearing from you.
Skip plastic bottles with a filter bottle
When we first started to travel to countries in Asia, we were not aware of the plastic problem these countries have. We come from a country that has a very well working trash and recycling system and had never seen plastic ending up in nature until then. On our travel through India, we started realizing that there is no such thing as a trash system, and that time we bought plastic bottles every day because it wasn’t possible to drink tap water like it isn’t in many countries of the world.
So right after this trip, we started researching because we wanted a bottle that made it possible for us to drink the water no matter where we are in the world. We ended up buying a filter bottle from Lifestraw, and we had never made a better purchase in our life than this. Since we are using our Lifestraw bottles, we saved hundreds of plastic bottles while traveling. The filter protects against bacteria, parasites and microplastics, chlorine, and organic chemical matter such as pesticides, herbicides, and even improves the water taste. This is not sponsored, and there are other providers of such filter bottles. We had a great experience with these bottles so far and totally recommend every traveler to get a filter bottle. You can save a lot of money with this too, by the way, and it’s way better for your health because water from plastic bottles also contains a bit of plastic that you drink.
To eat a vegan diet is one of the most effective ways to protect the environment. That is why also, as a traveler you can lower your impact if you eat a plant-based diet. It’s not always easy to find the best vegan places to eat. That is why we use the apps HappyCow and abillionveg, which we highly recommend to you (even if you are not a Vegan). Both apps are very helpful to find places to eat and to know if they have Vegan or Vegetarian options, or are even entirely plant-based.
If you would like to know more about why a vegan diet is good for our planet, click here: Reasons why we live on a plant-based diet
Skip a Straw (and any other single-use plastics) and save the Ocean
Besides plastic bottles, a very common problem is that, for example, in Asia, most of the restaurants give you plastic straws with every drink you order, from fruit juices to cocktails, coffee, and fresh coconuts. We know it’s only one straw, right!? But if you sum it up with every person that orders a drink several times a day in all these countries you get a pretty significant number. In Bali, we see a lot that they give you bamboo or metal straws now, which is fantastic, but this was mostly not the case in other places we traveled. We always ask the waiters when we order a drink if they have plastic straws and if they say yes, we ask them to leave the straw away. We have our metal straws with us because when it comes to drinking coconuts, it gets pretty challenging to do so without a straw.
We also learned to ask the waiters in the restaurant if they have filter water by glass because, especially, the small local places often bring you a plastic bottle when you order water, and that is what we want to avoid. So if they only have water in plastic bottles, we mostly go for fruit juice or a homemade iced tea, which is mostly not more expensive than water.
But it’s not only straws that end up in the ocean. It’s every kind of single-use plastic from packaging. We try to avoid consuming food wrapped in plastic completely when we travel. We always check if there is a bulk-store in the area and eat a lot of fruits and fresh food. If you visit Southeast Asia, for example, you will find a lot of delicious street food. So we recommend you to bring your own cutlery-set so you can eat everything and don’t need to use single-use cutlery. They can be bought at any zero-waste store.
Don’t bring plastic with you, when you start your journey
One experience we made is that we brought shampoo and sunscreen in plastic packing to our trip. We finished these products during our journey and put them into the trash at our accommodation. During exploring the beautiful paradise island we were at, we crossed a landfill in the middle of the island where barley no tourist ever comes. At that point, we realized that all the trash that we bring to this island would not disapear; it will probably never leave it again. It will stay there in the middle of our dreamy paradise island and possibly even end up in the ocean. It’s not like back home where most things can be recycled and disposed of correctly.
That’s why we travel now with soap-bars that have no packaging or we refill the products that are in bottles. These products can be found in every zero waste shop. We make a challenge out of this to have fun doing it. So the challenge is: make zero plastic waste while visiting a paradise island. It’s not that easy, but it is possible. Will you join this challenge on your next trip?
Also, we recommend you to avoid the products that are provided by the hotels you are staying at. You probably won’t stay long enough to finish a whole soap, and the rest will end up in the trash, as well as all the plastic packaging of these little bottles and wrappings.
Read more: How to reduce your plastic waste
Buy a reef-friendly sunscreen
About 63% of the ingredients of a conventional sunscreen are harmful to our health as well as for the environment. Especially the reefs are suffering from the chemicals that we bring to the water using these sunscreens. It’s about 14 million kilos of sunscreen that ends up in the world’s ocean every year, which causes coral bleaching.
So if you buy your next sunscreen, make sure it is one that is reef friendly. That means it is free from synthetic chemicals, preservatives, and perfumes. Also, it is significant for the reef that the Mineral UV-filter is a Non-Nano Zinc Oxide.
Our reefs are one of the most important ecosystems of our planet. Over 50% of the world’s coral reefs have died in the last 30 years and up to 90% may die within the next century. This leads to habitat loss for many marine species, for example nearly one-quarter of the worlds dolphin species are threatened with extinction.
But the reefs are not only important for the ones that are living in the ocean it’s also essential for us humans to survive. They generate half of Earth’s oxygen and absorb nearly one-third of the carbon dioxide. That is why it is so important to do everything that is in our power to protect them.
Chose the best transportation and make a compensation
We all know that flying leads to significant CO2 emissions, and it’s definitely not the most sustainable way to get around. Whenever possible, we chose the way to travel over land by train or by bus. Also, when visiting some sights, we always choose to walk to these places over getting driven there from tourist tours.
For the flights we have to make, we chose to make CO2 compensations what means that we give something back for the miles and emissions we made. On the CO2-compensation websites, you can calculate the carbon footprint of your flight, as well as the amount that is required for carbon offsetting. Your offset will be spent on projects that are reducing the CO2 emissions.
For example, for our flight from Zurich to Denpasar, we used myclimate and donated USD 110.00 for two people. They have many different projects for climate protection.
Support local business
When we visit new places, we try to stay at guesthouses or small hotels of local people instead of supporting big chains, which are mostly not having any sustainable practices. Also, when it comes to eating out, it’s best to eat at local places or especially to eat products that are growing in this country instead of imported products. For example, if you like wine, try a local one instead of an imported wine you might know already. Or eat the local fruits like, for example, in Indonesia, we eat Mangos and Dragonfruits instead of Apples, which are imported from Europe or New Zealand. In Europe, we avoid buying tropical fruits and enjoy the Apples instead.
In most countries, people also have artisans who are making some kind of artwork. So if you want to buy something from a country you visit, check what these people are specialized at and get yourself something special from this place. Like for example carpets in Morocco, block-printed clothing, and homewares from India or Rattan bags from Bali.
Leave nothing but your footprints
One of the best things about traveling is exploring beautiful beaches, hiking through incredible forests, and stunning waterfalls. Mother Nature is the most precious that we have and also the most fascinating to discover. But if we do so, we should not leave any trash behind. If you leave a plastic bottle behind, it will take around 500 to 1000 years to decompose, but that doesn’t mean it will disappear during that time; it will become only toxic to the environment or end up as micro-plastic in our ocean. So wherever you go in the world, take your trash back with you and leave only your footprints. What is even better than taking only your trash back with you is to take the garbage that you’ll find there as well. We collect trash with our 4Ocean bag, which we bought to support them, but you can certainly use every bag for that. We know it’s not our trash, but it’s our planet, and we want to make it clean again, right?