I have been trying to live and travel sustainably for 9 years. It’s hard and it’s not always convenient. For me it’s worth it, rewarding and it’s my choice. I left Australia 4 months ago on a 6 month trip around the world.
Countries I have travelled to include: Phillipines, Qatar, Czech Republic, Vienna, Italy, Germany, France, Switzerland, England, Iceland, Canada and currently in the United States.
Visited: 12 countries, 25 cities/towns
To get to these places I have taken:
- 7 flights in that time
- 15 trains
- 4 buses
- 6 car ride-shares (mostly in the United States and short distances when there was no public transport available!).
I’m still yet to calculate my carbon emissions to offset the travel I haven’t already offset.
Roughly carbon emission reduction by taking the train is approximately 80% in Europe and 33% (Amtrak) in the US compared to flights. Buses are about 85% reduction in Europe (Flixbus) and 70% (Greyhound) in the US. I travel Megabus, but I couldn’t find any statistics available on their fleet.
Other ways I have tried to be sustainable:
- Eat vegetarian or choose sustainably sourced meat, fish and restaurants where possible.
- My accommodation has been as locally owned and sustainable as possible.
- My single use plastic usage has been very limited – not quite zero.
- I carry reusable water bottles, coffee cups, straws, cutlery (and chopsticks – hey I’m asian!), cloth napkins, produce bags, carry bags, handkerchiefs, beeswax wraps.
- Toiletries include carrying soap that is palm oil free (saving animal habitat destruction) and buying locally produced soap to restock free from plastic packaging (great souvenirs!). Soap works fine as shampoo too. Surprisingly one doesn’t need conditioner.
- Carrying my own soapberries for laundry and trying to only wear fabrics that contain natural fibres (I have some synthetics!).
So what is sustainable travel and why do I bother doing it?
What is Sustainable Travel?
Sustainable travel is a holistic view incorporating economic development, environmental and cultural respect with traveling.
For me it’s the idea of making sure that the destination profits from tourists, without damaging the environment or the local culture. It is applicable everywhere, even your own backyard.
Key examples of traveling sustainably are:
- Stay in locally owned accommodation (by staying locally owned, the money stays in the local economy).
- Ensure your environmental impact is low, respect the environment as if it were your own (don’t damage or take flora/fauna, don’t litter, reuse, refuse, recycle, reduce).
- Read up or take note of local customs and cultures and respect them (wear appropriate clothing, eg cover up bare shoulders and legs if that is what the locals do, be silent in sacred places etc).
Tourism accounts for 10% of world GDP (World Trade & Tourism Council). It’s significant. It has economic power and can make or break a city or town. See more on my page on Sustainable Travel here.
Why do I do it?
I love traveling. I love meeting local people, understanding their culture. I love enjoying nature, it never ceases to amaze me. I would love others now and in the future to enjoy it too. The only way they will be able to, is through sustainable travel. All the photos on this article were taken by me. I’d love others to enjoy these beautiful places, just the way I have seen them, if not in better condition! By taking the train or bus I have met some wonderful people and made friends along the way.
The impact of each one of us traveling will have a great impact on the world when it all adds up. The same applies to our own households at home. While our own household might seem to be a fraction of the community you live in, the city and the world; it’s the cumulative effect that if everyone does even one thing, it’ll amount to something significant. This is to illustrate how important traveling sustainably is, especially in developing countries.
For me the key is that I try. I’m not perfect and it’s not about being the model citizen. It’s about doing the best one can. I push the limits because I want to see what is required to be truly sustainable. While it’s currently difficult to be 100% sustainable worldwide, I think doing as much as one can definitely helps. I’ve seen a lot of positive initiatives around the world so far that has made it relatively easy to travel and live mostly sustainable.
It’s your choice, you can try it out too.
If you don’t know where to start, ask me how.