As tourism establishes itself as one of largest and fastest growing industries of the world, employing about 10% of the total global workers, the negative environmental effects of tourism grows. There are a lot of things you can do to lessen your impact, but these things often have unwanted side effects to them, making your trip less fun and more expensive. Therefore I thought why not compile a list of a few small easy things that will not only make your travels more sustainable, but also give you a better experience and allow you to travel longer for less.
- Switch standard search engine to Ecosia
Most travellers spend a lot of time browsing the web to find info about places, look for flights, book cheap hotels, figure out which travel agency to hire etc. According to a survey of 300 people it’s common to spend 10-20 hours per holiday to gather information online. By switching from for example Google or Yahoo to Ecosia, you will help fund Ecosia planting a lot of trees during those 10-20 hours. The trees will get planted in developing countries around the world and will as well reduce envronmental degradation as poverty. Ecosia donates at least 80% of their earnings to planting trees. Right now they are funding a project in Morocco, where they will plant more than a million fruit trees to stop desertification and raise local living standards. If you skip other search engines alltogether, you would be able to help them plant quite a lot of trees over the course of a year.
If you want to add something more to your browser you could also add a click-to-donate site as your start page. Click-for-donate sites vary a bit, but in they are built on donors donating money and in exchange receiving traffic or having their banners displayed. Every time a person clicks on the button a small ammount of money is donated to the site’s cause. Enough to for example plant a tree. Typically you can click only once per day. My favourite is Naturarvet, a swedish organization which buys old growth forests and turns them into nature reserves. You can visit them at https://naturarvet.se. If you want to look for another page, you can find a long list of click-to-donate sites here.
Both these things are very simple and easy to do. They don’t take a lot of time and they are entirely for free.
2. Don’t get diarrhea
This one was probably expected. Everyone has heard it a thousand times. But while back at home it may be quite a lot to ask to stop eating meat, while traveling in other countries it can have many other benefits making it more appealing. First of all meat and diary products are some of the main causes of traveller’s diarrhea. Drugs.com writes: “Do not eat raw food or dairy when you travel. Examples include fruits, raw vegetables in salads, oysters, clams, or undercooked meat. Do not have milk, ice cream, or other dairy products”. Traveldoctor.co.uk agrees: “Particularly risky foods include raw or undercooked meat, poultry, seafood, raw fruits and vegetables. Tap water, ice, and unpasteurized milk and dairy products are also associated with increased risk of TD”. Also meat is by far the most common way to get infected with parasites such as trichinella. In countries or places with lacking food hygiene, it could therefore be a good idea not to eat meat and dairy products, at least until you have grown a bit more accustomed to the local bacterial flora. It would greatly decrease the risk of you catching any diseases, parasites and even unknowingly consume nasty chemicals such as growth hormones, antibiotics and even so called “gutter oil” (recycled oil collected from places such as sewers, factories and gutters). Doesn’t sound too appealing.
3. Invest in Solar Energy in Africa
Airplanes are not very popular with a lot of people and organizations. Luckily, this is at least to some extent unfounded. Since it’s actyally both cheap and easy to negate carbon emissions, flying does not have to be a problem. It’s even possible to earn money on erasing your carbon footprint. To get started with that, first calculate your emissions using travelmath.com’s flight emissions calculator. For example it will tell you that a one way flight from Stockholm to Zurich emits 192 kgs of Co2. So there we go. 192 kgs. What to do with them? That’s what we have Trine for.
Trine is a small Swedish company which aims to end energy poverty. They will do this by giving villagers in Subsaharan Africa access to solar energy. In time they hope to help completely replace kerosene, which as well as being very expensive does damage both to the environment and those who breathe in the fumes. The reason that most of these people does not have access to solar energy already is that the entry fee is quite high: buying the panels costs a lot. But when the panels are already bought (with a loan from Trine) expenses are much lower than kerosene and it’s possible for the villagers to pay back on their loan with an interest. So you will actually earn money on helping people out of poverty.
Investing the minimum amount of 25 euros in a Trine project will negate different ammounts of emissions depending on which project you invest in. In general it seems to be the case that 1 euro negates about 10 kgs of co2. So if you fly from Stockholm to Zurich, you would cover more than enough simply by lending 25 euro to Trine for a while. Even better, you can use this link to get a free 10 euro bonus added to your first investment. By using that link you would as well give me a 10 euro bonus, which Trine would give me as thanks for referring them a customer. Both our bonuses would be earmarked for investments in Trine projects and we would be able to withdraw them only after a few years, when they have already more than made up for that flight from Stockholm to Zurich.
4. Buy a e-book reader and stop carrying a lot of heavy books around
This is one more of those things that to a lot of people aren’t worth it while home but which becomes worth it while traveling. Most of the bookstores I’ve encountered while traveling have had a very limited set of option. Even worse: sometimes there are no bookstores. Perhaps there is a book exchange somewhere in a hostel or cafe, but always with a very small selection. Ordering books from online can be expensive, troublesome and time consuming. It’s bad enough while at home, but when you are abroad and dont have a permanent address, it gets even worse. Especially if you are in a country with strict censorship rules or cleptomaniacs working at the post offices. Your book may end up lost, confiscated or stolen. So instead of waiting around for books that may or may not arrive, just get an e-book reader and have it delivered straight to your device. No shipping fees, no waiting around, no cut forests – and often too: free books. With sites such as Project Gutenberg, you have easy access to 100% free and legal open source e-books. Just download whichever you like out of the currently listed 54.000 free e-books. You can carry books enough for a lifetime and read handsfree on the beach without the wind constantly changing the page. You can choose almost any books you want and carry as many as you will ever need without your bag filling up or becoming too heavy. And if you ever just want to read a book made out of paper it’s not like your machine will try to stop you.
5. Choose local businesses
One of the easiest, cheapest and overall best ways of contributing to improve local condition is to stay at locally owned hotels, book with locally owned tour agencies, eat at locally owned restaurants etc. In most of the developing world one of the main culprits behind illegal logging, poaching etc is the generally few ways for locals to make a decent living. By making sure that your money stays with the locals instead of getting siphoned away by large international tourist companies or rich investors from the capital, you can contribute a lot to living standards in the areas you visit. For example according to ImageNepal the average tourist employs nine nepalese workers during the duration of their stay, so that instead of for example having to chop down trees in a nature reserve and selling it as fire wood, it’s possible to open guesthouses, take people on tours and so forth. There are many examples of tourism preventing damage to nature and tourism is often one of the main reasons nature reserves are created. Conservation of rare species would be especially difficult without tourism. International Gorilla Conservation Programme goes as far as stating that gorillas does not have a future without tourism.
Better just to spend less for more, encounter more locals, eat tastier local food and make sure that there are plenty of options to make a decent living.
6. Stay a bit longer in some places
Most of all, this advice makes travelling a lot more enjoyable. It will allow you to spend less time on busses, trains and airports and more time on doing things you enjoy in the places you were particularily eager to go. A lot of people want to do too much and instead end up loosing out on the fun of travelling. I’ve sometimes met people that spends only one or two days in each country they visit. They want to “see it all” but end up spending most of their time transporting themselves from one place to the other. One guy I met moved every day. I met him in a hostel in Podgorica when he arrived in the evening. I asked if he wanted to go explore the city but he said he was too tired. He had been on a bus the entire day and next morning he would have to wake up early to catch another bus. I asked him about his trip and it seemed to me he spend almost all of it either transporting himself between places or sleeping. He seemed very tired and said that he looked forward to go back to work. Not only did it seem to me that he was wasting his time, but he spent a lot of money wasting it too. He could have cut his daily expenses in half by staying a few extra days in each place. And if he were to for example decide to volunteer somewhere, he could have cut almost all of his expenses and have a much more enjoyable trip.
Most people are not moving around every day like that, but I think a lot of people (me included) would actually enjoy their travelling more if they decided to stay a bit longer in some of the places.
For those who wish to do so, WorkAway.info is an amazing site, The amount of options is mind blowing and there are usually plenty of benefits too. Besides the usual free food and accomodation in exchange for a three to five hours of work five days per week, a lot of places offer things such as free tours (if they are not fully booked) or free training and education (for example for PADI-certificates). Have a look at workaway.info.
7. Try AirBnb or a hospitality site
These two are interesting!
According to a 2014 survey of 8000 guests and hosts “North American customers use 63% less energy per stay than their hotel-going counterparts while customers in Europe use 78% less“. A lot less water is wasted too. Not to mention all the chemicals used to clean the hotel rooms. I guess the stats for Couchsurfing are similar since AirBnb and Couchsurfing in many ways are pretty much the same thing. The main differences are that while Couchsurfing is for free, AirBnb costs money, and that while Couchsurfing is very informal and social, AirBnb is usually more like any bed and breakfast. Depending on what you feel like for the moment either has it’s pro’s and cons. The biggest of all with Couchsurfing is for example that it can sometimes be difficult to find a host and that there is no real guarantee that the host won’t suddenly cancel.
There are plenty of other options too. My favourite is WarmShowers, which is a site similar to Couchsurfing with the exception that it’s mainly used by long distance bicyclists. You can check a comparison of a five such sites by clicking here. If you want to try any of them out it¨s just to register and get started: they are all free to use.
For AirBnb, it does cost money, but by signing up using this link you will receive 43 dollars in credits. You will be able to use these credits to pay if your booking costs 80 dollars or more. But if you for example book a stay for 50 dollars, you can not use the credits. You can book several nights in order to reach the minimum of 80 dollars. If you do, I will receive 22 dollars in credits too. If you decide to become a host I will receive an 80 dollar bonus when you have had your first guest.
8. Try one of the homestays listed on this (or another) site
There are many nice things with these homestays! First of all you will have a great experience in any of them. All of them are unique in their own way and all of them are very competitive in terms of pricing. One of the reasons behind this website is to provide travellers with the chance to have experiences that would otherwise be difficult or very expensive for them to have. Secondly – more in line with the topic of this post – all of them are very sustainable! 100% of the money stay with the locals. I do not charge any money at all (but try to earn small amounts of money in other ways – for example by referring you to Trine and getting that 10 euro bonus) and even cover the hosting fees myself. It’s ecologically sustainable too. You will eat locally produced organic food and be able to try a very low impact lifestyle. If sleeping in someone’s spare room decreases carbon emissions by up to 78% compared to hotels, I wonder what the stats are for sleeping in a yurt in the grasslands.
9. A small last thing
A small small last tip on how to save money and travel more sustainably! It occured to me as it got cold and I decided to put on a recently bought second hand thermal first layer shirt from Devold.
Buying second hand stuff is sometimes crazy good. And somehow it seems to me that it’s even better for travel related stuff. Perhaps it’s because people distinguish so much between “travel life” and “normal life” that a lot of them buy clothes especially for traveling and then sell them after the trip? Either way: if you are going out hiking in the Himalayas or just want to backpack around and need some good clothes and equipment: just look around a bit on ebay. It’s possible to find almost new high quality stuff for a fraction of the retail price. The merino wool thermal shirt I just put on cost me less than 10% of it’s original price. It looks and feels like new. I will use it on the High Coast Trail ten days or so from now. I guess that’s similar to what that other guy used it for before he sold it.
By the way my favourite is Ecosia. I must recommend it again.