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1Thing: Tips on how to travel in a sustainable way

Take your good habits on the road with you

Lindsey Peterson
November 29, 2018 - 8:46 am
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Maybe you’re doing great work at home, taking care of the environment, doing things to save energy, and reduce waste.  However, what happens when you hit the road?  Do your habits change?  For most people, the answer is clearly yes. 

As my wife and I get set to head to the Caribbean on a cruise, we’re looking at ways to make our travel more friendly to the environment. Here are a few things we’re considering to contribute to our 1Thing initiative, and the way we try to live our lives in a sustainable way.

As a side note, yes, the cruise ship industry gets a bad rap when it comes to waste, but they have made huge improvements over the last decade. No, they don’t just dump waste into the oceans (and haven’t for decades).  Find out more here

  1. Avoid bottled water- We bring our own water bottles everywhere we go. The plastic waste from water bottles is shocking.  Every airport now has refillable water stations.  Most hotels provide drinking water in the lobby (some with cucumber!). Obviously it’s the way to go on a cruise ship too since they charge you for bottled water. 
  2. No plastic bags- Back to the plastic issue. When you travel and shop, you end up with bag after bag. Do what you (should) do in the grocery store and bring cloth, reusable bags. They’re easy to pack, take up very little space, and you can use them as beach bags, shopping bags, picnic bags, etc. Super easy. 
  3. Eat and drink like a local- You may love your “own” beer, or you’re unsure about that little restaurant in a country you’ve never been to. Travel and adventure should go together, and you reduce your footprint by eating and drinking as the locals do. It can be very costly to get imported food and beverages to your destination. Take a chance on what the locals live on. You may find something you love!   We tried a local beer, Aguila, and bought a breakfast “arepa” from a street vendor in Cartagena last year. It was one of the best things we had the whole trip.
  4. Book non-stop flights- Takeoffs and landings create most of an airplane’s carbon emissions. It may cost a touch more, and may not work for your dates/timing, but do your best to book non-stop flights. Another option is to consider purchasing a carbon offset. For example, United Airlines allows you to “offset” your carbon footprint for your flight by donating to carbon reduction projects.You can learn more about that here.
  5.  Don’t change bedding or towels- Every day, someone will come into your room, change the entire bedding, remove all the towels and wash them. It’s an incredible waste.  How often do you wash your bedding and towels at home? Once a week? Less? Then why every day on vacation? Just like at home, try hanging up your towels and make sure room service knows to leave them and the bedding. Use the “Do Not Disturb” sign so it cuts down on chemical cleaners, vacuuming and washing of linens. Also, take leftover soap, shampoo and lotion with you. You might as well use it if they're going to throw it away anyway. 
  6. Keep the local environment in mind- If you’re snorkeling or scuba diving, take special care not to touch coral or stir up sediment (it’s one of the most endangered environments on Earth now). Keep a respectable distance from wildlife and don’t feed animals. When buying local products, do your best to make sure they’re not from endangered animals, plants or unsustainable hardwoods/artifacts. Do a little research in advance. Numerous websites can tell you what is local, and what is shipped in from overseas. Support the local community. It's better for the environment and better for the local artists and vendors. 
  7. Take mass transit- It’s not always available, and it can be scary if you haven’t done it.  However, some of our best experiences while traveling have been while using the local transit system. You’ll meet local people who will be curious about you, wanting to help you and give advice. You’ll save money. We took a local bus across Antigua that cost $3.00 when a taxi would have cost $40.00. Easy choice. We also got a great tip on what beach to hit up. Win-win!

These are just seven of many tips for creating a more eco-friendly trip. With some simple planning, and making a few adjustments to how you normally travel, you can do 1Thing and create a more sustainable planet. 

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