If you love fair trade and try to live in an environmentally conscious way, there’s also a good chance that you love to travel. Living in a conscious way contributes to a feeling of global connection which, in turn, feeds the desire to travel and deepen that connection with our earth and its inhabitants. But how do we travel in a way that upholds our values? Here are a few of my favorite tips for ethical, sustainable eco-friendly travel.
Support locally-owned businesses.
Choose the eco-friendly travel lodge owned by a local family rather than the big all-inclusive resort. Frequent cafes serving locally produced food rather than hitting up familiar restaurant chains. If you’re buying souvenirs, look for items made by local artisans, not imported themed goods.
Make careful choices about where you stay, what activities you do, and how you spend your money.
Travel agencies like Sumak Travel, Local Adventura, and Thread Caravan can help you create a trip of a lifetime that will funnel money into eco and fair trade initiatives, strengthen local communities, and give you a chance to learn more about the traditions and industries of the country you’re visiting.
Bring reusable gear.
When traveling, it’s easy to fall into the trap of convenience—a hasty purchase at the airport complete with plastic bag, coffee-to-go in disposable cups, leftovers brought back to the hotel in a Styrofoam box. Bringing a few simple supplies with you will help you stay on track with your sustainable lifestyle. A few of my favorites are:
- A glass canning jar. This can be used for everything from storing leftovers to carrying small purchases to serving as a reusable juice/smoothie/coffee cup.
- A filtering water bottle. This can save dozens of single-use plastic water bottles on a trip—especially when traveling somewhere with little clean or filtered drinking water!
- A reusable shopping bag. I love cotton mesh ones.
- A few cloth handkerchiefs/napkins.
- Your own utensils. A fork and spoon and reusable straw take up so little space, and you can refuse plastic utensils when buying food from a café or street vendor.
- Your own coffee or tea-making supplies. You don’t have to rely on your hotel’s single-serve coffee pods or that gas station Styrofoam cup to get your morning hot beverage fix!
Nix extra purchases.
How many of us have hit up the “travel hygiene” section of Target to stock up on tiny plastic containers of shampoo, soap, and deodorant? Instead of buying a new round of items every time you travel, simply opt for using reusable tins and bottles to pack small amounts of your normal-sized, regularly used toiletries. Also, be sure to plan ahead! Ensuring that you have all the proper items of clothing you need, enough toiletries to last the duration of your trip, and whatever health and wellness items you might need in a pinch (I always bring a mix of herbal and medicinal teas, essential oils, and a few conventional treatments as well) will help avoid last-minute purchases as well.
Offset your footprint.
There’s no denying that travel is inherently rather bad for the environment, transportation-wise. Our plane rides and road trips drastically increase the impact we personally have on the environment. However, this doesn’t mean that you need to swear off traveling entirely due to your eco-guilt. Choose more environmentally friendly methods of travel whenever possible (a bus instead of an Uber, for example), and be kind to the earth and offset your carbon footprint by donating a portion of your trip budget to plant trees or assist with ocean cleanup efforts.