Leave no trace: Environment-friendly adventure travel
Ever since I was a child, I had a strange concern- It always worried me when I watched my friends throw plastic candy wrappers on the streets. I would put them in my pocket to take home and throw. I wasn’t sure what it achieved, but it felt like the right thing to do. I would never speak up about it then because I wasn’t completely sure about why I was paranoid. Plus, I didn’t want to be perceived as ‘uncool’ or ‘whiny’.
But now, in 2017, the damage that our species has caused to our planet is very real and very visible. If you’re someone who, like me, thinks that ‘carbon footprint’ is an important term, if disappearing ice and rising temperature bother you, but you also love adventure travel, there are a few things you could try, to contribute your bit- EVERY STEP COUNTS!
#1- Bring reusable stuff
Quit buying plastic water bottles and carry your own reusable water bottle or flask. Most outdoor venues have public water filters. If you know you’re going to be visiting a place that won’t have any such facilities, such as a long trek, fill up your bottle at the hotel or any place before the trail. Avoid buying water in plastic bottles, unless absolutely necessary.
Same goes for shopping bags or ones for carrying smaller items. Use plastics only to keep your items waterproof. And carry these bags back home. For everything else, bring along a jute or cloth reusable bag.
#2- Choose travel sizes carefully
You might want to pack conveniently. But you don’t have to choose the tiniest sachets of shampoo and use a couple of them in one go. They look cute but generate a lot of waste. Reducing your waste by choosing larger packs is textbook stuff. You apply it all the time back home. So why not while packing.
You can’t take large bottles. But instead of buying 10 sachets for 2 bucks each, compromise and take maybe 4 slightly large bottles. Or if possible, see if you could buy an even larger quantity locally at the place you’re staying.
#3- Local transport
Yes, we’ve been repetitive in saying this. But whenever you get the opportunity, take the bus or the local transport at the place you’re visiting. Less carbon emission and more fun- talk to people and ask them for the best kept local secrets. Need I mention these are also great photo-ops for instagrammers?
If renting a car, use the smallest vehicle possible, according to the size of your group. Walking short distances is a great way to explore. Also, when getting to the place itself, try to choose a direct flight if one is available; stopovers consume the most fuel.
A lot of staying facilities turning ‘green’ by harnessing solar power for everyday needs and using other such measures. Find out about these and ask them questions about their recycling policies. Choose such places to make your stay environment friendly.
If you’re a single traveler, make an effort to ditch the large room with the double bed. Go for the smaller rooms or if you’re feeling sociable- dorms, shared rooms or cozy homestays! You could even completely lose the hotel plans and stay in tents or with friends or family you might know there.
#5- The usual rules apply
While you’re at a hotel or home stay, behave like you would while at home. Be judicious in saving resources- shorter showers and controlled air conditioning (if needed). Turn off electrical appliances whenever you leave the room. Reuse towels and bed sheets for at least a couple of days instead of getting them washed every single day.
#6- No Pools
Those infinity right beside the beach pools sure do look great. So do the energy and water wastage they cause. Are private pools just for you worth all that? Choose a hotel without a pool so you’re not tempted, ‘just because it’s there’. If you’re a water baby, going to the beach and taking a dip in the beautiful ocean is way better. It also allows you to try out exciting water sports!
#7- Respect wildlife
If your travel plans involve observing the local wildlife there, step 1 is to obviously choose sanctuaries in natural settings over zoos. Zoos are no fun- for the animals or the visitors. Don’t encourage parks where they allow visitors to take pictures with ‘friendly’ tigers or wild animals. These animals are definitely drugged.
When on a safari, read and stick to the rules carefully. Even on a nature trail or a trek that is surrounded by wildlife, cause as little disturbance as possible.
If you encounter animals, keep your distance and do not threaten them in any way. While camping, do not openly dispose food. This attracts wild animals and could cause an unnecessary conflict with humans
#8- Eat (and drink) local
When you insist on eating only the food that you’re used to in your country or region, you’re encouraging the import of food from a different place. This definitely adds to the carbon footprint in the form of fuel used for the transport of this food. Be adventurous! You’re on an adventure trip after all. Try out local organically prepared delicacies.
Also, ditch your favourite Hoegaarden and experiment with some locally brewed beer. You might be in for a surprise.
#9- Take back only memories
Be careful by buying souvenirs and trace their background. Animal parts, corals, local flora, etc are a huge no. To be on the safer side, avoid them entirely and click loads of photographs. They make for much better memories.
#10- Bag up the waste
A no brainer! All your leftover food, beer cans, your pet’s poop and anything you don’t ‘treasure’ goes in one giant sized waste disposal bag- separate according to dry and wet (obviously).
Imagine you’re being watched by cops even when you’re in an isolated area- and behave accordingly. You wouldn’t like anybody else entering and littering your house or city. So do take care of other’s homes as well.