Turquoise ice and sea, Perito Moreno National Park, Argentina (photo by Simone Cannon)
Last week, I wrote about five simple ways that a traveler can preserve the world’s natural beauty and historic sites as well as helping others to do the same. This week, I am sharing more very easy ways to leave as small a footprint as possible, educate others and still enjoy the incredible, breathtaking wonders of the world. Although not included, tip 11 is to share your experiences and tips with others when you return home. Environmental awareness is the key to making a real difference, with travelers and non-travelers alike. Friends and family are much more likely to listen to and trust your opinions, rather than those of a celebrity or newscaster. Feel free to add any great additional tips or ideas that you may have in the comment section; every little bit helps. Most importantly, get out there and travel. Life is short and there’s a lot to see! Don't forget to visit http://onegreenplanet.org/ for more great environmental discussion and information.
One of the "Whistling Blowholes" of Tonga (photo by Simone Cannon)
1) Don't Buy Food in Take-Out Containers
Try to eat your meals in restaurants, bakeries or cafes on real plates or with just a napkin. Take-out containers in most of the world are the pre-formed Styrofoam containers that are used once and thrown away and customers are often charged extra for requesting them. It's much more relaxing to enjoy your food sitting or standing in the place of purchase, soaking in the local atmosphere and chatting with regular customers. If you must take your meal to go, use your own reusable container or ask to have it wrapped in something more environmentally friendly than Styrofoam, like a paper bag or the butcher paper that many bakeries and cafes use.
2) Don't Take Pieces of Structures or Nature Home as Souvenirs
Don't break off a little piece of rock, pick up a shell or a stone or pick a leaf or flower to take home with you to remember your trip. Even though this action seems innocent enough, you are far from the only person who has thought to bring home that type of souvenir. The delicate balance of nature can be profoundly affected by the collective actions of visitors and historical sites can be irreversibly destroyed one tiny piece at a time. Also, planting exotic live plants and seeds in your garden when you return home can wreak havoc on local horticulture.
Snow-covered giant sequoia, Sequoia National Park, United States (photo by Luis Bastardo)
3) Use Basic, No Frills Lodging
Although there are many excellent high-end ecofriendly places to stay in the world, they tend to be expensive by local standards and are often located in remote areas. Standard four or five star hotels can be wasteful and excessive. Whenever possible, stay in private homes, campsites, hostels, posadas or pensiones (small, moderately priced inns). There are endless interesting lodging variations, from those that offer the option of sleeping in a hammock to others that accommodate lodgers in tree houses. Not only is it less impactful, it is much more fun. Smaller places tend to be more resourceful and efficient out of economic necessity, but for the traveler it provides a more authentic and less expensive lodging option, as well as a once in a lifetime adventure and a chance to interact with locals.
4) Use Organic or Biodegradable Products Whenever Possible
Often when hiking in remote wilderness areas or taking extended camping trips, there is no other option than to bathe or wash your clothes in local streams, lakes or waterfalls. Using non-polluting or organic products such as earth friendly shampoo, deodorant or soap and low-phosphate laundry detergent can help to reduce the effects of polluting products and keep water flowing clearly.
5) Recycle Travel Supplies
Backpackers and locals with limited funds will be more than happy to take unused or unwanted clothes, books, medicines, food or toiletries off your hands. Especially in countries such as Cuba or Venezuela, where merchandise from other countries is seldom readily available or prohibitively expensive, they will greatly appreciate your kindness. In addition, this will reduce consumption, waste and will lighten your luggage considerably.
Guácharo Cave National Park, Caripe, Venezuela (photo by Luis Bastardo)