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The Beginner’s Guide to Traveling More Sustainably

From the bottom of my heart, I’m really, genuinely glad that you’re here reading this. It means you’re taking the first step toward leading a more sustainable and eco-conscious lifestyle – or are, at the very least, a little bit interested in learning more about it.

Now – Do you want the good news or the bad news first…?

The bad news is that we’re in the middle of a global plastic crisis. If you don’t believe me, take a look at this video. Makes you think, doesn’t it?

The good news is that sustainable living and the zero-waste movement are gaining traction and attention at lightning speed. They’re definitely having “their moment” right now online – and I am HERE for it!

Before last year, I was like most people; Blissfully unaware of just how much single-use plastic I was using in both my everyday life and my travels. In early 2018, I took notice of this plastic-free movement and after learning about how seriou this pollution problem really was, pledged to take responsibility for my actions and do my part in positively impacting the planet.

Travel has a tendency to generate more waste than usual. Cute coffee shops mean plastic cups and straws. Forgot your toothbrush? Razor? Shampoo? No big real, right? Just go and grab one from the front desk at the hotel. It’s both tempting and convenient, so often times, the notion of being “green” goes right out the window.

However, each and every one of us have the power to make small, incremental changes and do our part in reducing our waste. And it’s not hard, either! There are some things you should know before embarking on this journey, though…

The first is that adopting a zero-waste lifestyle does not happen overnight. It is a shift in mindset and an ongoing process of breaking your old habits. Be patient with yourself! Commit to changing one small thing during your next trip, and then another, and then another. For me, that meant saying no to plastic straws at restaurants. Then, I made sure to bring reusable bags to the grocery store, a reusable cup with me to coffee shops, and so on and so forth.

With a little bit of time and awareness, you’ll notice that your patterns in behavior change for the better – and when you know better, you can do better, my friends.

The second is that there is virtually no such thing as a completely zero-waste lifestyle. It’s simply not attainable, so please don’t go into it thinking that. We are human. We will produce waste, and that’s that. What the zero-waste lifestyle aims to do is reduce, reuse, and recycle when possible. If you slip up and forget a reusable cup during one trip, don’t beat yourself up about it! Simply make a mental reminder to bring it next time. You’re doing your best and changing up years of old behavior, after all.

WHEW! Now that all that’s off my chest, here’s what you really came here for; my top, easy-to-implement tips for traveling more consciously…

Go paperless whenever possible. This is one that’s SO simple, but often overlooked! It’s 2019, guys! There’s virtually no need for a paper boarding pass or printed out receipt anymore. Take advantage of airline apps’ mobile ticketing  to check in and opt for an emailed receipt when you can! It’s the little things.

Pack a reusable cup and/or water bottle.  Most of the airports I’ve flown through here in the US offer water for free, which is why it always blows me away when I see people paying upwards of $3-4 dollars for a bottle of it! It simply doesn’t make sense.

Next time, toss a cute water bottle in your carry-on and keep an eye out for refill stations. They’re usually located outside of – or near to – the restroom water fountains. You can also hand them to flight attendants for your complimentary beverage instead of using one of their tiny paper cups. Why? Most airlines do NOT recycle. Also, chances are that your cup is bigger and you’ll get more coffee, water, soda, whatever it is than you would have anyway. Thank me later!

I usually bring one for hot liquids and another for cold drinks!
These are my all-time favorites, from Healthy Human.

While I’m on my reusable cup rant, it’s not a bad idea to purchase a set of reusable straws (stainless steel, bamboo, glass plastic) and cutlery also! I’m noticing more and more restaurant staff getting used to the idea of people refusing straws which is really exciting! Every little bit helps.

Kick disposable products and travel-sized toiletries to the curb! They are an absolute nightmare for landfills. Instead, invest in a nice little travel tube set or reusable toiletry kit. I got mine from TJ Maxx for a few bucks and I LOVE IT! It comes with me on every trip and holds my shampoo, conditioner, lotion, detangler, and body wash. Another great option are shampoo bars; completely zero-waste! My favorite one is from Lush. I’ve heard great things about Ethique, too.

Plant trees while you plan your trip! Here’s one a lot of people don’t know about – and it’s probably the easiest to implement of all. The search engine, Ecosia, plants trees every time you use it for research. To date, they’ve planted a whopping 46,224,997 at the time this post was published. I mean – Does it get any easier?! Next time you’re searching for flight deals, opt for this instead of Safari or Chrome.

Book eco-conscious accommodation and activities when possible. There are SO many gorgeous eco-lodges and certified ocean-friendly restaurants popping up around the globe, especially in coastal destinations. Do a little research when travel planning and see if there are any near where you’ll be!

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2 Comments

  • Reply
    Valerie
    January 16, 2019 at 2:16 am

    Absolutely love your post! I don’t often think about sustainability when traveling, but it is becoming increasingly important. I will definitely keep these in mind when I plan my next trip!

    • Reply
      navigableworld
      January 16, 2019 at 2:18 am

      Hi Val! Thank you so much for reading! It’s not something I gave much thought to either up until last year. But once you’re aware, you start noticing more-and-more how wasteful we are when traveling 🙁 I’m glad you enjoyed it! xo

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