Planning any kind of travel means asking yourself a laundry list of questions: Where should I go? What should I do? What do I pack? More recently, articles identifying air travel as a major emitter of greenhouse gasses have demanded climate-aware travelers ask themselves: How can I travel if I care about the Earth?
Experienced travelers at Dragons have wondered the same and are always looking for new ways to reduce our impact. We want to add to the conversation by sharing what we have learned from our years in the field. We also want to hear from you about the ways that you are choosing to be conscientious in your daily life!
For us, it all starts with taking stock of our environmental impact. Simply existing on planet Earth begets a carbon footprint. However, the decisions you make in your everyday life can help control how big or small that footprint is. Our advice? Start small. Break down your travel choices one-by-one and find simple, actionable, and measurable changes that can help reduce your footprint—especially while traveling.
Have you ever tried to keep track of how much waste you produce every day? Many products designed to be convenient are used once or twice and then sent straight to the landfill. Yet much of the time, it’s relatively easy to choose a less wasteful option. For example, you can:
- Carry a reusable travel mug for your morning coffee
- Use a steel instead of plastic straw
- Carry a packable reusable bag in your backpack or purse for all your shopping needs
Think twice when you toss your trash, when a barista offers you a plastic straw, or when you can choose to walk to your destination. Take a look at the products you use and ask yourself if there is a zero-waste or minimal-waste option.
2. Buy Better
From the many apps available for buying used goods to brick and mortar second-hand shops, there are numerous ways to shop for used gear. Choosing a locally-oriented app or used store as opposed to websites like Amazon eliminates carbon emissions associated with shipping and transportation. Research reusable travel products and then look for a used version that is still in good condition.
Want to use top-quality gear but don’t need it to be new? Environmentally conscious companies like REI and Patagonia have designated used-gear sections. Want to go even further? Rent or borrow from a friend or family member! Host a gear swap and encourage your community to dig out their unused gear to help support your mission.
Gear You Find Used/Borrowed:
- Down Jacket
- Warm Layers
- Camping Stove
- Sleeping Bag
- Camping Gear
Eco-Friendly Travel Items:
- Refillable Water Bottle
- Steel Straw
- Reusable Shopping Bag
- Bamboo Toothbrush
- Reusable Shampoo and Conditioner Containers
- Toothpaste Tablets
- Reusable to-go container
- Reusable Spork/Utensils
- Rechargeable/solar batteries
- Reusable silicone bags instead of zip locks
Other green alternatives:
- Opt for bulk or homemade snacks to avoid excess packaging
- Opt for digital copies of documents whenever possible
- Politely say no to unnecessary promotional items and explain why (organizations will stop sending them if they hear the message from their clients!)
- If ordering any food “to go,” try offering to bring your own reusable containers for food transport.
- Kindly decline single-use plastics on airplanes by asking for the drink in a can with no cup, or using your own coffee/tea mug.
- Remember, every time you politely decline single-use plastics (bags, straws, cups, etc.) you send a gentle message to the establishment about how they can make their clients happier.
- Wear reef-safe sunscreen in oceans.
- Don’t purchase souvenirs that steal from nature (shells, ivory, etc.).
- Be mindful of your environment if you choose to use chemical bug repellants.
- Vote with your dollar.
- Do research on the companies that you choose to support; from the products you use to the places you shop or the airline you fly.
- Choose to buy from companies whose values align with the environment and social justice.
- Support B Corp certified businesses and join the global movement of people using business as a force for good.
- If air travel is your only option for travel to your destination, choose an airline that already offsets their emissions. Fly economy so that more seats are taken up on your flight. Fly direct whenever possible to eliminate unnecessary emissions.
3. Go Slow
Join the slow travel movement.
- On your way: Use public transportation. Travel by boat, bike, bus, train, rather than airplane.
- When you get there: Stay for longer, shop local, sit down to eat instead of taking food to-go, stay in locally owned accommodation
- When you get home: Apply the minimal-waste mindset to your daily life. Inspire your community to do the same. Share your reflections and decisions with others.
By choosing to support local and reduce emissions, you are directly empowering the local economy and reducing your cultural and ecological footprint. Dragons 2-9 Week programs are designed with Slow Travel in mind. By traveling via public transportation and living as locals through homestays to supporting locally-owned businesses and educating ourselves on local initiatives, we are doing our best to understand reduce our cultural and environmental footprint when we travel.
Offset what you can’t reduce.
Calculate your CO2 emissions: use this calculator to measure the number of emissions per mile flown.
- Offset your carbon footprint: Carbon offsetting is the act of reducing carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions to compensate for emissions that were produced elsewhere. For example, you can offset your flights by donating to an environmental project.
- See what Dragons is doing to offset our emissions.
On my Dragons program, we talked a lot about using our money thoughtfully and buying products that we knew were being produced in fair conditions where the people who were involved in making them directly benefited from the sale of their work. Now that I am at home, I think about where my clothing was made, and whether the people involved in making it were treated and paid fairly. I think about where my food comes from, and whether it makes sense environmentally to buy produce grown in another country —Lindsay Eiseman, Student.
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