Unfortunately today, tourism is one of the biggest sources of pollution in the world. And as someone who likes to travel and travel a lot, one of my biggest goals for this year is to travel more sustainably. If you’ve ever been camping you may know the phrase leave nothing behind but footprints, and I believe even with international travel we can do the same.
The fact that flights are cheaper and travel is becoming more accessible is incredible, don’t get me wrong! But the more people visit regions less equipped to handle large numbers of travelers, the more we need to be aware of how we are impacting them. With just a few simple changes, we can help save not only the environment but their culture itself.
This is by no means a comprehensive list, but here are a few ways you can do your part. They’re based on my experience in Bali but can be applied wherever you find yourself going, or even at home! Enjoy and let me know how you tread lightly in the comments!
Bring a reusable water bottle.
Honestly this should go without saying. An estimated 30 million plastic bottles are thrown away every month in Bali, and only a very, very small portion are properly recycled. Of course depending on where you’re going, you can’t just drink water from the tap, but when you know you have a clean source of water be sure to fill up!
Pack reusable bags.
In Bali in particular, they give you plastic bags with almost every purchase. So if you are going shopping and know you’re going to need one, just bring your own! Just because they don’t charge you ten cents for it doesn’t mean you can stop caring about the environment. It’s not your home to pollute.
Turn the water off while brushing your teeth.
Because some people don’t even bother. It’s a two second fix to save at least a gallon of water. Just do it.
Take the shortest shower of your life.
If you grew up in LA forever in a drought, you’re probably used to this. If not though, it just means being smart about how long you really spend in there. So maybe consider turning off the water while you rub in the soap, or while you shave your legs, etc.
Use biodegradable soap and shampoo.
There is no real water treatment system in Bali, so all grey water goes into the earth and sea.
In fact, just use natural products in general.
I’ve been in the process of overhauling all the products I use to be natural and let me tell you, there are some great options out there today! Whether it’s make-up, sunscreen or bug repellent, there are many ways to make sure you’re not adding more chemicals to your body or the planet.
Only change towels and linens when you need to.
Many Americans may be used to this, but if the hotel has a sign explaining what to do so they won’t change your sheets and towels every night, pay attention to it.
If you’re lucky enough to have air conditioning, don’t leave it on while you’re gone.
Same for heat if you’re traveling somewhere cold! Just leave it warm enough so the pipes don’t freeze. And when you do use heat or AC, be sure to keep the windows closed!
Stay at an eco-friendly Airbnb.
We found a great one in Ubud, but there are tons all over the world now! Plus, they’re often quite affordable and support the locals instead of staying at big hotel chains. And you meet the nicest people!
Stay at an eco-resort.
If you can afford it, these places are incredible for the lengths that some of them go to to preserve the environment. Even just for a night it’s interesting to see how much you can do with recycled products and minimal waste.
Buy local and recycled.
If you are going to take home souvenirs, make sure it’s actually from the country you’re visiting. Why go all the way to Indonesia just to get a top you could have gotten at home? The people in Bali make some incredible products and it’s much better for the local economy.
Eat local and organic.
Luckily in many places in the world now there are lots of well-made, organic and local food if you know where to look! You definitely want to be smart about where you eat–don’t choose a place that looks like it just gave someone food poisoning–but do your research and you’ll find some gems.
Say no to straws.
It’s estimated that in Bali they throw away half a billion straws a year. So if you’re ordering a drink, just politely decline one, unless it’s made of bamboo or recycled paper.
Consume less meat and fish.
If people demanded meat and fish at every meal, the amount a country would need to import would be unsustainable. Also, if you’re trying to learn more about the Balinese culture, you should realize such things are traditionally rarely eaten. No turtle eggs either.
Take broken electronics and batteries home for recycling.
Again, no great method for recycling these on the island so it’s easiest to bring them back to your home country where you can recycle them properly. Better yet, use rechargeable batteries!
If you go snorkeling or diving, don’t touch marine life or corals!
The best companies are partnered with the CTC (Coral Triangle Center) and take extra precautions to save them.
Don’t hire a car or private driver every day.
While we were a little guilty of this ourselves, you definitely don’t need to drive from place to place every day to have a good time! If you choose the places that you stay wisely, there will be lots to do nearby with bikes or local tour guides.
Share with people why you’re doing what you’re doing.
A lot of people just don’t know any better, so if they ask, be happy to tell them why you’re doing it. Maybe they’ll care enough to join you!