In the midst of the current COVID-19 crisis worldwide, we're all staying home to protect our local communities and ourselves. And while this is a very difficult and uncertain time for all, the temporary lockdown has caused a decrease in pollution around the world with wildlife returning to clearer waters and less planes in the air with eight out of ten flights being cancelled globally.
So how can we do our bit to continue protecting our environment once we're free to explore again? For Earth day, we give you some of our tips and tricks for sustainable travel, even if it’s the smallest of sacrifices. For your backpacking adventures of the future, we’ve rounded up some easy things you can do to reduce your carbon footprint on the road. Here are 8 ways to become a more sustainable traveller when the world is safe enough to travel again...
Want more? Take our quiz to find out how sustainable you are
Eat more vegetarian and vegan food
One of the easiest ways to adopt a more sustainable lifestyle is to cut down on your meat consumption when travelling. If you’re a meat eater, try and go veggie for a few days each week. That way, when you do have meat it will feel like more of a treat. The meat and dairy industries can be harmful to the environment, to humans and animals so the less we support them, the less damage is done.
It’s so much easier to source affordable vegetarian food around the world and vegan options are more widely available than they were before.
Walk or cycle more
The awesome thing about visiting European cities is that you can walk or cycle to a lot of places if you’re staying in a central location. Walking is so much better for the environment - and for your health. Try and avoid public transport and taxis as much as you can (unless you really have to). The amount of pollution that transportation emits into our ozone layer is a massive problem in our world today so if we all walk more, the better
Most big cities offer a pay as you go cycle service where you can hire a bike for a cheap price. London, Paris, Barcelona, Amsterdam, Copenhagen, they all have it!
Eat like a local and support local businesses
Support the local businesses and independent shops in the city you’re visiting. Instead of the nearest Starbucks or other big chains, why not scope out a trendy little coffee shop where the locals hang out? Not only will you be supporting the local economy, but you’ll also have a far more authentic experience of the city you’re in. Buying locally also helps to create more jobs and supports a more sustainable city that can be more self-reliant.
Travel with reusables and reduce your use of plastic
It’s extremely important to stay hydrated on your travels. Always carry a reusable water bottle so you don’t have to keep buying plastic bottles. In Europe most hostels or hotels have a water fountain where you can refill your water bottle with clean, filtered water.
However, sometimes you may not have a choice. Drinking the local water can be a risk in many countries, so to avoid getting sick, stick to clean, bottled water or try and buy those trendy new water options in recyclable metal cans.
You can also carry reusable shampoo, conditioner and body wash bottles. As well as coffee cups, reusable recycled bags and reusable sanitary products.
Try and avoid the plane and take the train where possible
Did you know that aviation is responsible for 12% of all CO2 emissions? Us travel lovers can’t really avoid taking the plane if we’re travelling long haul. But did you know, planes are pretty bad for the environment and contribute to global warming - and they’re super expensive to run. In Europe, consider buying an interrail or Eurorail pass which will give you unlimited access to train routes around the continent. Trains, such as the Eurostar or domestic rail let off considerably less CO2 emissions than planes, and they connect Europe’s cities very well if you plan your route accordingly. While it may increase journey times to some places, it’s definitely going to reduce your carbon footprint.
If flying is the only option, work out the cost of your carbon offset emissions and donate that money to a charity. Or on Skyscanner, opt for the ‘greener option’ flight.
Stay in hostels that care about the environment
Hostels are a more sustainable use of space compared to hotels (and better value for money). With 4-8 people sharing one dorm room and bathroom, it’s also a great way to socialise and meet new people. There are many hostels that have introduced more environment-friendly initiatives. Check out what St Christopher’s Inns are doing to do their bit to reduce its carbon footprint.
Limiting shower use
We don’t recommend skipping showers or compromising on cleanliness but one thing you can do is try and take shorter showers. If everyone reduced their shower time to 4 minutes on their travels (or in everyday life), we’d save so much more water. At St Christopher’s Inns we encourage our guests to take faster showers with reminders on the bathroom wall...
Sustainable shopping - buy your travel gear second hand
If you’re preparing for your travels, why not head to some local charity shops or online sellers such as Depop or Ebay to source some of your travel gear. From second-hand travel backpacks, hiking boots, ski gear, walking poles, books, you never know what you might find that needs a new home. Plus, you’ll save yourself some money! And when you get to the city, why not visit some of the that have popped up across Europe’s major cities? Upgrade your wardrobe with sustainable fashion and look stylish on the road…