UPDATED: This blog was originally published on April 21, 2017.
Plastic pollution is one of the biggest threats our environment is facing today. Every 24 hours, 50 million plastic water bottles are used globally. With a decomposition rate of about 700 years per bottle, the future for our oceans, lands, marine life doesn’t look pretty – or remotely sustainable.
We’ve always done things a little differently here at Intrepid. Right from our humble beginnings (we’re talking two backpackers, a typewriter and a passion for travel), we’ve known that we want to leave our world in a better state than we found it. So how can we, as travellers, make sure that our adventures also preserve our planet’s stunning landscapes and fascinating cultures? It all comes down to our attitude and choices. From the food we eat, the products we buy, and the way we travel, the little choices we make every day add up to a huge difference in our world.
This Sunday April 22 is Earth Day, an annual reminder to take better care of our planet and work to end plastic pollution. In honour of this, here are some of the easy ways that you can make every day Earth Day when you travel:
1. Rethink bottled water
One of the easiest ways to protect Mother Earth is to stop buying bottled water, especially when you travel. Each year, the world consumes over 154 billion bottles of water, despite most developed countries having a perfectly drinkable (and far cheaper!) option: tap water. The environmental impact of this is huge; the production of a 1-litre plastic bottle requires another 2 litres of water and 200ml of oil. Factor in that only 1 in 5 of those bottles will actually be recycled, and that it takes about 700 years for a bottle to start decomposing, and that’s an awful lot of plastic choking up our planet from the simple water bottle alone. Switch to a re-useable canteen or drink bottle instead or try using these useful tips if you’re travelling. Your water will stay cooler, and you’ll be making a world of difference.
2. Say no to plastic
On the topic of plastic, have you ever noticed how much extra unnecessary plastic packaging exists in the world now? In some countries, like the UK and Australia, it can be a mission to find supermarket fruit and veg that isn’t smothered by plastic packaging, while in many South-east Asian countries, small plastic bags are even used for serving food and drinks from food stalls. Like bottles, plastic bags are virtually non-biodegradable, and they’re even less likely to be recycled properly. In fact, ever heard of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch? It’s a soupy ocean vortex of our rubbish that stretches for 700,000 square kilometres of the North Pacific Ocean. Devastating. Pack a couple of lightweight canvas bags in your luggage, shop at local markets rather than big stores, and say a big fat no to the plastic in your life.
3. Choose ethical travel brands
After deciding whether you’ll spend your holiday relaxing at the beach or trekking in the mountains, the next big travel decision you’ll have to make is choosing who to travel with. Travel is one of the biggest purchases you’ll make in a year – which is why it’s important to make sure that your hard-earned cash is going to an organisation that reflects your ethical values. Do your research, and work out whether the brand you’ve chosen has a strong focus on responsible and sustainable travel. Are they committed to protecting the environment? Do they genuinely care about the communities they visit? And are these values ingrained in their day-to-day business or just words on a page? Here at Intrepid, we live and breathe responsible travel, you can read all about our commitment here.
4. Carbon offset your travels
Unfortunately, between air travel, private transport, and large accommodation chains, travel can be a big spender when it comes to carbon emissions. But before you go cancelling all future travel plans, it’s not all doom and gloom. As a travel company, we believe it’s our responsibility to ensure we travel in a sustainable manner and minimise our impact on global warming. In 2006, we made the decision to become a carbon neutral business, and this Earth Day we’re celebrating our 8th anniversary of becoming one of the largest carbon neutral travel companies in the world. Hooray!
So what does it mean to carbon offset your travels with us? Well, we measure our overall carbon usage across all of our trips and offices, seek less carbon intensive alternatives wherever possible, and then balance our remaining emissions through renewable energy projects within the countries we travel, like the Akbuk Wind Farm Project in Turkey. While carbon offsetting won’t solve global warming by itself (that’s what reducing our carbon emissions is about!), it goes a very long way to reducing our (and your) overall carbon footprint. Investing in clean, renewable energy now will help us ensure that our planet has clean, healthy lungs for centuries to come.
5. Leave no trace
Taking the path less travelled is one thing – but trampling a delicate ecosystem is quite another. Whether you’re exploring wild jungles in Costa Rica, hiking the tallest mountains in Nepal, or enjoying the beaches of the Cambodian islands, stick to the marked trails to avoid impacting the local vegetation. A single step can take years to fully regenerate, which means wandering off the designated path can lead to widespread vegetation loss and erosion – literally expanding your footprint. Tread softly on your travels, and leave no trace of ever having been there in the first place.
6. Travel local, eat local, sleep local
Along with the tangible stuff like water canisters and replacing plastic, the way you travel can have a huge impact on the health of the planet too. Travelling by private transport, staying in large hotels and eating at big restaurant chains immediately grows your carbon footprint (and often puts your cash straight into the pockets of large corporations, rather than the local community).
At Intrepid, we’re all about supporting local people and avoiding long, carbon-intensive supply chains. Wherever possible, we use local public transport to reduce our fuel consumption per passenger, stay in small locally owned and operated guesthouses, and encourage our travellers to eat locally produced foods to reduce the energy impact of transported food. Plus the best part is that this means when you travel with Intrepid you really get under the skin of the destination and enjoy some true authentic experiences – win, win!
7. Take out the trash
In many developing countries, there may not be an official waste disposal system or a full understanding of the negative impact of littering. That’s why as a traveller, it’s really important to ensure that you dispose of your litter responsibly. Where possible, take your non-biodegradable items home with you, and endeavour to collect any rubbish that’s been left by travellers before you.Basically, what you take in, you take out. Simples!
Want to experience the Intrepid way of travel? Check out our responsible small group adventures!