Who better than Lord Byron to remind us of the value of the natural world and the need to protect it for generations of travellers to come?
The pandemic prompted a huge change in the way we move around our planet, mostly because we stopped moving around! It became evident as everything came to a halt, that for the first time since cheap travel began, the earth found it could breathe freely again. Dolphins swam in Venice’s famous canals, wildlife returned to places where it had been absent for generations, bird song was louder, and roadkill was drastically reduced.
During the Great Pause, we all got a taste of what life was like before the advent of the internal combustion engine and the steam engine. Before the invention of the mass-transport machine, going more than 10 miles from your own home was almost unthinkable for most folks. People might travel to find work, but not for the sake of travel alone.
Travel for its own sake
We could all just stop travelling, but if you’re like me, there’s no recovery from the bite of the travel bug. Some travellers are born (me, always restless), while others are made. In the words of John Keats, “Nothing ever becomes real ‘til it is experienced,” which is why we travel: experience.
Personally, I think the Romantic poets were on to something… they did a lot of eco-friendly slow travel!
How do we keep on doing what we love and at the same time, reduce the impact on our planet? Its incredible spectrum of life is why we travel in the first place, after all.
While flying is often the only way to cover vast distances, at least for now, there are always ways to reduce your carbon foot print no matter what your travel plans.
If you must fly (and sometimes it is the only option), try to book non-stop flights, because take off and landing use up a lot of fuel!
1) Take the train or a coach if you can
The purpose of travel is to see new things, right? Some European countries have implemented a ban on all flights that cover a journey that can be made in two hours or less by train. What better way to gain perspective than to sit back on the train or even a bus and see the world scroll past your window perhaps with a cuppa at hand? (In a compostable cup, or better yet, a travel mug).
2) Other alternate forms of transport in the city
Bus, bike, or walk. When I visited Amsterdam, it was a real eye-opener how well everyone can get along on the roads. I had never seen so many bicycle in one place (I am a long-time cyclist), or so many people on one bike for that matter. Amsterdam is remarkably flat, however, and if the thought of pedalling uphill is daunting, you may want to choose an electric bike. Bikes and electric bikes are available to rent in most places. In many places there are bike borrow schemes too, where you can sign up, grab a bike and go.
Walking is probably the best way to immerse yourself in your chosen destination and makes parking a non-issue! Being on foot means you can easily step into that tempting local bakery, or pop in and try on that amazing coat in the display!
If a car is the only option, rent an electric or hybrid model, and share if you can.
3) Buy local!
Support the local economy. Buy from local artisans instead of buying mass-produced, imported souvenirs to benefit locals and tourists alike. Eat in small, locally run restaurants, or buy locally grown produce for a picnic meal.
Recycle wherever you can! Order a smaller portion so food isn’t wasted, or plan ahead and make two meals from one. Eat-in on real dishes and take the time to watch and enjoy the local scene.
Consider where something is made and what it’s made of, and invest in quality pieces, not disposable ones.
4) Think about what you pack (and how much)
Consider biodegradable shampoo and laundry soap, for example. Travel light! Consider a capsule wardrobe, which makes choosing what to wear a cinch and also means you travel lighter, reducing the energy required to move your stuff.
Take re-usable containers, and a re-fillable water bottle! My water bottle from my university days has logged countless miles, as has my travel mug. Buy travel cutlery, and a reusable travel straw. Carry a cloth bag for those inevitable purchases! There are even backpack versions available that fold down to nothing.
4) A few other simple things
Turn off lights, air conditioning, and the tv in your room. Re-use your towels. Bring your own shampoo instead of using all the little ones in the hotel.
Source out a “green” hotel. Check out bookdifferent.com to find a green option.