Responsible travel has been at the forefront of many travelers’ minds for a while now. The current pandemic has brought into stark relief just how vital sustainability truly is. Traveling the world without leaving a carbon footprint is nearly impossible. Still, there are some things we can do to soften our impact as we explore the world.
Going by Land Whenever Possible
One of the most significant contributors to a traveler’s carbon footprint is flying to get places. While you will need some flights to travel, such as the international flight to get to South America, many domestic routes have options to travel by land. These include car, bus, or in some cases, train. While these options do take longer, they not only offer the chance to drive through incredible landscapes, but the land options will significantly reduce your carbon output. If you do need to fly, you can look into the possibility of purchasing carbon offsets, which can help balance out your carbon output.
Ditch Single-Use Plastic
While traveling, it’s incredibly easy to use a lot of plastic – bottles of water, plastic silverware, straws, bags of chips, take-out containers, the list goes on and on. All of this plastic ends up somewhere, whether it be a landfill, the side of the road, or in waterways and oceans. Being conscious of the amount of plastic you use is one step you can take to help lessen plastic’s impact during your travels. The easiest way to do this is to be prepared with re-usable items when you pack. Here are a few suggestions to include in your ‘No Single-Use Plastic Kit’:
- A re-usable grocery bag to bring to markets or when souvenir shopping.
- A set of travel silverware in case of picnics or box lunches when you would otherwise be given plastic utensils.
- A metal or glass straw to use in place of plastic straws.
- A large re-usable water bottle that you can refill at your hotel, restaurants, or other places along the way (if you have longer day trips, you may want to bring two water bottles or even a CamelBak-type hydration pack).
- A thermal mug if you like to bring coffee with you in the morning, so you don’t need to worry about using a plastic-lined paper cup that the hotel provides
- Collapsible food containers and/or snack bags for those times you may want to bring food to go or bring snacks with you, or even if you see some street food that you’re courageous enough to want to try.
- Water sterilization pen, filter, or tablets if you want to fill your water bottle, but there is no water station available.
These are just some ideas of items that can come in VERY handy when trying to reduce the amount of single-use plastic you use. Also, you don’t need to aim for perfection to make a huge difference, and chances are you’ll slip up here and there. Just remember that doing your best is better than not trying at all. Also, by asking for your drink without a straw or letting the shopkeeper know that you brought your own bag, you may inspire others to do their best.
Visit Less-visited Places
Another huge burden being placed on some of the Earth’s most beautiful places is over-tourism. This is when more people visit a place than it can handle, which has several negative impacts. These include excess erosion, overcrowding, and irreversible damage to fragile ancient archaeological sites or ecosystems. One way to combat this is to limit the number of people that visit a place – this is why the classic Inca Trail only allows 500 people to enter per day, for example. Another way is to see the lesser-known spots, away from crowds and off the beaten path. So instead of visiting Rainbow Mountain, you could consider Palccoyo instead, which is just as impressive but takes a little longer to get to, and much less crowded.
One of the few silver linings of this pandemic situation we all find ourselves in is that our Mother Earth has gotten the chance to rest and take a much-needed breath. As the world starts up again, we need to make sure we don’t undo what good has come out of such a dark time. These are just some of the actions we can take to help our Pachamama (Mother Earth) thrive while exploring her wonders. We must treat her kindly and with the love she deserves, as she is the only planet we have.