So, I've been thinking a bit recently about one of the ways being a long-term traveller is different from being stationary in terms of environment. Things you might build into your routine if you were at home, like implementing eco-friendly systems in your house, recycling, supporting certain products or companies because of there ethos are all difficult or impossible to follow when you're on the road.
Here are some of the ways I have found so far (and am trying to follow as I go):
- Offsetting your carbon footprint - this is a big one for frequent travellers, as short hop flights in particular are pretty footprinty. Most airlines that I've used in recent years offer an option to pay a few extra dollars to offset your carbon footprint. This nice little website also calculates how much your offsets are and then takes your money. http://www.climatecare.org/home.aspx it just told me that my recent flight from London to Sydney requires £21.89 to offset... oof
- Volunteering - a lot of people like to "give back" by being charitable. I have to confess that I'm pretty lax at making time for charity work, but I love this idea - http://www.skillsforchange.com/ - location independent volunteering. You select your areas of expertise and you get notifications when non-profit organisations need them, very nifty.
- Charity - if you're travelling in developing countries, charity gets into focus quite quickly when you see a lot of poverty. We know we're not supposed to give money to people on the street, so other ways to support the people whose country you're living in could be to find a charity that lines up with your values and make a donation to them, choosing an insurance provider that has a charitable arm (WorldNomads is one). Some airlines accept change in multiple currencies as donations, which is also helpful for lightening your jangling pockets.
- Recycling/reuse - people tend to favour disposable stuff while travelling (I'm particularly thinking toiletries), and it's not always easy to find out how to recycle these items. I have no good solution to this other than trying to streamline packaging, finding a reusable water-bottle (top tip: bring it through security empty, and fill it up at the water fountain by the water). There are a couple of cool projects that I love which take donations of soap from big companies and hygiene products and teach hygiene in developing countries including http://www.globalsoap.org/ - unfortunately they are US-based only, but I'm trying to think of a good way for travellers to thoughtfully dispose of their unused hygiene products; it might be my late-career charity project.
A fellow digital nomad (check out her online language learning courses) gave these great ideas as well:
- If you can spare the cash, invest in companies that are pursuing clean energy and renewable resources. You can check Websites like motifinvesting.com group investments by "theme" so you can find one focusing on renewable energy.
- Contribute to the local economy: avoid chain hotels in favour of smaller, local establishments (or stay in Airbnb accommodation!) , do your shopping at the local grocery store not the megastore, dine at local restaurants not McDonald's or Pizza Hut. Yes, the "big" companies help provide jobs in the area, too, but giving your business to the smaller ones helps keep them healthy and competitive.
If you can think of other ways that travellers can be a bit greener, give us a shout!