How to be a Mindful Traveler and Practice Zero Waste Travelling All Year Round
Autumn season is calling for some weekend exploring and quick trips abroad. Cheap flight tickets, less crowded cities, and a cosy atmosphere all around. But tourism has a huge impact on our environment. All of us leave a big footprint just by taking off on your way to another country.
Changing your lifestyle towards more sustainable habits is the best possible step. But if you're a keen traveler, it is not enough to be responsible at home while being reckless on your travels. So we've put together some of the easiest and best ways on how to become a mindful traveler. And on top of it all, we will also show you how easy it is to travel with less, making a smaller impact on the planet and simplifying your trips as well. So stay with us for the trip of your life!
Let's have a look at some numbers
We already mentioned that traveling is quite a load for the environment. But we can easily become overwhelmed by the information on what's harmful and what isn't. Let's have a quick look at how much of an impact tourism has on Mother Earth and what can we do about it.
Annually, there's over 1 billion tourist arrivals to different destinations around the world, and the numbers are fast growing. This huge amount of people poses an impact on both local land and resources. The overproduce of products, water use, pollution from transportation, and much more.
According to The World Counts: “Tourism contributes to more than 5 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, with transportation accounting for 90 percent of this.”
Speaking of tourism, one of the consequences, that probably immediately crossed your mind too, is waste and littering. Cities, already polluted with garbage, are faced with growing problems as the tourist season comes. For example, looking at the Wider Caribbean Region, ports receive over 63,000 calls from ships each year, and they generate 82,000 tons of garbage. Can you imagine? This is a huge impact, and definitely harmful, on our global environment.
Have you ever heard of ecotourism?
An eco-friendly alternative to classic tourism as we know it is ecotourism, currently being described as “responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment, sustains the well-being of the local people, and involves interpretation and education”.
What it means in general is that you can travel, but in doing so, you have to be mindful of the local community, resources, and cultures. It's sustainable travel at its best! You help build the local community, minimise any impact you might have on your destination and respectfully, you share information about ecotourism and sustainable lifestyles. The education is an inseparable part of ecotourism on both sides, the hosts and the guests.
Probably the most well known child of ecotourism is agrotourism. So if you feel little adventurous and you need to relax for a bit, you can pack our backpack and camp at a farm for some time. For your help you will be rewarded with housing, delicious local food you helped produce and the best of all, peace and quiet! Honestly, what's not to like?
What to think about when you want to be a mindful traveler
As we've already mentioned, agrotourism is one of the best ways to find accommodation while staying abroad. But since it's not totally common in every country around the globe and we also understand that not everyone is so adventurous, there are other ways how to find a less impactful accommodation.
Try Couchsurfing if you are looking for an “for free” option. Couchsurfing, homestay service founded in 2007, is based on the idea that people are generally kind. It offers people a place to stay with a local host while they are not allowed to charge you for your stay. However, you should be willing to host someone yourself from time to time.
If you are looking for something more familiar, then Airbnb is definitely your kind of app. Once again, you will stay with locals, who will help you navigate in the city and host you in their home. So you are definitely not contributing to an overproduce of single-use products caused by hospitality and hotels chains.
But the best advice we can give you is to simply be friendly. The bigger worldwide network you build, the higher the chances are that for your next travels you can just ring your friends and they will gladly welcome you at their home.
First of all, wherever you travel, you need to get there somehow. And well, the most popular and convenient way is to take a flight. However, air pollution has become a serious issue in the past few years and airplanes are definitely one of the most significant contributors. A new study published by National Geographics suggests that air pollution annually causes more casualties than actual plane crashes.
So next time you want to take that cheap flight, maybe think twice about it. There are many sustainable alternatives to air travel. One of the most popular ones, recently, is InterRail. Yes, we admit that it might also be much more expensive. But we are at the stage when we have to make a statement and chose what's more important for us: money or our planet?
For sure an activity that every single one of us will do during the vacation. You travel for many reasons and local cuisine is one of them!
But many times even with dinning we can be very disrespectful to nature. Fast food chains are super convenient to grab a snack during the day, but the food waste and land pollution they cause is enormous!
So, while eating out, try to avoid any kind of packaging or disposable utensils. Search for local restaurants where you'll be served fresh food, locally sourced and in the best scenario also seasonal. Seasonal and local produce put the least amount of strain on the soil, so it's the most sustainable option and you're also supporting local economics. Plus, that's the most local experience you can get!
Not one adventure is the same as another
What does it mean? Well simply that you can experience many interesting trips and adventures during your vacation, but at the end of the day, they are not all that great if you harmed nature along the way.
Just think about zoos. Not all of them are exactly an animal spa. Some of them are really severe on animals. So before you visit any, make sure you've done your research and you're not supporting animal cruelty!
And the same goes for any other experience you will have. It really doesn't take so much of your time to check whether the event you are planning to attend is in any way harmful or offensive.
Plan your trip like a local, they know what's the best in the area and you will get both an authentic experience while being mindful to their habits and culture. And always do your research!
Do a little something
Just because you are abroad and you're only visiting, that doesn't mean the pollution doesn't involve you. If you see a plastic bag floating around while sitting on a terrace, the least you can do is catch it and properly dispose of it. Otherwise, it will end up in the ocean where yes, YOU will swim the next day!
And if you want to take it one step further, why not sacrifice one hour of your holiday and clean a city park. Or instead of aimlessly lying on the beach, take a walk on the sea shore and pick up the garbage. The planet belongs to all of us, so it's our responsibility to clean it.
Some people love it, because it gives them that ultimate feeling of coming up holidays. Some people hate it, because it's just that one annoying stage you have to go through, until you can actually travel. Nonetheless, packing will always be a part of moving about, so you just have to make your peace with it.
But there are ways of how to make it more pleasant, maybe even an uncomplicated routine. You want to know the secret? Okay, here comes! Step one: Travel with less. And that's it!
Just think about the times when your luggage was impossible to zip up and you were suffering before the bag drop like “Am I going to have to pay more? Are they going to refuse my luggage?”
Traveling with less is both practical and convenient. And we will show you how to do it!
How to travel with less
Just a few tips and tricks that will help you to make both packing and traveling more enjoyable and convenient.
Make a list
Yes, everything in life becomes easier if you just write it down. Same as so many mindfulness techniques, writing down what you have to pack and what you have to do before you take off will help you keep the whole process less chaotic and stressful.
You can take your time with things, they have their own order now.
Try to write down what you still need to buy, what clothes, toiletries, medicine, shoes, accessories, equipment and food you might need.
Do some research
Once again the research comes into use. It's always a great idea to check the weather before you travel, even though it might change. For example if you're travelling to Scandinavia, it's literally a 50/50 chance that it will rain, snow, hail and you will also get sunburn, in one day. But traveling to more “weather-reliable” countries, this step definitely makes sense.
Also consider what kind of activities you're planning to do and whether you prefer an active holiday or to just relax around the city or on a beach.
You definitely don't have to pack trekking shoes if you're planning on exploring the best cafes in the area.
Keep your good habits
Your lifestyle might differ from your home routines while traveling. Think about cosmetics for example. People tend to buy travel-size toiletries, not looking at the brand. While you maybe not buy some products tested on animals throughout the year, you buy it for your holiday, because the packaging is more practical. Wrong! By buying unnecessary things you're supporting mass-production as well as creating demand for products cluttering our environment. Not even mentioning wasting money you could have spent during your travels, on something you already have at home. Keep all your good habits, there's always a way how to do things differently!
Same goes for everything linked to your holiday. Be mindful and respectful to everyone and everything around you.
Maybe quite a big step, but definitely a useful one! Same as all things around us, our wardrobes are usually full of stuff we don't need and initially don't use. Create a capsule wardrobe which will only include clothes you really love and wear on a daily basis.
By implementing minimalist values into your life, you will gain more than just space. It's super fast and easy to pack for your next holiday while you're choosing your outfits from 30 pieces instead of 200.
Get a smaller bag
Yes, this one is effective for sure! We know the feeling, don't worry! Unless somebody stops you, you keep on going. Unless you have less space, you keep on adding things you'll bring with you on holiday.
Just take a smaller bag next time. It's so much more comfortable when you don't have to bother with huge suitcase or backpack, but you have one small piece of luggage. No uncomfortable situations in public transport, no waiting lines on bag drop at an airport, no unwanted heavy lifting. You will be both less tired and less annoyed! And yes, it might be hard at first, but just give it a chance. You will love it!
That's all of our personal tricks on how to become a minimalist traveler! If you have any more ideas don't forget to let us know! And most importantly, don't forget to apply them all next time you plan a trip. Maybe even to one of the most eco-cities in the world and the home of Project Nord, Copenhagen. Because we all know how amazing traveling is, but we can also make it that much more enjoyable.
Written by Lujza Grossmanová
Images sourced from Pinterest