Protecting the Environment while you travel

plastic bottle on the beach

If you can protect the environment in your everyday life, there is no reason it can’t be done while travelling too.

Picture this:

You’re on holiday. After a long but refreshing hike through a beautiful valley, you’re surrounded by hills. There’s a sparkling blue lake to your right and a bright, endless field of wildflowers to your left with a kitkat wrapper on the ground.

Ok, not everyone likes hiking. So let’s try this instead:

You’re standing on a white sandy beach with palm trees to your left. There’s a coral reef a few feet away in the crystal clear ocean. You see a small plastic bottle floating in the waves.

Protecting the environment shouldn’t be hard

I don’t know about you, but I HATE seeing damaged landscapes. Whether it be litter on the ground or huge areas of forest wiped out. I understand there are circumstances where we need to cut down trees, but what’s stopping corporations planting them too?

For every 1 tree that is cut down, they could plant one in its place but many companies won’t do this. This is why it becomes even more important. Each of us need to do our bit to help mend a soon to be irreversible problem.

People want change

Recently, with the rise in veganism and people being more conscious about the planet, I have definitely noticed an increase in this generation protecting the environment and the world’s many types of wildlife.

Luckily in today’s climate many more people are researching how to take eco-friendly holidays. There are so many ways to travel sustainably. eco-friendly products are easy to purchase.

Plus Eco-lodges are very popular now (and very nice to stay in!). 

Why is it important?

The earth is home to many, many eco-systems. Each of these ecosystems houses a multitude of animals, plants, and organisms that each work alongside each other to create the overall environment we have today.

If the earth gets too damaged, this can affect the individual ecosystems that could then have a domino effect on the rest. It becomes a problem because humans and wildlife depend on these environments to live and thrive. So when they start to collapse, it then puts many lives in danger. 

Listen, I could go on for hours about WHY we should do it, but I want to tell you HOW you can help instead.

Check out my other posts about sustainable tourism here!

Litter on a tropical beach
Photo by Dustan Woodhouse

Don’t Litter

This might be super obvious, but it really goes without saying. Most cities these days have good access to bins or recycling facilities. So, there really is no excuse. Then, when you happen to be somewhere that doesn’t have many places to throw rubbish away, hold on to it until you can dispose of it properly. 

So many times I’ve been somewhere enjoying the view and nothing kills the holiday spirit more than seeing rubbish all over the floor. Here’s some stats about why it is such a problem:

  • 60-80% of litter in the ocean is plastic. 
  • An average of 100,000 marine animals die from plastic every year
  • There are proven links between litter and tourist spots becoming less popular 

As a child, I was told to put my rubbish in the bin. If I did not have access to a bin, I was expected to hold onto it until I found one.

This is a habit I’ve had my whole life and during my travels. Unfortunately the same cannot be said for everyone. Whether this is due to laziness or ignorance I don’t know.

Can you just imagine how much better our holidays would be if we didn’t have to worry about seeing rubbish everywhere? Everyone should care more about protecting the environment!

Protecting our Beaches

There have been many campaigns with catchy slogans around the world trying to encourage people not to litter or to protect the environments they are in. Most campaigns are very successful, but the whole world needs to be on the same page for it to make a difference. 

There was one campaign created in 2010 called ‘take 3 for the sea‘.  The idea was for each person to pick up 3 pieces of trash before they leave the beach. I personally love this campaign.

It has gained a lot of traction in it’s 11 years and for good reason – it works. I have found myself putting a few bits of rubbish in the bin if I see it – even when it isn’t mine. 

If people didn’t litter in the first place, then charities and organisations wouldn’t need to arrange mass cleanups of beaches and other landscapes. It’s a simple concept really.

sign that states not to step on the grass . a way to protect the environment
Photo by John Thomas

Don’t step on the grass

Flora and Fauna is often overlooked. Let’s think about it, grass is EVERYWHERE. Many locations around the world might have a sign that reads “Keep off the grass”. As a child you may have been told “do not pick the flowers”. These rules are normally there for a reason so should be followed. 

Now, one place we noticed these signs more than usual was in New Zealand, and it was here that we learned just how important the signs could be.

A native tree named the Kauri, is being threatened with extinction. This is due to a microscopic fungus named Kauri Dieback disease that lives in soil and kills the trees by infecting their roots. This is becoming such a large problem that New Zealand authorities are utilising many plans to keep their environment safe.

Protecting the environment includes cleaning your shoes

New Zealand has measures in place to try and prevent the spread of Kauri Dieback by having shoe cleaning stations. These are at the start and end of many hiking/walking trails.

With a floor that sprays soapy water as you step on it and hoses you can use manually. They put trust in people to use these facilities to try and save their native trees.

This is just one country’s example that has made a huge impact trying to save their plant life and there are plenty of other destinations doing their bit too – so do the right thing and stick to the marked trails!   

Border Control

If you’ve ever travelled to Island nations you would be familiar with customs declarations. Many countries with protected plant life have restrictions on what can enter the country.

Australia is a prime example. They will not allow fresh foods – even food from the plane – out of the airport with you. This is because they don’t want to risk any bugs or diseases your food could be contaminated with. You are not allowed things like seeds, nuts, fruits for this reason.

Orangutan in the trees
Photo by Dimitry B

Protecting the wildlife

In many places, the animals or plants found in that location are only native to one or two places on the earth. So when they become endangered or extinct it becomes a serious problem for the local ecosystem

Let’s look at Elephants and Rhinos. Both critically endangered. Both are still being poached regularly for their ivory tusks and horns. Many of these items end up in markets as costume jewellery. What do humans need ivory for anyway?

This is a prime example of one of the large issues being battled around the world. People are getting a lot of jail time if caught involved in Ivory trafficking.  

But what about Beauty products?

Now let’s look at another product often overlooked.

Palm oil is sold all over the world and is in many types of beauty products. I bet you even have some in your own home.

What is so damaging about palm oil, is that in order for the corporations to keep up with the high demand for it, they are cutting down and burning away huge areas of natural habitats in order to plant their own trees and add to their palm oil factories.

This affects the entire local ecosystem which can be very hard to recover from and is putting more and more species on the endangered animals list. 

One way I like to be sustainable while protecting the environment when I travel is trying to look at the bigger picture and asking myself:

“Is what I am about to purchase having a negative effect on the environment?”

Eco-Friendly Travelling

Being a responsible traveller doesn’t mean you can’t travel to new places that have different practises to your home country. It just means being aware of what you may be using or purchasing and making sure you’re not contributing to a larger problem.

No one is perfect and we won’t all get it right all of the time. But with these few simple steps you can be on the right track!

sign that read "please take nothing but picture, leave nothing but footprints" protecting the environment
Photo by Florida-Guidebook.com

While you’re protecting the environment, why not take a look at how you can take care of yourself on holiday too by taking steps to avoid jet lag.

Do a little research.

Be conscious of the local culture.

Don’t harm animals

& Finally treat the environment with respect.

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