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The Bite-Size Eco-Tourist.
Nobody wants to feel guilty when they go on a trip. And to those who might say “hey, you should be a more environmentally conscious traveller”, my first gut reaction is immediately defensive and to tell those people to leave me alone!
“I’m not a bad person. I do care about the horrible things that are going on with our planet. It’s just that I’ve been working like mad for the past 8 months and feel as though I deserve a vacation. I deserve to sit on a beach in an exotic place for a week and not think about my work!”
There is a real grave danger around the concept that environmentally friendly travel is playing on the guilt of regular, bog-standard, run-of-the-mill travellers around the world. Many of whom understand and realize that we should be doing our part to help keep the planet clean, “but gosh, at least let me have my week in peace without having to feel bad about that too, no?”
You know what? I getcha!
But what’s the answer then? Well, what if I was to tell you that it might be simpler than everyone is making it out to be?
It’s the same as almost everything else in life. Nothing – or very little – changes overnight.
I recently spoke to someone who said to me, “You know what, if the idea was simply drip-fed to me, instead of me feeling like everyone is shoving it down my throat all the time, I’d probably end up doing it. Instead, I end up feeling guilty about it and find myself pushing it to the back of my mind until someone else solves the problem. I end up actually not wanting to care”.
Now this guy wasn’t an idiot. On the contrary actually. He’s a very smart, highly intellectual and friendly person, working in a lead role at a major software company. He’s calm, collected, and we talked openly about the environment and the dangers we face in the future with no conflict whatsoever.
And then it occurred to me that for those who have been in the environmental business for some time, and for whom the answers have been staring at them in the face for so long, could it be possible that they’ve forgotten what it’s like for those that have not? Could it simply be about having to go back to basics and simply drip-feeding again?
There there could be a case for needing to take a step back, rebooting, and doing this slowly over time again. Habits, both good and bad, ingrain over time, and maybe it’s with this outlook that we should think about taking on the next challenge of environmentally friendly travel – or less harmful environmental impacts during travel – instead of having the concept of harming our planet thrown at travellers who simply wish to have a break from their hectic lives.
Do this, and the results are pretty clear; simple rejection.
To be honest, it is an awful lot to digest at times, so it’s probably not safe for our sanity if that’s the approach taken anyway.
So why don’t we start with those basics then? If I were to tell you that there were, say, a million and one ways that you could travel ‘greener’, chances are you’d run away from the conversation immediately! So let’s start small!
Next time you go on a trip, just do 2 things to help the environment when you go.
1. Take a refillable water bottle with you, making a point of not purchasing any plastic water bottles on your travels, and,
2. Take some kind of shopping bag, making a point of not using the plastic bags given to you at the local supermarkets or stores.
Last year, the Roya Statistical Society held its International Statistic of the Year award, and the winner was: “90.5%: the proportion of plastic waste that has never been recycled”.
Estimated at 6,300 million metric tonnes, it’s thought that around 12% of all plastic waste has been incinerated, with roughly 79% accumulating in either landfill or the natural environment (as sourced from Production, Use, and Fate of all plastics ever made by R Geyer, J R Jambeck and K Lavender Law).
Many states, areas, cities, and private organizations are now moving in the non-plastic and non-single-use plastic areas now, and by simply using your own shopping bag and taking your own refillable bottle of water, the benefits you are contributing to the planet and the area you are visiting are already immense.
It’s about chipping away and slowly getting into the habit of doing those little things that you didn’t do before. Things that will help the environment when you do travel, so that the next time you go on another trip, you can simply add to the habits you’ve already started doing by simply adding a couple more.