By: Naomi Matlow
The planet could use a little extra TLC right about now, don’t you think? And, for now, there is no Planet B until scientists perfect the technology and infrastructure for a future Unsettled retreat on Mars. Until then we will take what we can get. So, how can you be a greener solo traveler and reduce your carbon footprint while on the road? We got you covered.
1. Live Like a Local
On Unsettled retreats, we deeply value staying at locally owned businesses and building deep connections to the places and people we encounter, so we are more than just tourists passing through. In doing so, we support local businesses involved in sustainability and conservation initiatives, for example in the Amazon this July, including how we eat (see number 2!).
2. Eat Like a Local
It is also very important for us at Unsettled to eat locally sourced food and make a positive impact on the local economy and community wherever we go. Eating foods that grow in the region, and that are in season, is more than just a gateway into the tastes of a new environment, it is also being green, for less fossil fuels are required to transport that food to your plate. On all Unsettled retreats, we work with local chefs, eat local food, and sometimes learn how to make local favorites too! Interested in making some paella in Barcelona or ravioli in Tuscany?
3. Take Local Transport
Taking public buses, trains, tuktuks or bicycles while exploring new surroundings is not only a wonderful way to get to know a place, its people, and its culture, but also reduces your carbon footprint in the process. If the bus is going to go anyway, skip that overpriced taxi and go along for the ride! Don’t believe us? We take public transit all over Medellín, Colombia. Take bicycle tours all over Barcelona and we use no fuel, only travel by the power of the wind, for a full week sailing in the British Virgin Islands.
4. Limit Plastic Consumption, a.k.a. Bring that Reusable Water Bottle!
We are also guilty of purchasing plastic bottles, perhaps even more so when we are traveling. We encourage all participants to bring a reusable water bottle on their retreat, both for reducing plastic consumption and not contributing to water scarcity. Anything that can be reused and stored in your backpack may not only be more efficient, cheaper, and more convenient but it is also reducing your carbon footprint one plastic water bottle at a time. In the words of David Suzuki, “buying bottled water is wrong”.
5. Drive If You Can, Or Offset Your Greenhouse Gas Emissions
Did you know that a round-trip across the continental United States emits 20% of the greenhouse gases that your car emits over a full year? If you can, try driving to your next close destination, or if you got to jet, chip in those few extra dollars when purchasing that plane ticket to offset your flight’s carbon emissions into the atmosphere. Many airlines allow ticket purchasers to make a donation to projects that plant trees, conserve forests, or contribute to renewable energy initiatives.
6. More of a Reason to Pack Light!
If you only pack those essentials, the airplane requires less fuel to lift us all up into the clouds. Maybe those high costs for extra baggage is all a ploy to force us to be greener travelers, after all? If we all decided not to bring that extra pair of shoes, the environmental impact as a result of reduced fuel consumption would be like taking 10,500 cars off the road annually! Beyond that, there is a sense of freedom in carrying less and your back will thank you for it.
7. How you Fly Matters
During takeoff and landing, shutting the window shades (or asking your friendly seatmate from your aisle seat to close that window!) reduces the need to max the plane’s air conditioning, therefore requiring less fuel to cool the aircraft. Other greener airplane tips include taking coach (more seats, more people on the plane, less planes), flying on newer more fuel-efficient aircrafts, and flying non-stop as much as possible to reduce your take-off and landing fuel consumption. NASA reported that one quarter of greenhouse gas emissions occur during take-off and landing.
8. Upcycle For the Road
Making bird feeders out of milk cartons doesn’t have to just be child’s play. Plastic grocery bags (we also forget our reusable canvas bags once in a while…) are great packing organizers and empty pill bottles make perfect “on the go” sewing kits. One person’s trash can be a traveler’s treasure.
It can be easy being green. Are you ready to travel green with us?