When I was in school, summer breaks were the best time of all -as that was when we traveled for our annual holidays. The other term breaks were meant for mastering board games, learning (and improving) sports, exploring the outdoors and ahem, ahem, doing home work! Over the years distances have become shorter and travelling is as commonplace as going out for a meal. Most families take 1-2 long holidays and several short- the ubiquitous ‘weekend getaways’- these days!
According to the UN’s World tourism Organization, tourism contributes to 5% of CO2 emissions today*. As we have established, travel is an integral part of our lives today. Given that, do you think we ought to try and be conscious about the carbon footprint we leave behind where we go? If you do, then here 7 easy ways you can be an environmentally conscious traveler and have a great holiday too.
1. BYOB (Bring your own bag) Or, as in my case bring your own bag and buy one locally to support a great cause. I spotted the avoksa store while strolling around in Moscow looking for a coffee shop near the Bolshoi theatre. The Avoska bags are string bags made by blind craftsmen in Russia and all the sale proceeds go towards their betterment. I loved the cause, the colours and needed a spare carry bag for my grocery shopping anyways, so purchased it!
The bag was particularly handy when the tour guide took us to the local farmers’ market. We were bowled over by the freshness of the produce and the ask price for the quality we were getting. Needless to add we ate a lot of fruits for the next few days.
2. If you are a coffee buff, remember to take your reusable coffee mug along for the next holiday. Starbucks, Amazon and all the major departmental stores stock plenty of drool-worthy options. For those with an eye for the look and a preference for an eco option, try the Ecoffee cup. Of course, in case you fall in love with the ambiance of a specific coffee shop, then just sit down and grab a coffee- don’t forget to ask for a ceramic mug though.
3. Keep a reusable water bottle for your road trips and just like that without any extra effort you can #saynotoplastic! These reusable bottles which Anuja and I carry are coated with steel on the inside and hence will save you that annoying smell of plastic ! If you happen to be in Rome on your travels, you can refill the bottle with the clean water gushing out of the aqueducts all over the city.
4. When traveling try to eat local as far as possible. Besides the fact that is the most carbon efficient route to take as far as food choices go, you may just discover your newest favourite dish by being open to food options- as I did on my recent trip to Russia. We tried a diverse range of cuisines from countries which were in the erstwhile USSR block- namely Georgia , Uzbekistan, Azarbaijan and of course Russia. My favorite food item from the culinary experiments and one of my top 5 dishes ever is the Georgian meat soup –Kharcho– which is served hot with a burst of flavours- think tangy, think spicy, think delectable.
5. Explore the country you are visiting via public transport: According to the UN’s World tourism Council, the transport sector- think air, rail and motor vehicles contribute to nearly 75% of all emissions*. That being a stark number, air travel is inevitable living in Singapore – it is in many cases the only way to get anywhere! However all hope is not lost. Once we arrive at our destination,we do our bit by using public transport- buses, boats and trains as far as possible. Most recently when we were in Russia, we were mesmerised by the beautiful underground Metro stations in the city of Moscow and Saint Petersburg. Infact, the Saint Petersburg metro still uses the old traditional tokens to access the station and took us back in time to when it was set up in the mid 1900s’.
6. Use a local tourist guide and walk around on foot- Yes walking is good for health, there are no toxic fumes produced either but more importantly, walking around in new city with a local guide is perhaps the best way to soak in a place. We located our guides for our recent Russia trip from TourHQ – an online marketplace for tour guides around the globe. The photo opportunities that came knocking on our doors were priceless- Beautiful wall art just off the main road, a beautiful yellow boat on the Moscow river, clear blue skies for a joyful family picture. The list is endless, so I just picked the top few.
7. Finally, buy the obligatory souvenirs (for e.g. you can’t leave Russia without a Matroyoshka doll). But at the same time bring back the real memories in the form of show tickets, entry tickets and maps of the cities you have visited. You can convert these into home decor pieces or simple make photo collages using them. I am definitely creating something with all that I have brought back from our recent travels to Russia. Watch out for that in the Secondsguru Upcycling section! Have maps already? Try your hand at one of our earlier articles on map upcycling ideas
*Source: World Tourism Organization