Published 7 July 2022 ● Last Updated on 5 August 2022

When I was in school, summer breaks were the best time of all – that was when we travelled to meet family. It was an annual affair and a privilege to be able to travel. The other term breaks were meant for mastering board games, learning (and improving) sports, exploring the outdoors and ahem, ahem, doing homework! Over the years as connectivity and options improved, travelling became affordable and common. Annual holidays were swapped for several long and few short getaways.

Then all of a sudden, the world (and travel) came to a pause in 2020 – a rapidly spreading virus was upon us. Today, over two years later, the scourge of the virus is showing signs of abating. Movement across and within borders seems to be getting back on track- whether to meet loved ones, for that much needed “break” or for essential work. Did you know “revenge travel” is a buzzword that came to being very recently?!

According to the United Nation’s World tourism Organisation, tourism-related CO2 emissions are expected to increase by 25% by 2030 from 2016 levels of 5%. Travel is an integral part of our lives, so why not try to be conscious about the carbon footprint we leave behind where we go? Here are 7 easy ways you can be an environmentally mindful traveller 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 near the Bolshoi theatre in Moscow way back in 2018. 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 I went ahead and bought it!

Bring your own Bag when u travel
Handcrafted string bags made by the visually impaired in Moscow, Russia

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.

local farmers market in st petersberg russia
Drool worthy fresh organic produce in the farmer’s market, St. Petersburg

2. Carry reusable coffee mugs

If you are a coffee buff, remember to take your reusable coffee mug along for the next holiday. Starbucks, Amazon and all major departmental stores world over 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 reusable mug instead of a single use one.

say no to plastic styrofoam for coffee
Keep a reusable coffee cup for your holidays- you just never know when you will need one.

3. Take a reusable water bottle

When you take a reusable water bottle for your travels, 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. Else ask the hotel you are staying in for a refill and in most places they will gladly oblige.

reusable water bottle for long holidays
Team Secondsguru being responsible tourists in Russia and Italy

4.Eat local food 

When travelling try to eat local food 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 trip to Russia. We tried a diverse range of cuisines from countries which were in the erstwhile USSR block – namely Georgia , Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan and of course Russia. My favourite 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,spicy, delectable!

5. Explore the country you are visiting via public transport

Transport accounts for around one-fifth of global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions as per data from the International Energy Agency (IEA) and International Council on Clean Transport (ICCT).

global Co2 emission from transport

That is a significant chunk of the global emissions footprint However, all hope is not lost. Once you arrive at your destination, do your bit by using public transport – buses, boats and trains as much as possible. The best way to get the pulse of a city is to explore it on foot, experience the sights and sounds while pocketing ‘steps’ for the day. A fun way to go about this is to set yourself a challenge to do a fixed number of steps daily. Keep this target realistic but not too easy!

6. Use a local tourist guide

Yes walking is good for health, there are no toxic fumes produced either but more importantly, walking around in a new city with a local guide is great way to feel it’s soul. We located our guides for our pre-covid trips to countries in Europe and Asia 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 cruising on the Moscow river, clear blue skies for a joyful family picture. These are just a few , the list goes on!

walk tour moscow saint petersburg
Wall art in nooks and corners, a beautiful yellow boat ferrying people across the Moscow river and a family click outside Gorky park

7. Think outside the box for Travel Souvenirs

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 simply make photo collages using them. Try your hand at some of these fun map upcycling ideas.

matryoshka dolls maps souvenirs from russiaMaps, tickets, entry passes can be souvenirs too

* Original article published on Secondsguru.com in July 2017 

Related Links 

Eco Travel| A comprehensive guide on how to TFH (Travel From Home)

Tips| Air Travel- What we can do to reduce our carbon footprint

Eco Travel| 6 tips from a fellow green trekker

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