MANILA, Philippines – Living an environmentally conscious lifestyle can be easy enough from day to day, but it can become a bit more challenging when you're traveling. Whether you're backpacking for months on end or taking a quick weekend trip, it's all too easy to get caught up in the excitement of a new place and forget to take care of the environment.
At the recently held series of talks and discussions by cause-oriented community MUNI, Dave Albao, who manages protected marine sanctuary Danjugan Island, and eco-friendly traveler Jen Horn shared some tips people can practice while traveling:
1. Do not disturb the wildlife!
When snorkeling, swimming in the ocean, or trekking, for instance, it is important to minimize noise and movements, and be careful about disturbing what may be the natural habitat of wildlife.
"We don't want people to come here out of convenience," Dave said of Danjugan Island, which is a protected 1.5-kilometer-long island that is home to thriving marine and terrestrial wildlife. "When people come here, they need to adjust, they need to respect, and the first thing they have to adjust to is the wildlife."
Dave said people need to adjust their attitudes towards travel and stop expecting a destination to adjust to them.
"If we travel, we should prepare ourselves to immerse oneself in the area," he said.
2. Quit straws, stirrers, and other single-use plastics.
Straws, stirrers, and single-use plastics are one of the biggest culprits when it comes to water pollution. What makes them especially frustrating is that they're used only once and thrown away – but take forever to degrade.
Whether you're traveling or staying home, this is a number one rule for going zero waste, but it can be especially difficult to follow when you're going on a trip and need to bring travel-sized versions of everything. For toiletries, instead of bringing shampoo and soap sachets, buy small reusable containers and refill from your container at home. Having a metal or bamboo straw with you at all times, or refusing straws altogether, is another habit to practice. Switching from a plastic toothbrush to a bamboo toothbrush also helps.
Photo courtesy of MUNI
3. Resist the temptation to max out your accommodations.
It's time to quit trying to "get your money's worth" by hoarding all the free toiletries and keeping the air-conditioning running all day. If you're staying in a hotel, switch off all the lights and appliances, as you would do when you're saving on electricity at home. Also, be sure to tell the hotel staff not to replace your towels or change your sheets until you absolutely have to.
"We feel so entitled because we paid for a service and we want to max out what we paid for, but the cost of that is not just to the hotel, but to the community and environment as well," Jen said.
4. Bring your trash home.
If you absolutely cannot avoid producing trash, make sure you take it with you when you leave the place, especially if your destination doesn't seem to have a proper waste facility.
"If you think you're throwing your trash in the proper bin at the hotel, think twice because they will still likely end up in the landfill," Jen said. She also reminded smokers to mind their cigarette butts, because these are not biodegradable and are full of harmful chemicals that can pollute water.
Smokers can bring around a portable ashtray with them, or throw their cigarette butts in a used plastic bottle, which, when stuffed, can then be turned into an ecobrick for low-cost builds. (WATCH: How to repurpose plastic bottles into ecobricks)
Photo courtesy of MUNI
5. Choose your souvenirs wisely.
While it is important to support the local community, Jen and Dave said travelers should be conscious of the souvenirs that they buy because not all of them are environmentally friendly. For instance, those small accessories with shell inlays are not the most eco-friendly souvenir to bring home. Getting zero-waste items such as fruits or local dishes are a much better choice, though it is important to bring a reusable souvenir so you can avoid packaging waste.
By keeping these 5 habits in mind, you can make sure that your next trip isn't just good for your soul or sanity, but also for the environment. – Rappler.com