How not to be a mindless tourist: An eco-friendly travel guide
By: Gunjan Toora
Lockdowns have started opening up and we can actually travel again! YAY!
After months of roundtrips to my living room, kitchen, and balcony ( lame jokes seeeee… I need a vacation! Hence proved.) and after endlessly waiting to write this guide, it’s finally here.
As if we were already not doing a terrible job at being trashy and foolish tourists, this pandemic has given us whole new ways to travel in the most environmentally unfriendly way.
So yes this is an eco-friendly, pandemic-friendly, and human-friendly guide to travel that we all need right now! As much as it doesn’t seem, but being a good traveler takes nothing more than a little pre-planning and, a tiny bit of consciousness. Here’s what I have learned-
1. Do not travel if you’re sick
Goes without saying, the pandemic is still going on, so please don’t travel if you are sick or feeling even slightly sick. And also follow the travel and testing guidelines of the places you plan to visit.
2. Carry your re-usable Washable masks and sanitizers
Flights, restaurants, hotels, shops, malls, and everyplace is giving away disposable masks and sanitizer sachets to the customers to follow all the safety protocols. This has indispensably created a new plastic waste menace! So please carry your own re-usable washable masks and pocket sanitizers everywhere. Refrain from using single-use ones and help create less trash in the world.
3. Do not trash!
Talking about trash, please DO.NOT.TRASH! While you are enjoying the scenic beauty of the hills, or relaxing at pristine beaches, or trekking, or breathing ANYWHERE, do not ruin the beauty of the place by throwing empty wrappers, cans, bottles, or anything.
There are dustbins everywhere, and even if you don’t find one, just be a little more considerate and keep your trash in your pocket or bag and throw it in a dustbin whenever you find one. Especially at remote locations where no one is going to come and pick your trash, do not be a fool and damage the natural ecosystem.
4. Carry your personal refillable water bottle
Guess the item that you purchase the most when you are traveling/ holidaying? PACKAGED WATER BOTTLE. Utterly useless plastic trash! And the simplest solution- just carry your own bottle and refill it. It’s even easier on a road trip. Just take along as many bottles as you wish. It’s fun, try it!
This is what I did on my last trip (months ago)- I carried 2 bottles with me (filled just one ’cause my bag was heavy at that moment)). It lasted me well and I refilled it again at the airport on landing. Then, the hotel I was staying at, had RO filters. I got my bottles filled and I asked them not to send packaged water to my room. Every morning before venturing out, I would get my bottles filled and pack it in my travel bag. 2 bottles lasted me easily till late afternoon, and then I got it refilled again at a restaurant. Then, again when I reached my hotel at night, got ’em refilled and, took it to my room. And repeat! No, it was not inconvenient, no it was not uncool! Plus I saved my money and the beautiful environment.
5. Carry your own toiletries
Yes, those hotel freebies are cool and convenient. But all those mini tooth pastes, toothbrushes, shampoos, soaps, and conditioners bottles generate a lot of waste. Imagine all the guests gave these toiletries and the majority of them use it once or don’t use the full. So the leftover product and the plastic packaging create nothing but waste.
I simply stuff my regular toothbrush, toothpaste, soap bar, shampoo bar, and everything else in a small kit and carry it. And if you travel frequently (I envy you!), then keep one kit prepared with another stash of your amenities packed and carry it everywhere you go.
6. Do not get your sheets and towels washed every day at the hotel
I have seen so many people literally exploiting the hotel amenities unnecessarily by requesting new towels, bedsheets, quilts every day, just because they can. Even if you don’t, some hotels just replace it every other day.
You could help save hundreds of liters of water by just requesting for a wash or replacement when you actually need it, or after 3-4 days.
7. Support small vendors
Whenever you’re out eat at dhabas, try and enjoy the local food and embrace the local culture! Also, this pandemic has really hit hard the small and local vendors too, so try not to bargain a lot and be more compassionate and help whoever you can.
Remember, while you have the luxury to splurge money on vacations, there are some people trying to make their ends meet. A little humanity will go a long way.
8. Do not support animal abuse
As much as you love Elephant rides, Camel rides, paying to see dolphins/whales dance in a small aquarium or, even visiting a zoo for that matter, animals do NOT enjoy that. It’s high time that we realize that animals belong only in their natural habitats– forests, rivers, oceans, and NOT in CAPTIVITY.
So please do not support people or organizations who are depriving those poor souls of living their natural life and making money out of it.
Lastly, do not shun these tips thinking about what difference can you make alone. Thousands of people are aware and already doing it, and it will be millions very soon. So, do your best to get an early pass to the not stupid Tourist club. Damn you’ll inspire so many people out there!