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It’s no secret I love traveling and exploring the world. I mean – I have a whole blog dedicated to travel and helping others plan their trips. I’m not exaggerating when I say I need travel in my life like a sugar addict needs cake.
But… (and there’s a but!)
The last few months have made me re-think my love of travel.
*Gasp* what could make a travel-obsessed blogger re-think their love of travel?
It all started when I made the big move from Boston, USA back to my home city of Melbourne, Australia.
As I was clearing out our Boston apartment, it struck me how much stuff we had accumulated over our 2 yrs in Boston. I don’t consider myself a shopaholic, but I had accumulated so much stuff that I was responsible for.
If I didn’t find a home for these items I couldn’t bring to Australia, they would most likely sit in a landfill for years to come.
And while I’m proud of the amount we ended up reselling, donating or giving away for free, I swore to myself that I would never accumulate so much stuff again.
One of my favorite spots in Beacon Hill, Boston USA
This experience got the wheels turning – I started to think about how my actions impacted the environment.
Like many travel lovers, I had never considered the negative environmental impacts that my constant travel has on the earth.
Suddenly, the waste that is produced as a result of plane travel was suddenly front of mind.
As individuals, plane travel is one of the most human-polluting activities we can participate in. Every time we get on a plane, jet fuel is burned which results in copious amounts of carbon emissions released into the atmosphere.
Roger Tyers, an Environmental Sociologist shares “a return trip from Europe to Australia creates about 4.5 tonnes of carbon. You could drive a car for 2,000 kilometers and still emit less than that.”
These carbon emissions then go on to contribute to global warming – heating up oceans, resulting in extreme weather patterns and potentially resulting in the extinction of species.
Is that what this is all about? Global warming? Is that it?
The burning of fuel is not the only negative aspect of traveling. When we travel (whether it’s via plane or when we’re road-tripping), we consume copious amounts of single-use plastics that don’t get recycled. Things like plastic bags, single-use cutlery, plastic cups… the list goes on.
And while you might think… “Oh, gee here goes another hippie rambling about plastic…” (I promise I’m not going to talk about the impacts of plastic on human health!)
The truth is, every time you throw away single-use plastic, that plastic product (whether it’s straw, plastic knife or fork) is still sitting here somewhere on this earth.
Personally, I find it disturbing to think that the plastic straws from my childhood visits to McDonald’s are sitting in some field somewhere, yet to break down, in the same or near perfect condition they were in when I used them that one time.
But why should I care about a pile of plastic straws somewhere? It’s not like they’re in MY back garden!
You’re right – if you had a heap of straws in your backyard, you’d throw them out. But where do they go after that? Depending on where you live, they probably get sent to a rubbish tip, where they sit forever, refusing to break down… Because you know… plastic!
Or for the unlucky plastic straws, they can make their way into our waterways and out to the ocean where they get consumed about poor sea turtles who mistake them for food.
A poor turtle at the Turtle Hospital in Florida – he mistook a plastic bag for food!
But I don’t care about animals or the environment?
Well, aren’t you a cruel human?
But in all seriousness, whether we’re talking about straws, plastic bags, spoons, whatever… All this stuff has to go somewhere. And while it’s not sitting in your own personal backyard, it’s making its way into someone else’s.
And if you love to travel and you want to see the world… Well, someone else’s backyard is technically yours too.
Or it’s somewhere you might want to visit one day and explore.
Just because we can’t see the waste, doesn’t mean it’s sitting somewhere happily not impacting the world around us.
As travelers, we have a responsibility to care about the environment. After all, if we destroy it, what’s left for us to travel to?
If we want beautiful spots like this to continue looking as untouched – we need to start caring about the environment!
So should we all become non-traveling hippies who don’t shower?
Then what should we do?
Reduce what you don’t need. Say no to the plastic bag when you don’t need it. Say no to coffee cups (because despite popular opinion they’re not recyclable).
Choose more environmentally friendly means of transport – don’t travel by air except for when you need to. If there’s a train/bus option, opt for this instead.
Don’t get your bed sheets cleaned on a daily basis when you’re staying at a hotel.
While these are small actions (and there are many many other actions we could be doing in addition to these!), this is a start. If everyone took small steps like these, we could encourage the travel industry to reevaluate the negative impacts travelers have on the environment.
We have so much to improve on when it comes to the environmental impacts on the environment.
And while I won’t be quitting the real world to live in some hut in the middle of nowhere sans-plastic, I want to learn how I, as a consumer can reduce my impact to the environment.
I want to learn how I can encourage others to do the same, and incite change in this ever-consuming industry.
Cadillac Mountain, Acadia National Park in Maine, USA
So what now?
This realization has made me want to explore different ways I can reduce my impact on the environment. While this blog of mine has mainly been an outlet to share my travel experiences, I’ll be starting to share my experiences on how to reduce waste – travel related AND in my everyday life.
While I’m not sure it’s possible to live with NO impact to the environment (that would involve giving up on getting on a plane!) I am focused on reducing my impact to the environment.
Do you think we could be doing more to reduce our environmental impact when traveling?
Leave me a comment and let me know what you think!