How To Be Sustainable As A Traveller: A 3-Step Guide To Do This At Ease

October 17, 2019

The talk around town is mostly centred on sustainability efforts, from the clothes you wear to the type of straws you use. It is apparently in vogue to live sustainably, and there have been so many ways discussed to becoming more environmentally conscious, so much so that it's absolutely confusing for the layman to comprehend. To make this exorbitant amount of information more digestible, The Travel Pad takes you through a 3-step guide on engaging in sustainable methods while travelling in a fuss-free manner.

Step 1: Reduce, reuse and recycle your plastic products

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Yes, you've heard it. Human consumption of non-biodegradable plastic (known for not breaking down naturally in landfills) has resulted in many negative repercussions. Beyond just occupying natural land space and its contribution to pollution, non-biodegradable plastic tends to have a catastrophic impact on marine life. You might have seen the heartbreaking video of the sea turtle struggling for its life as a marine biologist attempts to retrieve the plastic straw that was stuck in its nose. This is probably one of the "watershed" moments when society began to understand our impacts on the natural environment.

One way to travel sustainably is to bring your own containers and cutleries around. Especially for popular food places, single-use plastic is commonly used by local businesses. One way of getting around such waste is to then bring containers around to reduce the amount of plastic waste. Going to each stall with your containers prepared (preferably the size of a lunch box to prevent your food from overflowing) is also much more convenient for soupy foods or foods with gravy!

Also, regardless of the countries that you're headed to, always remember to bring your own water bottle around. This allows you to refill on-the-go and avoid purchasing plastic water bottles, which are the single largest contributor to plastic waste.


Step 2: Say 'no' to animal  abuse

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Sometimes immersing into local cultures can be counterproductive to the promotion of animal welfare.

As controversial as this sounds, as a well-informed global citizen, we all play a part in resisting practices that threaten the livelihood and wellbeing of animals. What one can do is to then engage in some extent of research prior to your travels - to ensure that your tours and travels are conducted ethically.

For certain countries in Southeast Asia, elephant riding is a common and popular experience that locals fervently promote to its travellers. Beyond that, the immersive experience in safaris, albeit exciting, is extremely detrimental to animal preservation efforts. Travellers who seek once-in-a-lifetime experience are enticed to these tours because it provides an experience like no other - to be in close proximity with wildlife animals, which you would otherwise see through the glasses of your local zoos.

For the locals, despite the opinions surrounding animal-based tourism, it is often their source of livelihood. Hence, rather than incriminating the locals for not adopting environmentally-friendly ways to engage with these animals, we could instead support the tour groups who are able to do so through ethical means. For instance, the Elephant Nature Park in Northern Thailand is one key organization that has sought new ways for visitors to interact ethically with elephants. The increase in visits to these animal-friendly parks can also compel other competitors in the industry to do so too. After all, tourism is the main source that fuels this industry, and as more people begin to steer clear from unethical practices, locals will also be compelled to alter their prevailing policies. 

Step 3: Limit your water and energy consumption 

credit: Stuart Perry/

You might be filthy rich in your travel destination, but you’re not entitled to abuse the resources made available to you.

Many travellers make the common mistake (myself included) to spend lavishly in countries that we can better afford. Especially for those of us staying in hotels, our energy and water consumption is exceptionally high. Rather than changing the hotel towels provided to you every day (though you are provided with the option to), try to reuse them unless they are getting seriously gross. The amount of water that goes into washing these towels is unfathomable, considering the number of guests in each hotel.

Furthermore, when you're not in your hotel rooms, avoid leaving the electricity on! While I understand that we all love to return back to a cosy and well-lit room after a long day of travel, this extra electricity generated that goes unused increases the amount of carbon dioxide emission, which enhances the greenhouse effect and contributes to global warming. Hence, we can all play a part by reducing this emission by cutting down on consumption wherever we do not need.

In all, living sustainably is not just a "hype", nor a trend that you should hop on to just for the sake of it. Our individual efforts actually play an indispensable role in the choices that bigger brands are willing to make, which on a whole affects our living experience on Earth. Ultimately, the responsibility of caring for the environment lies in the individual's lifestyles, and the extent to which we are disposed to adopt ethical consumer habits. 


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