It's one thing to be ethically and environmentally aware when leading normal life. But what about when out and about exploring this beautiful planet? When leaping off in far away lands, how can we have a more low carbon adventure, or step more softly and sustainably as we go.
I've done the reading and research, planned, purchased and packed a plethora of items I can recommend to prevent the use of plastic bottles, disposables, batteries and harmful chemicals.
The first and biggest cost to travellers and the environment alike is often flights . Aeroplanes use astronomical amounts of fuel. I'm off to Nepal and India, and when leaving on a longhaul flight I always plan on getting my carbon emissions' worth. I'll be exploring for six epic months, and will take all internal travel on coaches and trains to avoid racking up any more than the tonnes of carbon that I'm already losing sustainable sleep over…..
If you fail to prepare for eco-travel, then prepare to fail.
But you must not fail! Because Earth, and the inhabitants of your destination need you... So do be prepared.
Get a small eco-arsenal of awesome, ethical enviro-gadgets that can help curb your carbon emissions and reduce the waste you warrant on your travels.
W A T E R
Water is life, but plastic spells doom, so avoiding its deadly toxins is a must. Definitely take a bottle with you as this is one of the best way to save weeks of woeful waste on your travels. With most travellers buying and drinking the recommended 4 litres a day, you can see how we're now mindlessly using a million bottles a minute globally.
Find yourself a great life bottle that you'll love like your own child, and use this blog to pick a purification method to make any water in the world safe and sustainable.
I use a small and ultra quick UV purification system from the SteriPen range. 6 months abroad and not a plastic bottle in sight!
A beautiful bamboo straw provides both a sustainable slurp as well as a swaying conversation starter for communicating about low carbon loot with foreigners - who may otherwise wonder why you're sucking on a stick…. If you're heading somewhere tropical this is an absolute NECESSITY as a big, juicy coconut looks so sad with a plastic straw sticking out.
C U T L E R Y
There is NOTHING more edifying for an eco-egotistical connoisseur than a well rounded dining kit. Boobalou's cute little organic bamboo sporks are probably one of my most trusted items and juicy gifts for friends. They come to you door in plastic free, paper packaging with optional bee saver seed sachets too!
F O O D S T O R A G E
A sturdy lunch box goes a long way in saving endless plastic and paper plates at street food stands abroad. The effort also often delights food vendors, who often jovially layer on monumental portions in praise of low carbon diners.
Tupperware is eeeverywhere so dig out some old, office kitchen cupboard pieces (if you can EVER find a lid to fit the innumerable, lonely bases!?), or take a lunchbox with you. If you're headed to India, blend in over breakfast by getting a thali container to carry your snacks, they cost about £1.50.
Treat yourself to some dates, nuts or dry fruits on home turf before taking off, and reuse the hardy, zip lock bags for keeping soaps and soggy items, or fruits and snack foods. They're hard core and you can use them again and again and again.
B A G S
Bags! Plastic bags. Humans worst solution to carrying things. Use arm and hand appendages instead. Make sure you take an ergonomic, eco vibe, environmentally friendly backpack to transport fruits, foods, and all manner of bits and bites from a to b. And while you're at it tell shop keepers, who are often dead confused that you don't want a million free plastic bags, about your intention. You might as well spread good vibes as you curtail the continuation of mindless microbeads. I have found that people in India almost always understand and agree when you clarify your point, and send you your way with an appreciative and eco-encouraging head wobble.
C O S M E T I C S
Cosmetics have the capacity to harm our bodies with their often nightmarish ingredient lists, containing cocktails of carcinogenic creams and powders. They pour pollution into the environment during production, in their endless plastic packages and when they wash off the skin into the seas, plus they are often hellishly tested on animals.
Pick organic shampoo, conditioner, soap and skin care and find ethical make ups to take away. Watch out for all things ‘natural’ as this is not a regulated labelling term and many crappy companies are trying to appeal by going ‘green’ this way.
My sustainable shower times are entirely lathered with Lush, because their items are epically ethical in almost every way and come wrapped in fragrant reels of decorative papers or recycled, reusable pots which you can also return - receiving gifts when you give back five. Lush provide 100% vegetarian and vegan, handmade, cruelty free, self preserving, packaging free cosmetics for climate friendly consumption.
M A K E - U P
Lush make - up also makes up my aesthetic inventory. My choice piece for heading East was the 'Independent' black coloured eye liner (essential for slipping seamlessly into indian weddings with some heavily khol-lined eyelids).
S K I N C A R E
Make your own organic, personally packaged deodorant from shea butter, coconut oil, bicarbonate of soda (which acts as the anti-perspirant) and fragranced organic essential oils. Moisturising with coconut oil is satisfyingly low carbon when sourced at source in India, and you can find its sweet nectar in glass jars if you look hard.
T E E T H
Buy a bamboo toothbrush! There's no longer any excuses for the polluting plastic handle with heinous supermarket purchases. If 7 billion people follow orthodontic advice to update their toothbrush every 3 months, then the scientists are quite right: there will be more plastic in the oceans than fish by 2050.
You can rustle up some homemade toothpaste easily enough. I've made many batches, with varying degrees of success and sapidity....
H E A L T H C A R E
Travelling abroad, you may encounter the odd ailment if you're anything like me. An unlucky bruise and scrape or burn and headache I know ALL too well. So prepare a small pack of organic ointments to administer.
Lavender oil is great to smell or rub onto your temples for headaches, and can also be used in your repellant (below). Arnica oil has a history of healing, known as a natural anti-inflammatroy, or add some tumeric, ginger and aloe vera to pineapple juice for a tasty treatment. All these are also especially helpful when treating bruises, swellings and other pains or tenderness in strains and sprains. Coconut oil is a completely magical, mythical fruit, sacred in many cultures for its celestial spectrum of uses. Naturally antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal it can be slopped onto a servered limb for a more salubrious solution than a chemical concoction.
R E P E L L A N T
DEET is an environmental contaminant and health queries over its use persist. Make your own organic repellant from coconut oil, shea butter, neem oil (only a few drops of 100%) and organic lavender, citronella with a sweetly scented essential oil. Done. Good vibes for you, bad vibes for mosquitoes.
P E R I O D S
It is said that a woman amasses up to 15,000 tampons in a lifetime, and these sorts of feminine profucts are harmful for mother nature and her daughters alike. Their awful, often inorganic cotton fibers are unnatural foreign objects to let fester. Cotton farming is one of the worst industrial strains on the the planet, not to mention an unspoken source of scurrilous human slavery all over the world. A Moon Cup can cure your climate consternations in a few rubbery inches. Get over how creepy you think they are and get one. Reusable pads can help guard your gusset on more difficult and daring legs of the journey, for example; when hovering dangerously over a gaping long-drop toilet on a lumbering Indian train.
E A R P H O N E S
Get good stuff. Get bad stuff and it WILL break. Attentiveness on the move is not always easy, and when backpacking, belongings always get a beating. Earphones are my BIGGEST challenge - their wirey wires are woefully too temporal. Choose House of Marley to nourish your ears abroad (don't forget a model with a microphone for cyber conversations in any country). Their prodigal products are sustainably crafted from earth-friendly materials including organic cotton, hemp and recycled plastic bottles, recyclable metals, bamboo and Forest Stewardship Council-certified woods... The Marley family donate a proportion of the profits to Bob's 1love legacy charity, supporting youth, peace and planet projects around the world. Benevolent bass. Find a second hand sound system online, pick a preloved product and shuffle your soundtrack to suit your sojourn.
C H A R G I N G
How remote will you roam? If you're on a far flung adventure, or driving around, a solar panel could be a sound investment. Most places in the world have charging points to accomodate our increasingly globalised society, so first decide if it is necessary as metals in our electronic all too often have undesirable origins .
The most clout (20W) for your cash is the Dragon-X panel, with two USB charge points and bag straps. It charges my smartphone in about an hour or two on a day of unadulterated sun.
L I G H T I N G
For low carbon, late night action, definitely get a USB powered head torch. You can charge it on the solar panel, and afford yourself years of battery-less illumination, which lightens the load on Mother Earth too.
And whilst we're discussing the absolute, bare essentials - solar powered fairylights should fit into your ethical inventory nicely. If, like me, you are musing over the mounting consumption of plastic products, lighten up and afford yourself some festive fun. Being low carbon should definitely be fun. And nothing says sustainably sexy like an unexpected festoon steeped over some otherwise scrotty, rundown shack in the middle of nowhere.
Be vigilant! Because everything is always so bloody amazing that remembering to refuse a straw amidst an exciting new encounter is as difficult as complex polymer plastic decomposition in nature. Straws suck. Argh! I have failed numerous times and then viciously reproach myself whilst begrudgingly bagging superfluous straws, wondering whether I could make an any sort of bracelet out of the lamentable waste....
Use lunchbox lids or pop-out bowls as plates when eating on the streets because, especially in India, everyone loves a good single-use piece. It’s both criminal and depressing how cheap it must be to buy bulk plastic cutlery and plates, but the pollution stares you in the face on every corner in huge piles of discarded plastic - often infused with a few scavenging pigs and puppies to add to the heartbreak.
Short haul flights are worse for the environment as there are generally more empty seats, and takeoffs and landings are more fuel intensive than cruising. Calculate the carbon that comes with your flight ticket and be aware of how this fits into your life. The average UK citizen causes 9.66 tonnes of carbon a year, and my return flight to Delhi accounts for between 1.5 - 5 tonnes (depending on the depth of your search.
If a flight is unavoidable as they sometimes are, discover ways to pay back the planet. Then just remember to think about how wonderfully lucky we are to enjoy this luxury, and make it up to Mother Nature throughout the year in a steady stream of more sustainable, eco-appreciative behaviours.
Internal ground travel is an adventurous, and only occasionally more torturous option, than airport hopping. Cheap domestic flights come at a huge cost to Mother Nature. Boost the local economy by employing the knowledge of local travel guides, save money and emissions. Trundle along exploring the terrain by train, or race aling in a rickety rickshaw... Even if you do slip a disc.
If there's stuff you love doing, love doing it well. Yoga for example is a massive motivation for millions of us to move around all over the world, mat in backpack. But pranayama wasn't meant to be practiced on toxic strips of earth-destroying PVC or even TPE. So pack a planet-friendly mat of rubber, cork or organic cotton and get your ass into ethical asanas instead. With any hobby and with equipment you may need, plan ahead and take it with you. Buying cheap stuff abroad will be an unhelpful solution at great cost to you and the planet.
Avoiding animal-product orientated purchases is a must. Elephants are great, but their tusks are best left in. Leather is made of the skin of innocent animals and has a far more nightmarish tale than the corrosive skin creams carted out of the beauty parlour, especially abroad where regulations only tend to retreat from our comparatively cosy EU directives. Shop for organic cotton, hemp fibres and local crafts
Wherever you're headed, keep your head in conscious clouds rather than plundering the planet on your passage. Spread the word on your sustainably shaped sojourn so as to inspire other internationals and nationals alike to integrate some ethical and environmental objectives into their everyday existence.