How eco-friendly is your backpack? 9 tips to being an eco-friendly backpacker
As a traveller, you will get to see many of the wonders that the world has to offer, but sadly you will also be exposed to the damage caused by the human race. Here are our top 9 tips on how you can be an eco backpacker.
1. Walk, cycle or take public transport
Instead of heading straight to an Uber or a taxi when trying to get to a location, consider other options such as public transport or walking. In the long run this will also help you save money, whilst not polluting the atmosphere, and providing you with exercise. You may even bump into some hidden gems on the way!
If walking isn't your thing, or it is that bit to far to walk, consider renting or buying a bicycle. Again, this is a good way to see the city you are in and maybe find places that you would have otherwise missed.
2. Buy a reusable water bottle
The dreaded cycle of constantly buying and throwing away plastic bottles really takes its toll on the environment. This is especially in less developed countries, such as some of those in South-East Asia, where the recycling system is not as sophisticated. This is why purchasing a reusable bottle is the best way to avoid this, which will also be a lot cheaper in the long run.
Plastic water bottles also carry a lot of bacteria, and cannot be kept for a long period of time, despite them lasting for as long as 1000 years before breaking down to micro-plastics, causing severe damage to our oceans. A large selection of reusable bottles now keep cold water cold for 24 hours, and hot water, hot for 12 hours, another big pro of aluminium bottles.
3. Use a tote bag, or reuse a carrier bag
Again, by reusing or buying a canvas bag you eliminate single use plastic. By taking a reusable bag with you, you avoid the use for plastic bags that they give you at shops and supermarkets. It can also double up as a beach/day out bag, and are a lot more durable. There are a lot of small and lightweight reusable bags you can take with you, or you can also consider a small backpack when walking around.
4. Buy a reusable straw
The process of making plastic products alone, causes the release of toxic fumes and chemicals. To make matters worse, if improperly disposed of, these straws can make their way into rivers and oceans, harming marine wildlife and their ecosystems. When ingested, plastic particles can be highly toxic to marine life, with larger particles even clogging the gills of fish or choking animals that mistake it for food.
Reusable straws are therefore, not only unique and elegant, but more importantly much more environmentally friendly than plastic. When you use reusable straws, the majority of these negative effects can be completely mitigated.
Purchase them here.
5. Separate recycling from rubbish
The easiest way for you to reduce your impact on the environment is to ensure you take all your rubbish with you if you've been on an outdoor adventure. You can do more by separating your waste into trash, recycling and compost. You should be aware that even fruit peels can take a long time to degrade and pose a health risks to wildlife. Be sure to pack up everything you bring, even if it seems harmless at first glance.
6. Keep local water sources clean
Suntan lotions, makeup and other oils and lotions can pollute oceans, seas, and rivers. Make sure when you use these items, use them responsibly or not at all. You can now buy coral friendly lotions which we highly recommend buying. Research has shown that sunscreen and cosmetic products containing oxybenzone breaks down coral, causing it to lose nutrients, turn ghostly white, bleach, or often die.
You should also avoid using chemical insect repellents and opt for an effective natural product, such as lavender oil, citrus oils, or lemon eucalyptus oil (which was shown in research to be just as effective as DEET).
7. Washing Machines at Hostels
Many hostels have washing machines for their guests to use. To be as eco-friendly as possible make sure you have a full load before washing your clothes. If you don’t, consider putting your clothes with other traveller clothes to reduce the amount of energy used.
8. Shop Local
Supermarket chains ship their products from all over the world, resulting in increased carbon emissions and high use of wasted plastics. A good way to ensure local produce is to checkout local farmers markets, which will sell fresh, locally sourced fruit and vegetables, which is usually at a similar price to a supermarket. Buying local also helps to protect the business of small farms.
If you're backpacking in Australia, food products usually tell you what percentage of the ingredients were Australian grown. Buying products that have a higher percentage of national or local ingredients will help to boost the Australian economy and farming industry.
9. Limit Your Use Of A/C
Air conditioning uses lot of energy, it usually accounts for over 50% of hostel energy bills. Try and use a fan instead of A/C where possible, but understandably in some tropical climates A/C can be very tempting. If the A/C is needed, make sure it is off when not necessary.