Combining Travel and Being Green
I am excited.
The sun is shining in a bright blue sky today, my stomach is filled with the delicious piadini you see above (flatbread filled with, in this case, warm brie and a bit of chili, typically with tomato and mozzarella), I have a new freelance photography gig on the horizon, and…oh yes! for the past hour + I have been researching tons of new great websites to add to my list of links on the side of the page. In fact, I’ve spent more time doing that than I have updating my photos or thinking what I’m going to write about.
So, I thought I’d go with that particular vein of excitement and talk about how I’m attempting to “do my part”. In the past few months I have had a greater desire to combine my love of travel and lack of a permanent home with my desire to live a more sustainable life. When I was in Germany in 2005, I was intrigued to see that the plastic bags in supermarkets cost customers an additional 5 cents, and the people that I was living with generally used cardboard boxes to carry their purchases. This was before I really became significantly aware about waste reduction and other relevant environmental issues. I then lived and worked at the Omega Institute for the first time, where I learned about the value of sustainability, one of Omega’s core values.
From Dictionary.com, the definition of sustainable: (of economic development, energy sources, etc) capable of being maintained at a steady level without exhausting natural resources or causing severe ecological damage
International travel in and of itself is not sustainable at all, considering how much energy airliners consume, but there are ways that I can help to make my trips less impactful on the environment. I have had my Klean Kanteen water bottle for three years, and I take it with me everywhere, happy to have long ago given up buying plastic bottles (and now they have a bottle that doesn’t even use plastic in the lid! yay!). For those of you who are now buying water at the airports once you go through security, just bring along your own empty reusable bottle and fill it up from the water fountains once you get into your terminal. I’ve also asked food service workers if they could fill up my bottle with tap water, and have never been refused.
Pictured above with my bottle is my favorite newly acquired travel item: my bamboo utensils from ToGo Ware. The set includes a fork, knife, spoon and a pair of chopsticks- and best of all, they come in a handy pouch made from recycled PET plastic! I love it! Thanks to my sister Sue for this gift right before I left on my trip. Now I have said for the first to flight attendants, “I don’t need these utensils, can you please take them back?” Think of how many plastic forks and knives are given out at all the take-out establishments all over the world; the number of plastic bottles is far higher. Wouldn’t it be incredible if even a quarter of those were replaced by people bringing their own?
In addition, I brought my own trail mix (bought in bulk) with me on the plane, and it lasted for over a week after I arrived in Italy, saving me the cost in money and waste of buying prepackaged snacks. I carry my own laundry detergent with me, Seventh Generation powder, in a sealed plastic bag (I reuse all my plastic bags), as well as a canvas bag so I can refuse paper and plastic when I am buying something.
I’ve just discovered the wonderful blog My Plastic-Free Life, and here is an article that talks in depth about these tips and more, with additional ideas and suggestions in the comments section. (This was the website that cued the “I’m excited!” feeling)
Water conservation is another area of sustainability that I’m constantly (sometimes neurotically) thinking about. Often I turn off the water in the shower when I am not rinsing- this is especially good to remember when staying in other people’s homes and the level of consciousness is even higher. My fellow Help-Xers have just turned my world upside down– they don’t rinse off the dishes when washing in the sink. Scrub with hot soapy water….and then place on the drainboard! That’s it! That makes a huge difference with the amount of water used. I thought it was completely strange- and still am trying to wrap my head around it, really- but you wipe them off with a clean dishtowel and everything’s perfectly fine. Not even a soapy residue or taste left on a fork, bowl, or glass.
All of this green stuff is something I’m really interested in, and I’m constantly trying to do more, to see how many more pre-conceived notions I can let go of and habits I can break in favor of environmentally-friendly ones. Here’s hoping that some of you have learned something new by reading this, and maybe will even make some changes in your life (and travels!).
I’ll leave you with some pictures of animal friends here on the farm I’ve been at for just over a week:
We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospection. –Anais Nin