Environmentalists preach the concept of reduce, reuse and recycle.
In response, my inner voice always seems to plead, “Come on! I need new clothes!” (or shoes or a bag or on and on).
But here’s what quiets that inner materialist: For travelers, protecting the planet can mean spending less. Utter “saving dough,” and suddenly I’m all about saving the planet.
Here are tips that will help you be kinder to nature and your wallet.
Reduce and reuse
Carry a reusable water bottle (preferably one that is free of bisphenol A, or BPA, an industrial chemical) and a SteriPen or similar water purifier for places where the water is suspect.
Think of the loot you’ll save by not dropping a dollar or more every time you need some H2O.
Reuse or restore clothes, luggage and other gear. “My old backpack is now 35 years old and my hiking boots are more than 20 years old — I’ve resoled them three times,” said environmentalist T.A. Barron. “My hat is over 20 years old. They are like old friends and have been with me in Patagonia, Alaska, Colorado, New Zealand, in the Arctic,” added Barron, author of the 12-volume “Merlin Saga,” which chronicles the life of the wizard.
Shop thrift shops and garage sales. You often can find backpacks, sleeping bags and other gear, said Arno Delport, marketing manager for Acacia Africa, a tour operator. “Being more frugal from the outset means you’ll have more cash to splurge on those once-in-a-lifetime experiences,” Delport said in an email.
Minimize your impact
Pack light. Weight is the enemy of fuel efficiency. By taking less, you reduce your environmental impact and avoid unwanted baggage fees.
Stay in a hostel (and no, this isn’t a tip just for millennials). Hostels are inexpensive and tend to have lower environmental impact than accommodations that have such frills as in-room TVs, Silke Kerwick, public affairs manager at YHA Australia, said in an email. YHA Australia has free food shelves for guest leftovers.
Carpool with friends met at your hostel or Airbnb. Travelers often have the same itinerary, said Katie MacDonald of Greentown Labs, which helps develop green technology. When you “share a car or bus or van with others,” you contribute fewer carbon emissions on your trip, she said, noting that she has carpooled in Patagonia, Central America and Europe.
Take a bus to your destination. “Bus travel is hands-down the most sustainable way to travel, particularly in terms of passenger miles per gallon,” said Pierre Gourdain, Los Angeles manager of FlixBus, which recently launched in the U.S. “We have the potential to take 56 cars off American roadways with every trip we take — without an equivalent or greater increase in carbon footprint, like a plane or train would.”
You’ll save money too. FlixBus fares start as low as $2.99 one way to such destinations as Las Vegas and Phoenix.
Use public transit. It’s eco-friendly and it will probably wind up being cheaper than taking Uber or Lyft or renting a car.
Ride a bike. Many urban areas have bikes to rent through city programs (including Metro bikes in Los Angeles). They’re inexpensive, leave little carbon footprint and offer exercise.
Volunteer in destinations. There are several volunteer options on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, Shelly Winkel of Tourism and Events Queensland said in an email.
Volunteering with Eco Barge Clean Seas Inc., for instance, gives travelers “a hands-on conservation experience,” she said. They spend a day “picking up marine debris on the beaches and coastlines of the spectacular Whitsunday Islands, going to locations that most tourists can’t get to.” Morning tea, lunch and equipment are provided.
Plus you get to know other travelers, forging connections you might not otherwise make. The programs are free or low cost.
One benefit of such programs is not so much environmental as mental, and that’s gratitude, environmentalist and author Barron said.
“It’s deeply important to take a moment, wherever I go, to feel deep gratitude for that place and its natural wonders,” Barron said, “and to truly open myself up to the beauty and inspiration of that place and the gift of being there.”
That doesn’t cost a penny, and it can make the world a better place.