We all share a common goal: more travel, and less impact. There’s an overwhelming amount of information (and disinformation) about how to be more sustainable, and we know that when you’re travelling, it becomes 10 times harder. We’ve put together our checklist for sustainable travellers while on the road, so you can live your best life – without it costing the earth. Check out these top tips in our sustainable traveller’s bible.
1. Transport Choices
Use shared transport options when in new countries, rather than renting a car or a campervan. Bus and train travel are two of the lowest impact travel options, plus you meet other awesome like-minded travellers to share a laugh with (we know of an awesome flexible travel company that takes you off the beaten track in New Zealand!
2. Straighten Up and Fly Right
You are probably going to have to take a flight to get to New Zealand. But that doesn’t mean you have to book domestic or onward flights for the rest of your trip. A bus tour is not just great fun, where you’re going to meet like-minded people and make lifelong friendships, it’s also one of the best ways to be a sustainable traveller.
According to Our World in Data, bus or coach travel produces less than half the greenhouse gasses per person per km than a domestic flight, and 70 -90% less than travel by diesel or petrol cars respectively.
3. Be Prepared, Be Very Prepared
Bring a reusable shopping bag, drink bottle and coffee cup from home. If you’ve forgotten any of these, you can buy one at your travel destination – they make great souvenirs. If you’re travelling in New Zealand, tap water is always safe to drink, so your reusable bottle is a great investment. It all helps to make tourism more sustainable.
4. Just When You Think You Couldn’t Be Any More Prepared…
BYO cutlery – a bamboo or steel set of cutlery will quickly become the MVP in your backpack. You can even buy or bring an “old skool” spork, which will take up less space in your day pack. Whether you’re buying a salad from the supermarket on your way to the beach, or munching on leftover pasta on the bus, having your own fork is not only sustainable, it’s super convenient!
5. Straws Suck!
Say no to straws (and any other plastic you can think of). An icy margarita after a long day of travel is almost essential on a warm day in Aotearoa, but a straw that might end up in the ocean is not.
6. Be (Super) Sun Smart
New research is showing that most sunscreens are incredibly harmful to coral reefs. This Greenpeace blog gives you an insight into the damage sunscreen can cause, as well as some tips on how you can help minimise reef damage and marine pollution. Choose natural sunscreens (the best ones are those that you can understand all the ingredients), cover-up, and utilise shade. Wide brim hats and Hawaiian shirts are totally in right now!
7. Go Paperless When You Can
Most of the time you can scan a barcode or QR code on your phone or use an app where you would have once needed a printed copy. When you travel with Stray, our buses are paper free!
8. Learn the Recycling and Waste System of Your Destination
If you’re educated on what can and can’t be recycled, and what to do with your food waste, you can sleep easy knowing that things are going where they should. If you don’t know, ask! 10 extra points if you help someone else figure out which bin to put their trash in.
9. Don’t Stray From the Path
We’re all for getting off the metaphorically beaten track, but when you’re hiking and exploring in nature, it is important to stick to trails. In hiking meccas like New Zealand, getting lost is a serious risk, and you also risk damaging delicate eco-systems and transferring diseases like Kauri dieback.
Kauri dieback is most common in upper North Island and is caused by organisms in soil particles which infect the tree’s roots and its ability to obtain water and nutrients. There is no treatment and infected Kauri die, so it’s super important to keep on the trail and brush loose soil off your shoes when entering an area of native trees.
10. Take 3 For The Sea
We all know that we should take nothing but photographs, and leave nothing but footprints, but you can step this game up and take 3 for the sea. Dedicate 3 minutes of your beach time to picking up trash, and see how much you can collect. This can be a highly competitive, high energy game amongst friends… you could even come up with a prize for the winner.
11. Be Energy Smart
Shorter showers, turning lights off when you leave the room, and not leaving the heater/AC running when you’re not using it are all easy ways to be environmentally considerate. Remember what your Dad used to moan about!
12. Take Away Tips
This one is actually a life hack AND a great way to reduce your food waste. When ordering food from a café or restaurant to take away, bring your own container and have them fill it up – it will definitely be more sturdy and reliable than the flimsy plastic or paper they give you. If you’re eating in, but can’t quite finish the other half of your sandwich, whip that container out and pop it in there for later. Voila! Two meals for the price of one!
13. Sustainable Toiletries
When you’re overseas, you can never find a shampoo or body wash as good as your favourite from home, so why not bring it with you! Grab some refillable containers and bring that little piece of home with you. Better yet, let’s go to the bar! The shampoo bar that is. You can now buy literally every body care product in a bar, from fake tan to shampoo.
When buying shampoo bars or toiletries at home or here in New Zealand, make sure to scan the ingredients list for microbeads. According to Beat the Microbead Organisation: “Microbeads are a kind of microplastic with a specific function for scrubbing or exfoliating. In cosmetics, “microplastic” refers to all types of tiny plastic particles (smaller than 5mm) that are intentionally added to cosmetics and personal care products. They are often used as emulsifying agents or just as cheap fillers.” Use their super-handy scan app to find cosmetics without microplastics in them.
14. Be a Traveller, Not a Tourist
Embracing local food, culture and lifestyle will automatically reduce your impact. Whether it is spending time learning about Maori culture with a local family at Kohutapu Lodge, or learning about pest control in New Zealand, you can easily make sustainability part of your adventure. In fact, it is often these parts that are the best bit.
Wherever you go, and whatever you do, keep that little sustainability angel on your shoulder. In most cases, sustainability is a matter of following your instincts and applying a bit of common sense.
On the Stray bus, our Driver Guides are eco-champions and can help you to make sustainable choices on the road. Browse our current tours here and please share your top tips for being environmentally friendly while travelling in the comments below. Let’s help each other become more sustainable travellers!