Note: Much of my research for this post came from a documentary I watched on YouTube. (Click here to watch it) I found it very informative and easy for all ages to understand, and I HIGHLY recommend that you watch it.
Recently I spent 11 days traveling around America to go to a national competition. I noticed the sad reality that it is EXTREMELY difficult to avoid using single-use plastics while on the go. A few weeks ago I wrote a post on what you can do to travel green, (click here to read it) but after taking such a long trip I realized that traveling completely waste-free is virtually impossible. It dawned on me that this wasn’t just the traveler’s fault, but the companies that distribute these single-use plastic products should be held responsible as well. So this post isn’t about how the ones traveling can help the earth, but it’s a call to action on the part of hotels and restaurants to be more considerate. Yes, plastic is inexpensive and may seem convenient, but why save a little money in non-sustainable products if those very products will poison the earth? It’s hard to succeed in the world when there is no world to succeed in.
Hamanasi Resort in Belize is a wonderful example of how a tourist attraction can thrive in a sustainable, clean way. They support local products and farms, and their simple switches to earth-friendly products like handmade bamboo straws and reef-friendly sunscreen make all the difference. They use the tourism trade that supports them to, in turn, support the very natural beauty that brought tourists in in the first place. They teach tourists about the local reefs and how to protect them. These planet-saving tactics can be used by hotels worldwide! But the earth isn’t the only thing that benefits from this- by encouraging reefs and the heath of the local ecosystem, the surrounding area is more beautiful and desirable to tourists. It’s a win-win situation!
Of course, the blame for the deterioration of our world goes to all of us. While large companies and hotels are responsible for bulk changes, EVERY person matters. In America where I live, it’s disgusting to see how much we take for granted. We litter without consideration for the environment. We dump waste and spray chemicals and hurt animals without a second thought. Unfortunately, America isn’t the only place in the world with this mindset. All over the world we need to rise up and be grateful for what we have, and determined to bring back what we’re losing. There are many small changes you can make to have a big positive impact:
- Stop eating fish. According to research done in the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch” by National Geographic, 46% of ocean debris there is abandoned fishing equipment. Forty-six percent! Boycotting fish doesn’t just make a small difference- it really does help to save the ocean. If you still just can’t give it up, at least only eat sustainably sourced fish.
- Boycott products with palm oil. Palm oil, as the name suggests, is made of a special kind of tree called an oil palm. To farm these trees, vital rainforest ecosystems are decimated and replaced by rows and rows of oil palms. Then, harvesting palm oil is done by mulching the trees and extracting the oil. Most people don’t know about this, but please spread the word because this is absolutely terrible for the environment! These products contain palm oil, and make sure to check the ingredients label of products you’re unsure about.
- Stay in eco-friendly hotels when possible. Considering how few hotels follow the example of places like the Hamanasi Resort, this is obviously pretty difficult. However, if an environmentally friendly hotel is available where you need a place to stay, I encourage you to give it a chance.
- Skip the sweetener. While I was traveling I noticed that every single hotel I went to that had a coffee maker packaged their beverage items in plastic. If the cups themselves weren’t plastic, they were wrapped in plastic. The sugar and straws and powdered creamer were wrapped in plastic. If you absolutely must have your coffee or tea in your room, please use your own reusable cup or bring your own sweetener.
- Have your own reusable cup. The fact that this is eco-friendly is really just a side perk. I always bring a thermos cup with me when I travel because it keeps my drink cold and (depending on what size you get) they hold a lot of liquid. Thermos cups are absolutely essential for car trips, but I would recommend using water bottles instead for plane rides.
- Bring your own hygiene products. Just like the coffee products, every hotel I visited packaged their complementary shampoos and conditioners in plastic. There are perks to bringing your own products too- you know they work for your specific hair type, you’ll be prepared in case the hotel you stay at doesn’t have complimentary products, and you know you like how they smell.
- Don’t use chemical sunscreen at the beach. This is something you never think about, but it really makes all the difference. Chemical sunscreens wash off into the ocean and harm the coral reefs. Oxybenzone and octinoxate are the primary chemicals that you should watch out for, but studies are in progress that may prove that all chemicals in unnatural sunscreen are harmful. The best alternative for you to use is a mineral non-nano zinc oxide sunscreen. This alternative isn’t harmful to coral and cannot be absorbed by the coral, so it’s not toxic. The research shown in the film Reefs at Risk states that oxybenzone can affect corals at a potency of just 62 parts per trillion. That is the equivalent of one drop of water in six-and-a-half olympic size swimming pools. An estimated 14,000 tons of sunscreen enters the ocean around coral reefs EVERY YEAR. This needs to change, and change starts with you. Click here to find a few earth-friendly sunscreen options.
I hope you liked this post, and I urge you to share this with your friends because this is vital information that everyone needs to know. Thank you so much for reading this (sorry this post ended up being so long) and comment below if you have any other tips on how to travel eco-friendly. If you want to receive an email every time I post, follow my blog and subscribe to my emails. Have a wonderful day!
Zakeri, Amir. “50 Minutes to Save the World.” YouTube, YouTube, 14 June 2019, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wthTmQHmuZ0.
Parker, Laura. “The Great Pacific Garbage Patch Isn’t What You Think It Is.” National Geographic, National Geographic Society, 22 Mar. 2018, news.nationalgeographic.com/2018/03/great-pacific-garbage-patch-plastics-environment/.
Organics·Health TipsNeed to Know·November 8, 2016·5 min read, et al. “How Palm Oil Is Reshaping Our Planet.” Organics, 7 May 2019, http://www.organics.org/palm-oil-reshaping-planet/.
“Discover Hamanasi Resort: Award Winning Resort in Belize.” Hamanasi Adventure & Dive Resort, Belize, http://www.hamanasi.com/.
Zhekova, Dobrina. “How to Know If Your Sunscreen Is Killing Coral Reefs – and 13 Brands to Try Instead.” Travel + Leisure, 6 June 2019, http://www.travelandleisure.com/style/beauty/reef-safe-sunscreen.