Trees for Emissions

One of my first-ever blog posts was on Less Offsets and what they are doing to help combat the CO2 emissions from air travel. As the demand for more environmentally responsible travel increases, more airlines and travel companies are stepping up to do their part in the fight against climate change. In late 2019, low-cost European carrier Easy Jet has announced their plan to make traveling with them a climate-conscious decision.

Net-Zero Carbon Flights

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Easy Jet has pledged to become the first-ever net-zero carbon emissions carrier by offsetting its emissions through investments in several climate action initiatives. The primary method they will use to achieve this is by planting trees.

Deforestation in South America and Africa is a problem that not only displaces much of the wildlife who live there but also takes out a huge portion of the trees responsible for absorbing the carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Easy Jet is planning on planting enough trees to offset the emissions from all flights by the company. They say that this will help to stop deforestation and provide jobs for the people who live in those regions.

Other climate projects

India, the world’s most populated country, relies heavily on fossil fuels for energy. Easy Jet pushing to change the way India produces energy by investing in the installation of solar energy farms to cut thousands of pounds of carbon emissions annually.

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Easy Jet is also working to provide clean drinking water to communities in Uganda and Eritrea who otherwise rely on water from rivers and lakes. This puts these already disadvantaged people at risk for developing water-borne illnesses like typhoid and cholera.

A carbon-free future

Though all of these initiatives are incredible, offsetting flight emissions still mean that there are emissions in the first place. These “solutions” are all interim while we work towards having planes that fly on renewable energy sources only.

While working on their current climate and community programs, Easy Jet is also supporting Wright Electric, an American start-up building electric planes. Their goal for the future? For all planes to be low- or zero-emissions.

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So what can you do in the meantime? For starters, you can choose to fly with companies like Easy Jet who are taking responsibility for their environmental impact and actively working to solve the problem. You can choose to spend a little bit of extra cash and pay to offset the emissions of your next flight. You can also ensure that you bundle your trips together and use land transportation whenever possible, to minimize your own carbon footprint.

Whatever you do, always remember that when you travel: Leave only footprints, take only memories.

Cheers!

Product Roundup: Sustainable Luggage

Picking the perfect bag for your trip is tough! There are so many out there to choose from, and they can be hella’ expensive! So what’s the intrepid traveler to do?

When buying luggage, there is much to consider:

  • Size and carrying capacity
  • Weight of the bag when empty
  • Ease of moving and carrying
  • Price
  • Functionality
  • Uniqueness – ain’t nobody got time for someone else grabbing your luggage off the carousel!

To make things easier on you (and frankly, me…) I’ve rounded up 8 of my favourite sustainable luggage and bag brands to help you pick whichever suits your travel needs.

  1. 10 Tree
    For those of you who are like me and are attempting to never travel with stowed luggage again (see last point above), 10 Tree has a variety of different sized 35- and 45-L backpacks and duffle bags that are made entirely of recycled materials, use less water and energy to make than average brands, and they plant 10 trees for every product purchased. Each product even comes with a little tracking code to track your trees!
    Even if carry-on only is not your thing, they are still a great company to buy a carry-on from, as well as fanny packs (or bum bags for our British friends), totes, travel kits, and more.
  2. Parker Clay
    Parker Clay is well-known for their leather handbags, totes, and duffle bags. Now before you jump down my throat about what place a leather bag making company has on this list, hear me out:
    To start, Parker Clay’s plants and factories are in Ethiopia. All of there products are made from sustainable leather: meaning leather that is bought from Ethiopian cattle farmers for a proper price from cows that were being raised for food. They also ensure that the farmers they buy from are raising their cattle in an ethical and sustainable way. Using this leather does not add to the environmental impact of raising those cows, it ensures that no part of those animals is going to waste.
    Second, Parker Clay is an industry leader in Ethiopia in empowering the women who live there and fighting to end sex slavery in the country.
  3. Patagonia
    Patagonia is a long-time player in the sustainable product market – they were sustainable before it was cool. They’ve got a large line-up of large duffle bags and totes for all of your travel needs that are easy to carry and, of course, sustainably made. Their goal isn’t to just lessen their impact on the environment, but instead to actually fight back against and improve climate change. Everything from the materials they use to how they source them to how their factories operate is focused on environmental responsibility. They also provide opportunities for everyone to get involved in climate action.
    Read more about their sustainability initiatives here.
  4. Rareform
    Have you ever looked at the billboard you drive by every day after a new ad has been put up and think“Hmmm… I wonder what happens to the old vinyl from the old ad?”.
    Neither have I!
    Rareform has, however, and thanks to them 2, 623, 830 pounds of vinyl from old billboards have been saved from landfills and repurposed into backpacks, duffle bags, toiletry bags, and more. The result are products that are durable, waterproof, lightweight, eco-friendly, vegan, and of course, incredibly unique!
  5. United By Blue
    It is no secret that garbage in our oceans and waterways is a huge environmental problem. United by Blue aims to change that by pledging to remove one pound of trash from the world’s bodies of water for every product purchased. Since conception, they have collected 2, 167, 429 pounds of garbage!
    On top of it all, they use sustainable materials and manufacturing processes. Materials used for their products include hemp, organic cotton, Tencel, recycled polyester, corozo, micro modal, and wool.
    You can even join them for a cleanup (travel with a purpose anyone?)
  6. Eco-Traveler
    For those of you who prefer wheeled bags over backpacks and duffles, this bag just might be the one for you.
    The Eco-Traveler P.E.T. Spinner bag by Traveler’s Choice has all the elements of a regular bag – 360-degree wheels, durable, and lightweight – with a sustainable twist. This bag is made from 100% P.E.T. ( Polyethylene Terephthalate) material inside and out and has a 10-year warranty, so you know you can use it for a long time knowing you made a good choice.
  7. MEC
    Whether you’re looking for a large rolling suitcase or a small tote, MEC has got you covered. As a company that is all about encouraging people to get out into nature, one of their number-one values is creating products that are made with respect for the environment and the people who make it, with the goal of having the smallest environmental impact possible.
    Having been organic since 1998, they are a company that works hard to continuously innovate and be better stewards of the environment than the day before. Read here to see what they’re doing to save our planet.
  8. Timbuk2
    Designed and manufactured entirely in San Francisco, Timbuk2 builds bags to last. While they stand behind this statement, they also recognize that sometimes small repairs need to be made. Rather than having a customer throw out a bag, they can either have the company repair it, or they can use Timbuk2’s library of parts and materials to fix it themselves. If a bag is beyond repair or someone simply wants a new bag, customers can return their bag to the factory where it will be either donated to someone in need or head to their renewal workshop where it will be turned into something new.
    The company’s motto is Give a damn – and that they do! Using largely recycled materials for their products and keeping all products from idea to physical item in-house, they ensure an ethical purchase every time.

Happy packing!

Voluntourism: Helping or Hurting?

If you are reading this blog then it probably means you are at least somewhat interested in protecting the planet and making a difference in the world. This is a good thing! The biggest detriment to our planet right now is people not caring and by consequence not minding their actions or actively trying to make a change.

Where apathy is harmful, however, so is being uninformed or ignorant. If there is one industry that is doing an incredible job of exploiting the good intentions of people, it’s the Voluntourism industry.

Voluntourism is Big Business: Not Charity Work

White Savoir Complex
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To be honest, I completely get it. Travelling while helping to make the country you are visiting a better place sounds incredible! Unfortunately, voluntourism is exactly what I mentioned above: an industry.

It’s a multi-billion dollar business where the majority of companies involved have the primary goal of making money. For the volunteers, there is often a lack of transparency and they are not delivered what they were promised.

For the destinations themselves, the outlook is even worse. We’re talking about:

  • Human trafficking
  • Animal abuse and exploitation
  • Exploitation and abuse of children

If that isn’t bad enough, often these short-term volunteer missions don’t help the people, animals, and communities they intended to at all. Often, they can hurt them.

Voluntourism Companies are Out of Touch

These third-party voluntourism companies that people use to book volunteering trips often are out of touch with their host destinations and partners and haven’t actually done the due-diligence necessary to ensure these organizations are not corrupt. They also often support industries that should truly not be supported.

In this interview with The Voluntourist Claire Bennet, co-author of Learning Service: The Essential Guide to Volunteering Abroad explains some of the dangers of the voluntourism industry and what you need to look out for before booking a trip.

Volunteer Travel: My Tips

All this probably has you wondering: Is it actually possible to travel and volunteer in a way that does benefit everyone involved? In short, yes. Here are some tips I have if you want your next trip to be more than just sight-seeing:

  • Travel using Workaway or Woofing. These are sites that are free to use and that set you up with local families and business owners. The deal is you go and work for them for 4 to 5 hours a day in exchange for food and accommodation. Not only is this a super cheap way for you to travel, but you also get to meet locals, learn about their daily lives, and end up seeing places and doing things most tourists never do.
  • Never sign up for a volunteer position that you are not qualified for in your home country. Not qualified to take care of disadvantaged children or build houses at home? Then you aren’t qualified somewhere else. Any organization that accepts volunteers for positions like that with no real qualifications should be second-guessed.
  • Look up local organizations before you go, such as a local dog shelter, beach clean-up, or soup kitchen and reach out to them personally. Perhaps you can take an afternoon or two out of your trip to go and offer your time.
  • Steer clear of orphanages: In many countries, this has become an industry of its own. Disadvantaged children should never become a tourist attraction, used to make money, or to spread religious or political messages.
  • If you do have specialized skills and education, look for organizations that are specific to those areas, such as: Engineers Without Borders, Doctors Without Borders (opportunities for nurses as well), and Veterinarians Without Borders.

As Bennet mentions in both the interview and her book, approach traveling with the purpose of learning. Use your travels to learn more about the people and the world, and take those learnings home with you to make informed decisions in your everyday life. You know what is better than volunteering at a school in rural Costa Rica? Buying ethically sourced and organically grown Costa Rican coffee beans. What’s better than going to a village in West Africa to “help” build a well? Donating to an organization that employs citizens of that place who have the actual skills to build their own wells. Now you’ve provided employment and clean drinking water to those who need it.

Start in your Hometown

The best way to make sure your time spent volunteering has an actual positive impact is by looking for opportunities in your own home town. Look for waterfront clean-ups, volunteer to serve lunch at a shelter, or become a volunteer dog-walker at an animal shelter.

Big Takeaways

Remember this: You can’t solve systemic, long-term problems with short-term solutions. We are lucky that we have the ability to travel. Use that opportunity to learn about a new place, understand better how the world works, and then do your research to best help the places that you visit.

Happy travels!

Product Power: Toothpaste

Everyone brushes their teeth (well… we hope they do). This means that everyone needs toothpaste. Typically, we buy large tubes of it once every few months. When travelling, particularly by air, we usually opt for the small, travel-sized tubes that won’t get nabbed by airport security.

The big problem with all of this? The plastic!

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When discussing single-use plastic, toothpaste tubes, just like shampoo and conditioner bottles, are often forgotten about. In reality, it is estimated that up to 1.5 billion toothpaste tubes are thrown away every single year.

That, my friends, is a whole lot of plastic.

The toothpaste tube solution

Thankfully, there is a super easy solution to this problem that is not only good for the planet but incredibly convenient for travellers!

Enter: Toothpaste Tablets

Toothpaste tablets are just what they sound like: Little tablets of toothpaste! To use them, you pop one into your mouth and chew on it a couple of times. When your saliva mixes with the crushed up tablet, it forms a paste which you can then brush your teeth with.

Toothpaste tablets are the perfect travel companion because they are not liquid, so you don’t have to worry about going out and buying travel-sized toothpaste for your trip. This is especially great if you are travelling for an extended period of time because bringing a container of tablets is equivalent to bringing a whole large-sized tube, so you won’t have to think about buying new paste for quite a long time.

What to look for

There are hundreds of brands of toothpaste tablets for you to try, so you may want to try a couple before you settle on one you like best. In my opinion, the best brands:

  • Are made of sustainable and healthy ingredients
  • Preferably come in a reusable jar or container. At the very least, packaging should be biodegradable.
  • Available in your local health shop or grocery store so you can avoid shipping costs and the extra packaging that often accompanies that.

Other toothpaste Options

For a lot of people, toothpaste tablets are kind of weird. Trust me when I tell you, I totally get it. Having only recently started to switch over, tablets are definitely something that requires getting used to and finding one that you don’t mind is much more challenging than regular paste.

If you aren’t quite ready to make the switch to tabs or you just haven’t been able to find one that you like, there are other sustainable choices. There are plenty of toothpaste powders that come in glass jars and are also plane-friendly, otherwise, there are brands out their that sell toothpaste in a jar that is already in paste-form.

Lastly, don’t forget that if sustainability and reducing how much you rely on single-use plastic is the goal, you have to ditch your plastic toothbrush. Look for ones made of sustainable materials, such as bamboo.

Cheers to sustainable smiles in all of your next travel pictures!

SOS from Australia

I wanted my first post in 2020 to be something upbeat and positive, something fun surrounding travel and sustainability. I wanted it to set the tone for the year ahead.

Then, Australia caught fire.

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Australia is one of my absolute favourite countries. It has beautiful beaches, stunning trails, lush greenery, incredible wildlife, and some truly kind, welcoming people.

The news about the bushfires has been devastating. So far, the stats are as follows:

  • 8.4 million hectares of land have burned.
  • 28 people have been killed.
  • Thousands of homes have been destroyed.
  • Half a billion animals have been effected – millions have died, and just as many have lost their habitats.

While climate change did not start the fires, it certainly has exacerbated them. This has so far been the hottest, driest summer on record in Australia, and it is only the beginning.

This is disheartening, but now is not the time to give up! The firefighters need support fighting the fires, the people will need support rebuilding their communities, and the wildlife sanctuaries will need support in rescue and relief efforts.

For many of us who live far away from Australia, helping is as simple as donating to the right organizations. A few places where your money will go to good use are:

It is only the beginning of the bushfire season, so our Aussie friends are going to need all the help they can get. Even after the fires are gone, they will need support while they rebuild homes, rehabilitate animals, and heal from the destruction that these fires caused.

These fires are not just an Australian problem – they are a global issue. Every little thing we do – driving less, thrifting instead of purchasing new, ditching single-use plastic – will help create an environment in which a disaster like this can never happen again.

How-To Pack Sustainably

We all love travelling and going on trips, but packing for a trip can be a real pain.

Trying to do-so sustainably adds another layer of thought and planning that is an even bigger challenge. Thankfully, there are several resources out there to help us, ethically-minded travel junkies!

Below I have linked two videos for you to check out before packing for your next trip! The first video is on how to pack sustainably. Some tips that she goes over in the video are:

  • Use sustainably-made luggage and bags.
  • Pack your own toiletries! Use sustainable products such as shampoo bars, toothpaste tablets, and other products so you can minimize how much single-use plastic you use while on your trip.
  • Pack your own eco-kit: Water bottle, utensils (bamboo or wooden), and a Tupperware container if you have space so you can avoid the disposable plates or containers given out by street vendors.
  • Bring your own snacks that are waste-free.
  • Pack like a minimalist – create your own capsule wardrobe.

Of course, packing for cold-weather travel is a whole new ball-game and can be much more challenging! Check out the video below on how to pack for a winter trip using just carry-on luggage.

As always, remember to bundle your trips to fly less, choose companies and airlines working to better the planet, and always be respectful of the places you travel.

Bon voyage!

The 12 Days of Blogsmas

As a PR student at Seneca College in Toronto, Ontario, I had the opportunity to be interviewed on Seneca Media’s podcast about The Ethical Traveler. It was such a pleasure to talk travel and sustainability, have a listen and be sure to check out the other bloggers they interviewed as well!

R-E-S-P-E-C-T

Take care, TCB!

Why am I quoting a 1960s Arethra Franklin hit? Because respect is (or at least should be) at the core of everything we do – especially when traveling.

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Now, when I talk about respect, I of course mean respect for other people, but that’s not where it ends. Respect when traveling in a different country has a variety of meanings:

  • respect for the people who live there, their space, and their property
  • respect for the hospitality and tourism workers
  • respect for the customs and traditions of that place
  • respect for the animals and wildlife
  • respect for the culture and its rules
  • respect for the environment

That’s a lot more than just being polite, isn’t it? It’s easy to forget this when we are lost, tired, and trying to navigate ourselves around a foreign place in a language we don’t understand. Being tired, however, or not knowing the rules, still aren’t great excuses for turning into the tourists that people go home and complain about to their families over dinner.

Do your research!

The best way to maintain all aspects of respect that I mentioned above is by doing your research. Things to look into before travelling to a new place:

  • how to dress, particularly for any activities, churches, or monuments you may want to visit
  • how to properly greet and say goodbye; how to say please and thankyou
  • customs surrounding meals and mealtime
  • proper and improper hand gestures
  • tourism companies and activities practices – make sure that they are, in fact, as sustainable and ethical as they claim to be

As visitors to another place, we must realize that there are things that are done differently around the world that might seem strange or rude to us. There are also customs that we may think are unfair but that are part of the tradition of that place.

For example, you cannot enter Japanese Onsen, public baths, if you have tattoos. There is no point in getting upset by it, it is just part of the culture. So if you have a tattoo, don’t plan on visiting the baths.

So remember, when travelling:

  • Don’t litter!
  • Dress appropriately.
  • Treat people, animals, and communities properly.
  • Research the country, city, tourism company and attraction before going.

Happy travels!

Lessen the Impact of Your Next Flight

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If you’re reading this blog, it’s because you are a traveller: you love to get out and explore our world. What sets you apart from the rest, however, is your desire to travel in a way that improves the lives of the people living in the places you visit and has a positive impact on the health of the planet.

You do everything you can while on your trip to be as sustainable as possible. You use environmentally friendly products, you walk or use public transit, and you only support companies that align with your values. All of this is incredible, but what about one of the most environmentally damaging aspects of travel: Flying?

Emissions in the Clouds

Flying accounts for two per cent of carbon dioxide emissions world wide. This may not sound like much, but per passenger it actually pumps the highest amount of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere when you include dangerous secondary effects from high-altitude emissions.

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So what are we to do? We want to go to far off places, meet new people, and experience cultures that are different from our own. We can’t walk to Japan from London or take a boat from Australia to Canada (well, you could take a boat, if you have six to nine weeks extra vacation time to play around with).

LESSening Your Impact

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There are companies working to build low to zero-fossil fuel-using planes, but it will be some time before they are ready for commercial flights. In the meantime, companies like Less by bullfrog are doing their best to help travellers offset the carbon footprint of their flight.

With Less, travellers can put in their flight information into a carbon emissions calculator. The calculator then shows you how many emissions your trip will produce. It will then give you two options to pay either $20 or $24 per tonne of emissions that it then donates to various national (Canadian) or international organizations working to improve the environment.

Check out some of their projects here.

Air Canada is partnered with Less, however many other airlines also give you the option of paying a bit extra on your flight to offset your carbon costs.

This is by no means a perfect solution, but it is better than doing nothing!

Happy flying!

The Mamirauá Institute

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The Amazon Rainforest in Brazil is one of the most important ecosystems on our planet. Sometimes called the lungs of the planet, the rainforest cleans the air of greenhouse gases, carbon dioxide, and other toxins, and provides a huge portion of the oxygen we need to live. It produces life-giving precipitation across the globe and provides a home for thousands of plant and animal species that stabilize the world’s climate.

Our planet cannot survive without the rainforest.

Yet, we continue to destroy it.

Ecotourism in the Amazon has the power to educate and protect the rainforest, if used properly. The Mamirauá Institute (MI) is one that is doing just that.

On their website, the MI, sponsored by the ministry of technology, innovations, and communications, says their goals include:

…the application of science, technology and innovation in the adoption of strategies and public policies for the conservation and sustainable use of Amazonian biodiversity. They also include the construction and consolidation of models for the economic and social development of small riverside communities through the development of socially and environmentally appropriate technologies. (source)

To support both the local communities as well as sustainable tourism practices, the institute started the community-based tourism program. This has given a much-needed boost to the area’s economy and has been providing tourists with an ethical and sustainable way to see the Amazon.

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It is not too late to save our rainforests. Organizations like the Mamirauá Institute are vital to raising awareness, protecting, and regenerating these vital ecosystems. As travelers, it is our responsibility to make sure that we support them, and that we do our research to avoid companies that claim to be green but are not actually.

Check out this sustainable tourism map of Brazil for more information on ethical travel in that region.

Also be sure to keep up with Mamiraua on their Instagram.

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