Beth blogs about fair trade and sustainable living at Everyday Just Living. This recent post is especially applicable for those of us trying to leave a lighter footprint when we travel with our kids:
Summer sunshine is finally here in Portland (thank goodness!!) and the summer travel season is in full swing. But do we think about how the way we travel impacts others and the planet? My blogging buddy Cheryl Janis over at Planet Pinkngreen posted an intriguing new concept this past week – fair trade travel! Apparently it’s all the rage in Europe right now (why are Europeans always ahead of us on these cutting edge ideas?).
The concept makes sense. Travel of any kind involves large quantities of fossil fuels, unless you walk to your vacation. Many of us travel to developing countries because we want to experience something different from home plus the lower prices we enjoy help our dollar go so much further. But do you ever wonder what the people who make your meals, serve your meals, clean your rooms, drive you all around, etc are paid? I know I do. Traveling in developing countries means opening our eyes to the realities of poverty – we just can’t avoid it no matter how cush the accommodations. There are fair trade labels for travel in South Africa but most other countries don’t have such labeling yet. I garnered some great tips from the UK site Responsible Travel, which I’ve paraphrased below plus added a few of my own:
- Reduce carbon emissions by minimizing flying time and layovers – the worst carbon emissions are released during take-off and landing. Buy carbon offsets for flights you can’t avoid.
- Travel with respect. Learn a few words of the local language before you go and read online or pick up a book about the country from your local library. Traveling with respect earns you respect.
- Buy local produce over imported goods.
- Do not buy products made from endangered species, hard woods or ancient artifacts. Whenever possible buy directly from artisans themselves rather than from souvenir shops or middlemen.
- Use public transport, hire a bike or walk when convenient – its a great way to meet local people on their terms and reduce pollution and carbon emissions.
- Use water sparingly – its very precious in many countries and tourists tend to use far more than local people.
- Ask your tour operator or hotel staff whether there are local conservation or social projects that you could visit on your trip, and if/how you could help support them.
And to the above we would add, when traveling with kids, a few more green travel tips:
- Stay put. Traveling with kids is exhausting for everyone plus travel of all types burns fossil fuels. Once you get to your destination, stay in one place the whole trip if you can. On our recent trip to Buenos Aires we stayed two weeks in the same apartment and really got to know the city well, instead of planning multiple in-country flights or long bus rides.
- Don’t ditch your green living methods just because you’re traveling. If you do something to conserve at home, do it while traveling. Wash out your ziploc bags and reuse them. Avoid those mini shampoos in the hotel room. Reuse the take-and-toss sippy cups. Take your own bags to the grocery store (your travel daypack works great for this!).
- Talk with your kids about the green choices you’re making. It’s a great opportunity to help them become aware of how their choices affect others and how travel can have an incredibly positive impact on the communities we visit if we are thoughtful about the way we travel.