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eco-friendly travel

How to Avoid Traveler’s Guilt When the Environment is Dying

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Last week on Instagram I asked for your eco-friendly travel questions (follow me here if you’re not already!) The following question stopped me in my tracks:

“How do you avoid feeling guilty about travel since it contributes to environmental problems?”

Zero waste and sustainable travel seems like a paradox for many reasons.

Flying is one of the biggest carbon emission contributors and an increasing number of people are giving up airline travel to save the environment (read more here).

Hotels waste a lot of energy, water, and other precious resources (read how here).

Many popular tourist destinations lack the infrastructure necessary to ensure trash and other waste doesn’t enter waterways.

As a traveler, I contribute to the environmental problem. Should I feel guilty about my affect as a traveler on the environment?

I argue no.

View this post on Instagram

How do you save the planet?⁠ ⁠ It all starts with taking a small step. For me, I started with finding zero waste deodorant (in fact, I have a whole blog post reviewing a bunch I tried). It was an easy swap and an easy win to keep me motivated and moving forward. ⁠ ⁠ About every 1-2 weeks, I've added one more small change. I pace myself because I know I wouldn't stick to being zero waste if I woke up one morning and decided to never use plastic or other single-use products again. Sustainability should be sustainable, and such a drastic change is not sustainable for me. Props to the people who can suddenly go zero waste, vegan, or whatever else! I simply can't. ⁠ ⁠ If you're like me, don't feel bad about taking it one step at a time. The climate crisis is a complex subject and there's a lot of misleading information and products. It takes time to thoroughly understand what needs to be done and what you can do. ⁠ ⁠ So pace yourself. Start small. Start one week at a time. Focus on establishing one habit every week. For bigger habits, take more time. ⁠ ⁠ If you can do more in between, go for it! But give yourself grace when you mess up. You're going to mess up. We're imperfect. ⁠ ⁠ I still make many mistakes, but I'm not ashamed of them. I learn from the times I end up with plastic water bottles, straws, and every other climate warrior fail. To avoid it in the future, I think through the situation and decide an action I'll take in the future to avoid a similar situation.⁠ ⁠ ⁠ You're one person. Your impact isn't that big. But think about the impact one billion humans can have if they take one small step. ⁠ ⁠ What you're doing may seem like one small step, but it's a huge stride. ⁠ ⁠

A post shared by Kendal | Travel + Zero Waste (@getawaygirlblog) on

Why I (And You) Shouldn’t Feel Guilty

Firstly, I contribute to the environmental problem by simply being alive. The planet would be better off without the human species, but for my mental sanity I like to think I’m alive to fulfill a purpose. We’re all alive for a purpose. Maybe our purpose is to help the planet.

Secondly, there was a time when humans coexisted with Mother Nature. I believe we can achieve coexistence again with our wealth of knowledge, technology, and passion. The climate crisis isn’t an individual problem–it’s a collective problem. Collectively, we can solve it, too.

Thirdly, feeling guilty doesn’t help. If guilt motivates you to change your personal habits and fight for systematic change, then use that feeling to your advantage. Guilt would paralyze me from achieving any change. Instead, I choose to feel empowered by taking personal action and supporting the people working towards systematic change.

Eco-anxiety stems from feeling powerless against the climate crisis. There’s a lot you can do to travel eco-friendly, though.

Eco-Friendly Travel Tips

  1. Fly less…
  2. …or stop flying entirely.
  3. Book non-stop flights when possible.
  4. Reduce the meat amount of dairy and meat you eat…
  5. …or switch to a vegetarian or vegan diet.
  6. Take trains, buses, and other public transportation as often as possible, even if it’s a longer commute.
  7. Cycle or walk when possible.
  8. Encourage friends and family to become more eco-friendly.
  9. Turn off electronics at night and unplug devices.
  10. Stay in homeshares or hostels…
  11. …or, if you’re staying in a hotel, put up the ‘do not disturb’ sign to skip new towels and sheets.
  12. Say no to free travel-size toiletries and other freebies.
  13. Replace your beauty products with plastic-free versions (check out zero waste ideas here).
  14. Compost.
  15. Buy carbon offsets for your flights, and everything else (learn how here).
  16. Email companies and brands informing them you care about the environment and want them to care as well. Offer suggestions.
  17. Return maps, guides, and other paper materials you collect while traveling once you’re done instead of throwing them away.
  18. Go paperless where possible, such as with boarding passes and offline downloadable maps.
  19. Shop less, or at least second-hand and sustainably (learn why here).
  20. Eat plastic-free snacks and food.
  21. Pack less and more efficiently.
  22. Use ocean-safe, biodegradable sunscreen (or a hat and loose linen clothing to cover-up).
  23. Donate 1% of your annual income (or whatever you can) to environmental organizations (read about my promise to do this here).
  24. Don’t cruise (read why here).
  25. Support the people fighting for systematic change, because a renewable energy future and the circular economy are achievable.

Those are some of the ways I’m currently reducing my environmental footprint on the planet. Every day, I strive to improve my habits, educate the people around me, and support the people changing the system.

Eco-friendly travel is possible. Until then, I’ll continue changing my personal habits and the travel industry.

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We are in a climate crisis and many of us are experiencing eco-anxiety. As travelers, we often feel guilt for traveling while the environment is dying. In this post, I break down how to not feel guilty when the environment is dying and how to make your travels more eco-friendly

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