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sustainable travel faqs

Sustainable Travel FAQs: Featuring Shelby from Authenteco Travel

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Today’s post is the transcript from a sustainable travel discussion Shelby from Autheneteco Travel and I did on Instagram in celebration of Earth Day! We answered all your sustainable travel FAQs collected on Instagram. If you’re not already be sure to follow Getaway Girl on Instagram to get more sustainable travel info. Follow Authenteco Travel too to learn about responsible travel!

Feel free to watch the replay on YouTube below or read the transcript.

Sustainable Travel FAQs Video

Sustainable Travel FAQs Transcript

Kendal: Hello everyone! I’m currently live from where I am currently physical distancing. Tonight we’re going to talk about sustainable travel. A bunch of you sent in some questions beforehand so we’re going to get to those first. If you have any other questions, drop them in the comments below. In case you don’t already know, I’m Kendal. I am the sustainable and zero waste travel blogger behind Getaway Girl. I help travelers and travel industry professionals wander without waste. We’re going to go live with Shelby from Authentico Travel, where she plans responsible adventures for sustainable-curious travelers. She runs a sustainable custom travel agency so I’m really excited to have her here with me tonight on this live to help answer some of these questions and give y’all a different perspective on her sustainability journey compared to mine. As a reminder, there’s no one right way for a sustainable journey. So let’s go ahead and invite her onto this call. 

Shelby: Hey!

Kendal: Hi!

Shelby: It worked!

Kendal: That went a lot smoother than I thought it would!

Shelby: I know! That’s awesome!

Kendal: Shelby is there with her dogs, who are really really cute.

Shelby: Maddie! Maddie! She heard you and she started barking. Maddie! Yeah she’s too busy. She’s like, where’s Kendal? I’ll find her!

What Started Your Sustainable Travel Journey?

Kendal: Shelby and I met in 2019 at TravelCon and we really connected over our sustainability journeys and sustainable travel, which kind of leads into our first question…why did you become sustainable? What started your sustainability journey? And I actually don’t know your story!

Shelby: Well, it’s a long one but it’s a good one. Before I started Authenteco Travel I was a helicopter pilot in the Navy. We were stationed in Japan. I think the thing that got me thinking about the environment, not only was our travels and the different pieces of dark tourism we saw in Southeast Asia along our travels…we had booked a tour of Halong Bay in Vietnam because a friend had actually recommended it. You see on the internet these beautiful pictures of this UNESCO world heritage site and then you go and see it and that was honestly probably the worst travel experiences I’ve ever had. 

Kendal: Oh really? I’ve never been there myself but I’ve heard good things about it. 

Shelby: Yeah I guess you and I haven’t talked about this. It was recommended it to us and I really regret going because they turned it into such a tourism money-maker that there’s trash floating everywhere in the water, there’s too many cruise ships, there’s oil decimating the environment there. Unfortunately, protecting it as a UNESCO World Heritage Site often times does a lot more damage than good for different destinations around the world. 

Kendal: It becomes so popular that everyone wants to go see it. 

Shelby: Yeah. There’s a lot of mass tourism and overtourism. So that was my first experience with dark tourism. And being being a helicopter pilot flying around, you know, from an aircraft carrier over the ocean thousands of miles away from shore, I would see floating refrigerators. I would see dolphins eating floating trash. We could actually see the dolphins. We could get low enough to see them eating trash. You would see piles of 500ft trash, garbage, that has collected because of the currents. We would be like, no joke, thousands of miles from land.

Kendal: And yet there was all this trash in the ocean. That’s crazy.

Shelby: Yeah there was all this trash in the ocean and I got to literally like you see the garbage patch the size of Texas in the Pacific.

Kendal: Yeah, yeah, the Great Garbage Patch?

Shelby: Right. The Great Garbage Patch. But I’ve actually witnessed it with my own eyes. And actually seeing that was just kind of like, wow, what are we doing to the Earth? And how can I have something that contributes in a positive way to stop what we’re doing? That’s my story. 

Kendal: Wow. That’s awesome to hear. It’s obviously sad circumstances but really inspiring. For me personally, two things sort of happened simultaneously. I was about to go celebrate my 21st birthday with my friends in Hawaii and we used to live in Hawaii as a family when I was very little. I was like six or seven. So, my dad was telling me all these great adventures, going scuba diving and stuff. And I was like, I wanna do that! I wanna go scuba diving on my birthday. So I got my certification to go to Hawaii to go scuba diving and to have all these great adventures my dad had had a decade earlier. My friend and I went out into the ocean to go scuba diving, it was just bleached coral everywhere. And it was not at all the experience that I thought I would have had or the experience my dad had had a decade earlier. That was really disappointing so I started doing a lot of research about it. But then I was also, a couple months later, diagnosed with PCOS. I don’t know if you know what that is? 

Shelby: No, no I don’t. 

Kendal: It’s Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. Which can be painful, sounds painful, but thankfully is not painful for me. But I did a lot of research and I realized that a lot of scientists suspect that it’s from all of the toxins that are in our daily life from cosmetics, from plastic that we’re touching. Because hormones are so sensitive, that affects that. So those two things together were like, wow this is affecting my own personal heath. Potentially…I guess it’s not quite proven yet but there’s a huge suspicion that it is. Plus we’re impacting the planet. We can stop that. So that’s what propelled my mission for it [the planet]. That was 2 years ago now so I’m sort of a newbie I guess still, but it’s going well. 

Shelby: That’s awesome. 

What’s the Difference Between Sustainable Travel and Responsible Travel?

Kendal: Yeah! So I guess in that vein everybody’s sustainability journey starts for a different reason which I think is really exciting that we all have different motivations. For the second question I received was, what is the difference between sustainable travel and responsible travel? I’ll let you take this one because you talk a lot more about responsibility in travel and I talk more about sustainable travel. 

Shelby: Oh gosh. Yeah, I think they really work hand-in-hand but responsible travel is kind of a different spectrum that relates to dark tourism, which I briefly mentioned earlier. What I think a lot of people don’t know is that on Instagram or on different websites where you’re like, hey I want to book a trip and you look up…maybe you want to book a trip to Thailand and you see all the pictures of people on elephants…that’s actually not good. And most people know it’s not good but I can tell you a lot of people don’t know that’s not good. And that’s part of an industry that we called dark tourism, which has to do with animal neglect or animal abuse. It can have a little bit to do with the environment or sustainability as well. Or it has to do with things even things like wildlife trafficking or sex trafficking. I guess there’s lots of sides to dark tourism. You want to make sure that whatever you’re doing when you’re traveling…so if you’re going to Thailand for example, and you see that there is an elephant sanctuary or something that you want to go be a part of it, you really want to do your research because even those elephant sanctuaries are usually tied in with dark tourism. A lot of them are not real. So the difference between responsible travel and sustainable travel is that responsible travel is something that positively contributes to that local population or society and their economy and the well-being of the people there and the environment there. Sustainable travel goes more into environmental side effects of your travel on that destination. Which, really specialize in. At Authenteco Travel, we teach people about that as well. But we also teach them about dark tourism and help them figure out which companies aren’t legitimate and which companies are legitimate. 

Kendal: I’ve never been through any type of elephant tourism but I’ve learned that the animals’ backs, like the spine, is not actually strong enough to carry the weight of humans which is why it’s so dangerous. The training required for them to accept a human on their back to be ridden is…they have to do terrible horrible things to it. So yeah, that’s that’s very very important and a huge part of what travelers have to do to be better travelers and give back more to the communities and the economy and the people there. Which is a reason why we travel, I think. 

Shelby: That’s a great point, yeah.

Kendal: So, general summary, responsible travel takes into the whole picture of travel, so the economy, animals, locals…whereas sustainable travel can include those things but focuses more on the environmental side of travel, including the economy and the community.

Shelby: You say it better than I do!

How Should We Approach Our Travels After Coronavirus?

Kendal: You said it all and I just summarized! The third question we had is, how should we approach our travels more sustainably after this dies down? If you have any initial thoughts on that… I have an initial thought…

Shelby: I mean, lead it, take it away girl!

Kendal: I thought about this a lot when someone sent this question in. I honestly think the best thing to do is just to ask questions. Ask your who, ask your why, ask how your. Really requesting and demanding transparency as consumers within the travel industry to know, okay you’re [the travel company] saying you’re doing all these things for the environment or for the animals…who says that this is the right thing to do? Is there an accreditation or certificate or something that the organization has earned? And also for your own personal decisions, sort of like what can I do or how can I do this better? If you’re finding yourself constantly buying plastic water bottles while you’re traveling in a country that doesn’t have access to clean water, what are some things that I can do to help save me money but also help reduce plastic waste. Those are the two things I think…just asking questions. Do you have anything to add? 

Shelby: The question was kind of how to verify sustainability after coronavirus? 

Kendal: It was more, how should we approach sustainable travel? I took it as, how can we change the way we travel? But maybe it could also be, like, should we be traveling as far or travel closer?

Shelby: First off, something that is as horrible as coronavirus has been for humanity, there’s always a silver lining to every disaster. There’s always something positive that comes out of it, whether it’s war or a pandemic, which we’re experiencing right now. No matter what happens in life, there’s a silver lining. And now my dogs are trying to make a guest appearance. With coronavirus, I think that silver lining is the breath of fresh air our earth has gotten from it. So I really think that if you if look at the science and the graphs and the reduction in CO2 emissions, there’s data that the break from air travel in the last few months has made significant positive changes.

Kendal: It’s really refreshing to see that because it’s a reminder that the planet is regenerative and it can get better if we give it that space and that possibility. 

Shelby: Yeah. It’s living evidence that everything climate scientists and people are saying, that reversing it is true, but we have to act now. So like you said, what are the things you can do when we travel, right? Because I think sending the message, well don’t travel just stay inside your house, don’t use the car only bike, and only eat the vegetables that you grow in your own garden…that’s a little aggressive. I think something you do really well with Getaway Girl is teaching people to start small. The same applies to travel. One thing I love to do is I take a reusable straw with me and I take a pair of chopsticks because chopsticks are easier to travel with than a fork and a knife. You can’t get in trouble because you don’t have a knife so they’re not considered a weapon when you’re traveling. And they can be used to eat pretty much anything once you learn. That’s something simple I do, is every time I travel I take a reusable straw, a reusable cup, and chopsticks. 

Kendal: Especially when you’re traveling and you’re taking take-out…

Shelby: Exactly! You can even pack a reusable container so that if you don’t finish a meal but you want to eat it later in your hotel room, as weird as it is and as many people might give you strange looks, you can do that! You can put it in your own container to take back with you to your hotel room. 

Kendal: That’s actually one of my favorite budget travel tips that’s also really great for sustainability. When you go to restaurants, the portion sizes are huge. And in other countries they, now I’ve mostly traveled to Europe so maybe in other regions, and continents, and countries it’s different…but they don’t have takeout containers like in the United States! So I’m always like, I’m going to go get the lunch meal and split half my meal for later and eat half now. 

Shelby: Great point. We went to France when I was 15. It was a really amazing trip, we’re really lucky to be able to go there. We went to a really fancy restaurant and we had so much extra food and I remember my dad asking if they had a doggy bag. They were like, no sir? No doggy bag? I was like, oh my god dad! But at the same time he didn’t want to waste it! He said he’s taking it home so he found a creative solution. So that’s another thing you can do. Another thing I’d say to travelers is if you fly a lot, flying is one of the worst things for the environment. Let’s be upfront and honest. And I’m saying that and I own a travel agency. But there are at least things you can do that at least help offset the carbon that you’re putting into the environment. So we pay for the carbon offsets for our travelers. 

Do You Carbon Offset Flights?

Kendal: That’s actually another question that we have, which is, have you carbon offset flights before and what’s a program you recommend? 

Shelby: Yes, I carbon offset almost every single flight and I try to only fly with airlines that are partnered with carbon offset programs. There are third-party carbon offset programs you can find on the internet but I will say, right, marketing and branding and people are always trying to scam us and get money and a lot of them aren’t real. You have to be careful. There’s a lot of, what we call, greenwashing in the sustainable travel industry. There is a lot of greenwashing where companies say they’ll carbon offset your flight and you put in where you’re traveling from  and you actually have no idea where your money is going. I always recommend if you’re going to fly, fly with an airline that partners with a carbon offset program. 

Kendal: And actually shows that they’re doing things…transparency! They’re being transparent about what they’re doing. 

Shelby: Transparency is perfect. Lufthansa does it. Air New Zealand does it. Delta I think is getting ready to start an offset program. There are a ton of airlines that do it. 

Kendal: Me personally, I always just click the button. I think it’s usually a few extra dollars per flight. It’s really not that expensive. It goes towards growing trees, regenerative forests, bringing water to communities that may not have had access to water before so that they don’t have to order plastic bottles or something. Those are the kind of things that you can expect from that. One other tip I had is to fly direct. I know that’s not really carbon offsetting, but it does reduce your carbon output as a passenger. Because most of the carbon that is released and the impact on the environment from flying is from takeoff and landing. By flying direct you can reduce that greatly. 

Shelby: Yup. 100% true. 

How Can I Help the Planet While Stuck At Home?

Kendal: Great. So one of the next questions we have is, what can I do while I am stuck at home for the planet. I guess, related to travel and sustainability. So, I guess, how can you prepare to travel sustainably or are there some things that you can do at home to improve your relationship with the planet? 

Shelby: I know this is definitely your specialty because I’ve learned a lot from Kendal when it comes to living sustainably and in your own house. Simple things that I have been more mindful of since I’ve been at home is electricity and power. So, making sure, since I am working from home, if I’m in a room where the lights are on turning the lights off. Being mindful of water usage now that we’re home a lot, maybe we feel like, you know, we need a 20-minute hot shower in the morning instead of a regular five minute shower since we don’t have to rush to work. So being mindful of your shower time. Things like what you did today, picking up trash in your neighborhood!

Kendal: It’s so simple. I think a lot of us are going out on walks anyway so you can bring a bag and a globe to protect yourself. With the electricity, I actually learned today that a lot of electrical companies and energy companies actually offer incentives to replace light bulbs with LED light bulbs. If you’re watching this, definitely call your energy company to see if they offer anything like that. I heard of one that offers to completely replace every working lightbulb in your house with LED light bulbs which saves you money and helps protect the planet. It’s an awesome deal. 

Shelby: Yeah, and on that note, if you want to get a little more intense with it, because we are all home, a lot of people are doing renovations or home projects because construction companies are still operating. Something that Denver does, which is where I live, that is awesome is they offer a solar offset program so you can actually get solar panels installed on the roof of your house for free. There’s a company that will provide the panels and you actually get a kickback from having solar panels on your house and from your power company as well. It’s really like everyone should do it. There isn’t anything bad about it. We’re coming from a world where it used to cost thousands of dollars and now all you have to do is give them permission and then they’ll do it for free, install their panels on your home. All you have to do is give them permission and then you’ll get the kick back from your energy bill. That’s a cool tidbit. 

Kendal: That’s awesome. I guess one of my sustainable tips you can do at home, in terms of planning, is sort of dream up your dream itinerary. What is the perfect itinerary? And just pick one thing, just start small, and look up some options. So if you want to go to a World Heritage Site, try to find a more sustainable provider. A lot of them have a certification. Or, try to find a spot that is less popular but equally beautiful. That could honestly give you a better experience because there’s usually less tourists there and it’s usually cheaper as well and then you’ve had a great experience that few others travelers have had, which is really exciting as a traveler. 

Shelby: That’s a great point. A lot of times people don’t necessarily book eco-friendly accommodations or eco-friendly tour providers, which do exist by the way. There are sustainable and eco-friendly tour operators in every single country. 

Kendal: You’re definitely better at finding them than I am. 

Shelby: Here’s the thing, they’re usually owned by locals and usually smaller scale. If you’re traveling somewhere like Asia or maybe where English is not the primary language, their ability to market to English travelers is not as advanced as some of these big companies that offer tours. Google Translate is your friend. That’s definitely something I’ve used. 

Kendal: So yeah, what is a tip for finding those more local eco-friendly tours. 

Shelby: There’s definitely buzzwords. But before we even go into talking more eco-friendly stuff, it’s good for people to know that normally eco-friendly tour operators or suppliers on the ground, they’re normally locally-owned and normally you’re going to have a 100% more authentic experience then if you book with a large company or if you book with someone who is not local to that country but knows how to market to Westerners. That’s something to keep in mind. The best way to find them is buzzwords. When I’m searching Google, I always type in eco-friendly, sustainable tourism operators, or gosh, green. Just the word green or green tours or eco tours. Any combination of green, eco, sustainable, responsible travel. There’s a bunch of buzzwords. 

Kendal: And you have to type it in the local language. 

Shelby: Yeah, I have found some of the best tours and accommodations by using Google Translate and not being afraid to book things not in my language. A lot of times you can actually call that accommodation or tour operator on the phone, like you know, figure out the time difference and call them when it’s not midnight their time. A lot of times they’ll be able to speak a little bit of broken English and you can figure out, one, if they’re legit and you can even ask about their practices and what they do. They’re usually more than happy to answer questions from clients and that’s what we do whenever we’re booking trips for clients. It definitely helps increase your confidence that you’re not being scammed or greenwashed by companies who just want your money and they’re using green and eco-friendly to attract a certain type of clientele. 

How Can I Avoid Waste While Flying?

Kendal: That was awesome. Awesome tips. So our next question is, what are some tips for avoiding wasteful snacks and meals on the plane if you still want to eat them.

Shelby: I feel like you got this.

Kendal: Well, I’d love to hear your suggestion too!

Shelby: So, I will say, if I’ve had a ton of layovers or I’m travelling halfway across the world for a trip, and I did not adequately prepare, then I am eating all of the pretzel bags. There’s a point where my…this just goes on to say that we’re all human. No one can be a perfect sustainable traveler all the time. And there have been flights where I’m like, give me more pretzel bags, because I’m that hungry! Something recently I’ve been doing last year, and I get weird looks from the flight attendants, but they let me do it! I’ll take a reusable cup and, when they’re going around asking what do you want, I’ll take my reusable cup and ask if the water comes in a can or a plastic bottle. If they say plastic, then I won’t drink water. Usually, I’ll bring water on the plane with me but if they say it’s in a plastic bottle or if they say, oh here’s a plastic water bottle, then I won’t take it. Or I’ll drink apple juice or something else. But if it comes in a can, I’ll ask them, hey can you pour it directly into my cup and not give me a plastic cup? No one has denied me yet. They look at me weird. But they haven’t said, no we can’t do that. Most people are more than accommodating to do that. So that’s something I do when it comes to drinks. If you think about a transatlantic flights, they offer you drinks like 5 times. If you take a single-use cup ever time, that’s 5 cups of trash you just created. 

Kendal: Those flights do create a lot of waste. It’s kind of crazy to imagine that because there’s not a lot of space to hold a lot of trash but those transatlantic flight can get us in the high tens for the pounds of trash created. That’s definitely a great thing to do to help reduce your trash, to do the little things like bringing your own reusable cup to cut back on your trash. I try to think of snacks to bring for shorter flights, maybe some carrot sticks or an apple. No smelly snacks, you know, not to you disturb your neighbors.

Shelby: You mean you don’t bring cans of tuna? (laughing)

Kendal: (laughing) Yeah! Ugh, that’s how you get kicked off the flight!

Shelby: Yeah, don’t do that. 

Kendal: Yeah, or hardboiled eggs. Don’t do that. 

Shelby: I feel like I’ve definitely done that before. 

Kendal: I have too, but I quickly learned my lesson. But I try to bring some of those snacks with me along the way to make a sandwich and put it in a reusable tin or something. For those transatlantic flights, you have to eat and drink water. A lot of airports are good now at putting water stations within the airport after you go through security. Try to remember always to fill up your water bottle there. I used to always have a Nalgene that I’d carry with me and I’d fill that up because I drink so much water. Then, one time on a transatlantic flight, I forgot my Nalgene. And I was like, no, I’m going to push through and not drink water. And then obviously that was a terrible idea. So finally I asked the flight attendant if they had any water and if she could fill my Nalgene. It was too late when I realized that she was filling it with plastic water bottles. I was like, this defeats the purpose. I told her she didn’t have to do that, but she said no no it’s okay. I was like, okay I guess this is happening. 

Shelby: And that happens! That happens sometimes, where people are on a completely, it doesn’t even cross their mind of being sustainable and having an eco-friendly mindset doesn’t cross their minds. And that’s an opportunity to, one, teach them. When people give me weird looks, I tell them, oh it’s because of this reason! You have to be careful to do it in a non-judgmental way, a positive way, but you just have to say it’s for this reason that I do this.

Kendal: I’m just trying to reduce my plastic waste. Something really quick. Non-judgemental, as you said. 

Shelby: Exactly. And the next time they go to get a plastic water bottle, they might think twice. 

Kendal: Perfect. One thing I do want to mention here is that I was talking to a flight attendant friend of mine, and I was like when you get on a meal, on these transatlantic flights you get a free meal, what happens to it if I deny it? Can’t they reuse it for the next fight? And I was told no. They count every single passenger and they have the correct number of meals for every single passenger and if it’s not eaten by that number of passengers on that flight, then, according to regulations, it has to be disposed of. Saying that, eat your meal. Eat your transatlantic meal. You usually get plastic forks and knives. If you are in the habit of carrying bamboo or metal or something else with you, then I’d say go ahead and use that and then you can donate the plastic forks and knives to perhaps a local business or homeless shelter at your destination. You can just stop by or volunteer there. Just trying to find a second life for that for someone who absolutely cannot use reusables. Sometimes, that’s just how it is. Like you said earlier, nobody’s a perfect sustainable traveler and that’s not really the point of the sustainability journey. It’s just trying to do the best you can every single day and trying to be better. So, go eat your transatlantic meals. They’re not that great, but either way it’s not beneficial. Alrighty, the next question is, what is an awesome sustainable travel memory you have had? 

What’s An Awesome Sustainable Travel Memory You Have?

Shelby: oooo. An awesome sustainable travel memory? Does it have to be one that I’ve had or someone else that I’ve watched had? So, I went to Budapest with my mom this past winter. We went to Prague and Budapest. We talked to you about it I think, because you were in Belarus at the time. She knows I’m like psycho against plastic water bottles. And she’s family, right? So, as wrong as this is, I’m not going to be as polite with my mother as I would with a stranger.

Kendal: Me either! (laughing)

Shelby: Right? So, I’m glad my mom doesn’t know how to use Instagram because I’m totally calling her out right now. So, on our flight home, interestingly enough, I had a reusable water bottle the whole trip. She saw the night before the trip that I was bringing one, so she brought one. She was really excited about it because she’s definitely not a person who’s conscious about her carbon footprint or being eco-friendly. I think that generation just doesn’t really think about it like we do. So, throughout the trip, she was like so excited about refilling her reusable water bottle. And then in the airport the last day flying home, out of habit, she bought a water bottle. A plastic water bottle. And she was in the airport and our flight was delayed and I look at her and I’m like, mom! What are you doing? I probably could not have been more judgmental or upset about this. And I was like, I can’t believe you would do this you know how I feel about buying plastic water bottles. And I like pretty much threw like a five year old tantrum with my sixty year old mother in the middle of the airport because she bought a plastic water bottle. People started staring at me like, what is she doing yelling about this plastic water bottle? But, my mom…obviously I didn’t handle it well because I obviously got judgemental, but it really made her think about it. I made such a big deal out of it and then I started pulling up facts on my phone and I was like, did you know this? Did you know this about plastic? Did you know this? Again, obviously not the right way to handle it, but she looked at me and was like, you know what, I didn’t know that microplastics even got into animals, I didn’t know microplastics affected the ocean. Her argument to me for getting a plastic water bottle was that you can recycle it. Then I looked up the facts about, if you recycle a plastic water bottle, what are the chances that it’s actually properly recycled. And it was bad. It was like a 11% chance, depending on where you are in the world. When I looked it up, it was a 11% chance of it actually being recycled and not ending up in a landfill. So she, since then, is reminded of my tantrum anytime she thinks about buying a plastic water bottle and she doesn’t. So, it works. It’s maybe not the right method but it definitely worked in making someone think about it twice before doing it. And it’s a simple choice. It’s such a simple choice. 

Kendal: Yeah. I think we have really high expectations for our family so I think we can be a bit harder on them sometimes, but we can also have our emotions exposed about the things we’re passionate about. I can definitely be hard on my family for their sustainability habits, or lack thereof, but it’s really exciting to see them learning and and making these small changes, which is awesome. I think my favorite, or awesome, sustainable memory was while I was in Belarus recently. I was volunteering at the local library hosting English conversation clubs. And I tried to  make it about life and business and critical thinking with English as a tool. So one of the days we did a plastic lesson and I invited everyone, all the students, to bring in different numbers of plastic they collect during the week. Plastic bags, plastic bottles, plastic whatever. And then we talked about it. So, why did you bring this plastic in? What’s the story behind this plastic? Where did you get it? How long did you use it? It was just a very interesting sort of experiment for them and then I talked about how much time it takes to create a plastic water bottle and how many resources it requires. They were like, oh, it doesn’t just appear on the shelves. And then we turned it into art to kind of practice reusing. Some of my students cut up different things and made an American flag and a Belarusian flag out of the plastic materials. They were so excited about this. It’s unfortunate because today I had planned to do a clean-up in my city in Belarus with them. Still, you’re able to make change by talking to people. Talking is really really powerful.  Communication and conversations are so powerful. I love that both of our sustainable travel memories are from conversation. 

Shelby: Yeah! I think even if, you know, Kendal and I obviously have been feeling this way or changing our attitude towards the environment for years now, and so we’ve definitely developed probably strong opinions. It is hard to fight, like, judgment when nobody’s perfect, righ? And it’s hard to fight yourself from being judgemental. But, even in my own work environment everyone calls me the hippy. And that’s fine. I would rather have them know that I’m a hippie and maybe maybe my presence somewhere will help them or make them think twice about something just because they’re like, ugh Shelby is going to give me a lecture if I use this plastic fork when there’s a metal one right there. There’s good and positive to trying to find the balance of not being judgmental and being able to have conversations, but I think like what you just did, introducing it to your students and that way it’s completely non-judgemental and opens their eyes to then realizing themselves, oh I only used this once. And asking the question.

Kendal: It was really hard for me, because as you said, we’ve been on this journey for a couple of years now. It’s hard to remember how little we knew when we started and how much of a learning curve it is. So I try to remind myself constantly about this and remind my audience that, hey, being sustainable is hard. It’s okay to mess up. It’s okay to take it one small step at a time. I like to say that I started my sustainability journey by picking one thing a week and making that change. For one year, every single week, I made a change. It seems so small in the moment, but at the end of the year I looked back and wow I made 52 changes. That’s so powerful. 

Shelby: Wow, that’s awesome. That’s awesome. 

Kendal: It’s hard to come from a place of understanding sometimes, but to all the people listening to this right now, don’t get discouraged. It’s a long journey. It’s a habit. But it’s very rewarding when you’re on that journey. This kind of goes along with the next question. This is a question from me. We just talked about our awesome sustainable travel memory, but what is a sustainable travel fail that you’ve had. 

Shelby: Oh god. 

Kendal: I know we probably have many. I certainly do. But maybe the funniest one or something. 

Shelby: A sustainable travel fail that I’ve had. Well, one I’ve already mentioned. Eating all the pretzel bags on flights if I’m starving and forget to pack snacks or something. That’s definitely something I won’t sacrifice my hunger for the pretzel bags while I’m traveling. That’s something I should probably do is buy the bulk pretzel bags and have like my own pretzel party on the plane. I love those pretzels. 

Kendal: You could call Delta and bulk order them!

Shelby: Yeah! I think a sustainable travel fail for me would be the times where, I think this goes for everyone, the times when you see pictures on Pinterest or Instagram of beautiful places or UNESCO world heritage sites and you’re like, I want to go there. I want to see that view. I want to get that picture. I want to do that thing. And you kind of sacrifice, like you trade your convenience and selfishness for the betterment of the planet or are contributing to mass tourism or something like that. And Halong Bay, the experience I already talked about in Halong Bay, was my greatest lesson that not all my friends, even though they know I’m a sustainable traveler and I don’t like participating in mass tourism activities, that doesn’t mean that they are. So that was something where I felt guilty the whole time that I was on that trip. I was like, I cannot believe I am paying $600 for this overnight cruise in Halong Bay and I am supporting this industry that I completely disagree with. And it made me depressed and sad and I was just like…I’m going to go inside because the dogs are crazy right now.

Kendal: Squirrels!

Shelby: They’re like, I’m going to protect you mom from the other nice dogs outside. I think participating in that experience was heart-breaking for me. I had already done, already paid the money, and was already there. I saw it and was like, this is not at all what I support or what I thought I would be doing and so that was just kind of devastating. 

Kendal: You made a good point that your greatest sustainable fail was also your greatest sustainable lesson. Like you said earlier, there’s a silver lining out of everything. That’s really powerful. I think for me, I’m just so forgetful! I have two modes. I’m either packing for two weeks before the trip or I’m packing the night before the trip and am scrambling. And in both packing modes, I forget the most basic things.

Shelby: Like a toothbrush? I forget my toothbrush all the time

Kendal: Toothbrush! When I went to the Bahamas with my dad for a scuba diving trip, I was so set on not forgetting my scuba gear that I forgot the most simple things like underwear. I didn’t pack any underwear! I didn’t bring a toothbrush. I didn’t bring a charger for my GoPro, so like, I had to be very conservative about what I was charging. Yeah, I just forgot pretty much everything that I needed for that trip. You know, I had to run around the Bahamas two hours before I’m supposed to board this boat for a week trying to find everything and of course everything is packaged in plastic. Things that won’t last a long time. Things I don’t really love. That’s my biggest sustainability fail. I’ve never been that under-prepared for a trip before. 

Shelby: But you had your scuba gear! 

Kendal: I had my scuba gear! I was going in the ocean one way or another. I’m becoming better with the packing list, but it’s one of those things I’m like, ugh I didn’t love this thing I just had to buy but you need underwear. The last question I have for us is, what is a sustainable thing you have not done yet but plan to do? Maybe something you want to adopt into your life or your travels? 

What’s Next on your Sustainability Journey?

Shelby: I mean, there’s a list of a million things that I haven’t done yet. 

Kendal: So maybe what’s the next thing you want to do?

Shelby: Let’s see. My big thing for the past year was, when we lived in Japan, we only had one car that we traveled with. We had a camper van we used only on the weekends and a car we only used during the week. So when we moved here, we decided we’re not going to buy two cars. We’re going to choose the house that we buy or that we live in to be close to public transportation so that I can take the bus or ride my bike into work. And my husband can use the car if he needed it or vice versa. So that was one thing that I did this past year that I didn’t think I would do. That was my big hurdle, not driving to work. I bike 3 miles to the bus stop or have my husband drop me off. And then I bike 3 miles home. And let me tell you, it sucks sometimes. At the end of a long day, I’m like I don’t want to bike 3 miles uphill with a heavy backpack on. But, it’s good for you because it’s healthy and every time I’m on the bus I look at all the cars on their way to work on the highway and there’s one person in every single car and there’s 10 open seats on the bus and we’re all going to the same place. That’s something I wanted to do that I did. Something upcoming that I want to do that I haven’t done yet…I want to find a system where I can transfer all of our vegetables…not fruits because of the climate in Colorado, there’s not a ton of different fruits that can grow here…but all of our vegetables I want to be coming from our own garden, our backyard, and not buy any from the store. 

Kendal: That’s impressive. That’s a lofty goal but I’m all about it. 

Shelby: Yeah. For people watching, Kendal and I have been on this journey for a couple of years now. Starting a garden and planting even one or two things is incredible and wonderful. Especially things can use all the time, like tomatoes. I always tell people to start with tomatoes. They’re easy to grow, it’s a hearty fruit, you eat them all the time, and you can’t really go wrong.   I kind of started last year, I was determined last summer when we moved to Denver, like we bought a house that has four garden boxes and there are seven to eight different vegetables growing from the year before like strawberry, arugula…and I hadn’t done anything. I was like, wow naturally this garden is reinventing itself. That’s my next thing. Last year we planted 38 different vegetables. I went overboard. Everything grew except for my Thai basil. I don’t know why my Thai basil didn’t grow. But, even my husband got into it. He was like, I’m going to go out and pick some arugula for my salad. And I was like, huh good for you! So that’s something that we want to continue and continue to find a way to do year-round, even in the winter months by growing indoors. What about you? 

Kendal: I’m not a gardener. I killed cacti, which are supposed to be not killable. 

Shelby: I’ve killed some cacti too, so it’s okay!

Kendal: I will try again eventually, but right now that’s not my moment. But my parents garden so I’ll eat their tomatoes and lettuce. I think my biggest thing is trying to support those businesses that are really trying to be sustainable on their tours. I’m really good about supporting clothing, skincare, and other lifestyle products. But I’m not as good at searching for specifically sustainable tours and businesses while I’m traveling. 

Shelby: I’ve got you girl. 

Kendal: Yeah, you’ve got me! You gave me those tips. Like you said, they’re not marketing to Westerners. When I’m looking in English, and one advertises sustainability, then I’ll choose that one but it’s not like it’s something I’m intentionally doing. I want to bring more intention into my travel planning that way. That’s one of my goals this year, is to do that more often. Well, that was all of the questions I had! Do you have any final thoughts you’d like to share? 

Conclusion of the Sustainable Travel FAQs

Shelby: I mean, we’re going to post this to IGTV, right? You’re going to teach me because I don’t know how to do that. Kendal’s going to show me how to post this to IGTV so it’s going to be on mine and it’ll be on Kendal’s. The one thing I would say is that on your sustainable journey, whether you’re traveling or even at home during this time of coronavirus, the one thing I tell people to think about is does the thing that’s not good for the environment, is that convenience to you worth it? So if you ask yourself that question every single time…for example, we want to support our local restaurants and get take-out but a lot of the take-out, due to coronavirus, is completely packaged up. Packaged, packaged, double packaged, a thousand ways of packaged and plastic and plastic bags and stuff. So, what we decided as a compromise, instead of us doing take out every single week, we’ll do it every other week so maybe twice a month, to support the businesses that are closest to us and we think are struggling the most. But, at the same time, we still want to practice sustainability. So, is that convenience worth it to me to accept all that packaged plastic for that meal and to support that small business. For me, it isn’t every single week but maybe twice a month. Or another thing we’ll do is some restaurants will use kind of like more durable plastic then like a styrofoam container for take-out, so I’ll reuse it at least like three to four times if I can. Maybe not for eating purposes or food storage purposes, but all of my pens and pencils are organized in take-out plastic containers.

Kendal: That’s great!

Shelby: Yeah! There’s ways to repurpose stuff. I would say, on your journey, wherever you start on your journey, I would just ask yourself is this convenience worth me doing this thing? Or can I have a slight behavioral change to not do this thing? 

Kendal: I think you summarized that perfectly. I love that. [omitted giveaway information, which is now closed and therefore omitted from the transcript]. Thank you for joining me today Shelby. It was a lot of fun. I learned things!

Shelby: Yeah, me too. I always learn things from you. You’re smart. She’s smart everybody. Everyone follow Kendal! Follow Getaway Girl blog!

Kendal: The whole sustainable travel community is really supportive. It’s full of really positive and intelligent people. We’re so happy that you joined us today. Go follow Shelby at Authenteco Travel on Instagram. Check out her tours. They’re awesome. Have a lovely Earth Day!

Any Other Sustainable Travel FAQs?

Thanks so much for watching/reading! I hope we touched on all of your burning sustainable travel FAQs, but if you have any others please drop them in the comments below and we’ll be sure to get to them!

Additionally, I’d love your feedback. If you liked this Sustainable Travel FAQs set-up, please let me know and I can plan more if it’s something you’ve enjoyed!

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