Wildlife conservation and community volunteer projects and internships worldwide

Sustainable gardening in greenhouse

Environment & Wildlife, Travel & Culture

Being Green isn’t Just for One Week

October 11th 2022

Tagged: climate change, Environment, Ethical Tourism, Ethical Volunteering, Food, Sustainable Travel

As September comes to an end and we head into October, we see the end of Great Big Green Week (GBGW) in the UK. Organised by The Climate Coalition, GBGW celebrates community climate action and brings together national organisations, businesses and the media to put pressure on the Government to make tackling climate change and protecting nature a priority. 

But being great and green doesn’t have to be limited to one week, or to actions wherever you call home when your backpack isn’t on. Here are some things that you can do to make travelling as environmentally friendly as possible.

Stinky Tofu in TaiwanVegan travel | WorkingAbroadThink about what’s on your plate

This isn’t just about reducing meat consumption or being aware of food waste. Eating local means that you experience new tastes and flavours but will also naturally avoid a lot of the plastic wrapping that’s often needed to transport food and keep it fresh. It will also avoid emissions that are produced when food is transported long distances. 

Consider who you’re supporting with your accommodation choices

In the wake of the tourist explosion in Cambodia, the government allowed foreign investors to build luxurious resorts and hotels, often in important habitats and seasonal breeding grounds or where people have built their homes. People and wildlife are often forcibly evacuated without a second thought.

Staying in accommodation that is both environmentally sustainable and owned by people who live locally has a real positive impact environmentally and socially.

Volunteers walking on beach in South AfricaVolunteer in South Africa | Volunteer with Whales | Working AbroadConsider travelling snail style

In a society where time is money and we become impatient when we have to wait longer than five minutes, practicing slow travel is a great way to get back to basics and appreciate the journey. Knowing which methods of transport are the most sustainable means you can make more informed choices about how you get to your destination and reduce the carbon footprint of the trip. It also means it can be less tiring, you’ll see more, and gives you time to make better connections with people.

If you do fly, book direct 

Non-stop flights are not only convenient for long-haul travelling, but they’re actually more environmentally friendly than having a layover or two. Direct flights use significantly less carbon dioxide than those that have connections as planes use the most fuel and release the most amount of emissions when taking off and landing. 

Try reducing your energy consumption

Use air conditioning or heating to make the temperature more manageable instead of changing the climate of your room to save energy. Use cooler water for showers and save water by avoiding unnecessary clothes washing. Things like turning lights off, unplugging electronics when not in use and buying local are all still applicable abroad and did you know you can even buy solar-powered travel chargers? Perfect for sunny destinations.

Tigers cleaning in South AfricaBig Cat Volunteer | South Africa Wildlife | Working AbroadBe aware of unethical tourism 

Each year we’re becoming more aware of how false animal “sanctuaries” can exacerbate the problem, encouraging owners to take more animals from the wild and commit cruel acts in the name of money, but did you know travellers can unintentionally sustain a cycle of poverty by trying to help begging children? Criminal organisations have been known to kidnap children and force them to beg for money, then take the “earnings” they gain from tourists and reinforce the cycle. 

Savvy packing

Try not to buy new clothes, pieces of equipment or tech unless they’re needed for your trip or consider buying them second-hand. Converting to more natural/biodegradable products is also an easy win, as are multifunctional items like a sarong (/picnic blanket/shawl/beach towel) or a travel clothesline (/curtain/bag strap). The less stuff you pack is not only lighter to carry but is easier on the environment too – aeroplanes use less fuel when they carry less weight. According to Finnair, by reducing the weight of your baggage by 5kg you reduce your carbon footprint by about 5%.

Be aware of the source if you’re buying wooden gifts

While we know how cutting down trees can impact the environment and wildlife, did you know that there is strong evidence that a lot of landslides are a direct result of deforestation? Cutting down forests leaves the land vulnerable to erosion, muddying waterways and, in extreme cases, causing landslides.

If you’ve been considering using your travel time to volunteer and have a positive impact on wildlife and local communities, why not also take a pledge for the planet and make changes that will lower your footprint at the same time?

Written by WorkingAbroad Blogger Emily Bowen

About the Author

WorkingAbroad Projects

Blog articles about our volunteer projects, the wider world and from volunteers in the field are shared here for everyone to get inspired and learn more about wildlife conservation topics, volunteering abroad and much more.