Monday, April 28, 2014

Think Green: 10 Eco-friendly Travel Tips

Traveling the 80 provinces in the Philippines was by far one of the best decisions I’ve made in my life. Not only did I earn so many amazing memories that are worth a lifetime, but more than that, it reinforced my belief that we have an incredibly beautiful country—a place we all have the duty to protect.

Recently, I’m glad to have caught up with my friend, Kidd, an environmental activist, one of the people I look up to when it comes to sustainable practices and mitigating environmental impact when traveling.  Over lunch, we’ve come up with some doable tips to guide you in when planning an eco-friendly trip.

Here are some ways to avoid or reduce the negative impact of tourism to the environment.

Explore within your area. Before eyeing the hottest destinations featured in your favorite travel shows or magazines, you might want to consider checking your neck of the woods. Interesting destinations could be lurking near where you live, it saves you a hefty plane fare and a soaring carbon footprint. For us living in Manila, a change of pace and scenery prompts us to go somewhere far and isolated, but you know what, Manila is not too bad to explore! In fact there’s quite a lot to see and do around here.  Spending time in Intramuros and Fort Santiago may be a great way to revisit our history. We also have museums (National Museum, Ayala Museum) where some of the best art works and historical artifacts are housed. If you want to commune with nature, the waterfalls in Rizal, the cool weather in Tagaytay and the beaches in Batangas are only few hours away. Exploring your own city and its neighboring areas is cheaper and an easier way to cut down on your carbon footprint.

Walk. This may not be a very popular advice but I’ve done this myself many times and it proved to be more economical and worthwhile. Well, going for a walk whenever in a new city or town allows me to get to know better the character of the place and its people.  I wouldn’t have seen the many coffee shops in Dumaguete, or the many restaurants in Tuguegarao that has Batil Patong in its menu had I decided to take the trike. Alternately, if walking is a bit too much for you, the next best thing is to opt  for a “cleaner” mode of transportation. Taking a padyak or trisikad is a good way to go. This will also encourage mass transit operators to switch to a clean and green mode of transportation.

Eat local. Whenever I’m in an unfamiliar place, one of the first things I do is  find out where to try the best local dish or buy the best local souvenir. Traveling allows me to take a short break from eating at the fast food chains that flood the streets of Metro Manila. Unlike the most ubiquitous food chains, local restaurants serve meals using homegrown ingredients. Eating at a local restaurant enriches the travel experience. It allows you to taste of what the people there eat and glimpse on how they prepare their food.

Buying Souvenirs. The idea of “pasalubong” is to take the place and experience to our loved ones back home. What is the best way to do this without costing the environment too much? When we buy key chains, cellphone charms, ref magnet, paper weight, t-shirts and more, where will they end up in the long run? When they accumulate to a point, how sure are we that their function is utilized? In this regard, buying consumable products, that is local delicacies like Pili nut, tupig, buko pie, strawberry jam is a better option. Choosing the ones packed using natural materials like banana leaf or paper is another score for the environment. Last but not the least; don’t forget to bring your own bag when shopping for pasalubong.

Switch off. Before leaving your hotel room, don’t forget to turn off all the appliances like a/c and lights.

Leave nothing but footprints. Avoid littering by making sure that all your spoils are disposed properly. It still breaks my heart whenever I see beaches spoiled with trash. Seeing cigarette butt or a candy wrapper lying on the white sandy beach isn't exactly a nice sight.  I know we could do so much better.  Bring a trash bag or better keep your spoils in your pocket until you get to properly dispose it in the trash can.

Book online and go paperless. It’s great that recently, local airlines allowed paperless itinerary during check in.  It’s also important to check if the carrier you chose to fly with actually allows presenting your itinerary using your smartphones or tablets. It’s more economical and will definitely save piles and piles of paper trash.

Strictly abide by the rules and regulation of Ecotourism. Our country is rich in biodiversity and we hold an important role in promoting wildlife conservation in each place we go. I support “Butanding” watching in Donsol as long as the regulations to protect these whale sharks are strictly followed or I encourage seeing the tarsiers in Bohol as long as we keep our hands off them. There’s nothing more amazing than seeing the most beautiful creatures in the world playing in their natural habitat. Let’s protect and keep them in the wild.

Small acts count. Bring your own bottle of water. As much as possible, avoid bonfire and letting off wish lanterns near the beach. Avoid taking home souvenirs like sand and sea shells. Flowers and plants are nice to look at, but leave them alone. Take nothing but beautiful photos from every place you go.

Bear witness to illegal practices. Traveling opened my eyes to the real situations on the ground. I’ve seen how prevalent black sand mining is in Cagayan, or the denuded forests caused by illegal logging in Surigao del Sur, or the dead corals due to incessant dynamite fishing in Catanduanes. These are the flipside to the usual travel stories, but these are just as important as any other stories that are to be told and published. I honestly don’t know how I could make concrete actions on these matters yet since it needs to be resolved on a higher level that may involve the local or national government. But as a travel blogger, what I could do for now is to present my personal accounts about these issues that are definitely causing horrendous damages to the environment.

We can make travel more fun without hurting Mother Earth, right? If you have some eco-friendly tips to share, please feel free to leave them in the comment box. I’d love to hear from you! J


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