Green Travel: Waste not, want not
As a green traveler you must be aware of your surroundings and the environment around you, and I’m not just talking about the natural environment, but political, economic, and social as well. There are just some things that a green traveler should not do, and wasting resources is high on that list.
Green hotels are very good about catering to the needs of world travelers. Ask and you shall certainly be accommodated as much as possible. They are, after all, in the business of making guests stays as pleasant and worry free as possible. While traveling in remote areas there are typically restaurants attached to green hotels and lodges. For example, while on safari in various countries throughout Africa, the lodges generally offered up amazing buffet meals with a variety of offerings to please just about very palate and dietary need. When there was a set meal plan the offerings were also varied and highlighted the unique flavors and foodstuffs of the region. The meal offerings are always generous and it can be difficult to remember that there are other regions of the same country where people do not have enough food to feed their children. (We have all seen the television specials so need to go further into that here.)
As a green traveler I am often surprised by my fellow travelers. I do not expect everyone to be a green traveler nor that because they are staying in a green hotel or on a eco-trek that they too live a green life. But there are some things that should be obvious to everyone. The one that shocks me the most and disgusts me beyond belief is the rampant wasting of food by travelers. I have seen people who claim to be environmentalists to the core of their being, with all the green gear to prove it, pile several plates to the point of overflowing at each and every meal and then leave 75% of it behind. This blatant wasting of food is not only the squandering of a limited resource, but also exceptionally disrespectful of the people who prepared it, and a huge disservice to those who grew the food using their limited means to produce it.
While it is true that here in the US there are a variety of restaurant chains that offer up singular portions large enough to easily feed a family of four with some left over. We have become accustomed to having too much food on our plates but do we have to continue the trend when we plate the food ourselves? Is it really that hard to simply take a few small portions of the various items and then go back for the particular things that you liked? It is also a great way to get a little exercise during dinner, so why not try it next time you are faced with a buffet.
But this isn’t only about food. There are those who abuse the generous nature of green hotels and eco-lodges and their desire to please their guests. I have seen people immediately tuck all the toiletries into their suitcase upon entering a hotel room. They also riffle through the desk for stationary and other items they can pack to maybe use later or to give as gifts to their friends. Yes, many of these things are there for our use, and I have to admit there was a time when I was on the road for several weeks and had collected over 30 small soap bars, many of which I still have, several years after my “soap nabbing” phase ended. Did I need the soap? Of course not, I had liquid soap, which I actually prefer, in my bag. Now, I find myself using those mini bars of soap in an effort to save resources and empty out a part of my bathroom. In the interest of full disclosure, I also have to admit to being a stationary pilferer, but I do use it while on an eco-adventure as additional note pages which I add to my travel journal as informative local color (I love when they also provide a postcard of the hotel since it serves as an amazing visual reminder of where I actually stayed.) These items should be taken if there is a genuine need, otherwise, leave it behind for the traveler who will occupy the room after you.
It might not seem like much but every half eaten plate of food wasted, every soap bar packed, and stationary pilfered, all adds up to a great deal of money. Never mind the additional costs that this imposes on all travelers, but what about the countries that have to support their tourist economies? Tourism is the primary cash crop for many countries and when tourists are packing their hotels, airports, and sites of historical, cultural, and natural interest, they thrive. If you spend your money to go there, does it not follow that you value why you have gone there? Is it not then your responsibility to help foster it by being a responsible traveler?
One of the tenants of green travel is to leave behind only footprints and to take only photos. To that should be added the following: take only the food you can eat and leave behind only an empty plate. It makes green sense.
Travel green. Pass it on.