Recently, on October 8th, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a group of scientists convened by the United Nations to guide world leaders, published a report on Global Warming, specifically about our path to a 1.5 °C increase. It describes much more immediate consequences than previously thought… as soon as 2040. Now 1.5 degrees may not sound like much, but as the report details, even that small of an increase in average global temperature could expose tens of millions more people worldwide to life-threatening heat waves, water shortages and coastal flooding. It means the difference between a world with coral reefs and Arctic summer sea ice and a world without them.  Learn more about why even half a degree matters here.

While there are many steps we can all take at home if you wish to reduce your carbon footprint, what about when we’re traveling and have fewer choices?

What transitions could enable limiting global warming to 1.5°C?

“Examples of actions include shifting to low- or zero-emission power generation, such as renewables; changing food systems, such as diet changes away from land-intensive animal products; electrifying transport and developing ‘green infrastructure’, such as building green roofs, or improving energy efficiency by smart urban planning, which will change the layout of many cities.” –IPCC Report

Being an eco-friendly tourist is more important now than ever, both for the environment and your safety- for example, in Kenya you can face up to 4 years in jail for producing, selling or using a plastic bag. The core belief behind eco-tourism is being a ‘responsible’ tourist. Simply showing consideration for the environment and the impact your presence has on it, as well as preserving and enhancing the local community that you are visiting. Here are a few tips:

  1. Bring your own shopping bags. Even if you’re not facing jail-time, bring along a shopping bag for hitting local markets or just excess luggage on your way home. Check out the CN Pop N’ Shop.
  2. Pack a carry-on only. Not only does this save you a few extra bucks and time leaving the airport, it will reduce the overall weight of the airplane- the more a plane weighs, the more carbon emissions it produces. Every pound counts when flying! Read Claire’s tips here for carry-on-only packing.
  3. Fly direct. When you can afford it, choose the direct flight over a connection. Take off and landing use significantly more fuel that flying, so skipping that layover will reduce the carbon emissions for your trip.
  4. Take public transit. Again, your wallet will thank you too. Instead of cabbing or ubering every time you go somewhere, considering taking the public bus or subway- if you’re not in a rush, you’ll get a nice tour of the city! If available, even taking an uber-pool can help.
  5. Be at home in your hotel. Just like you would at home, turn off the lights and heater/AC, only get new towels when you actually need them, keep your showers short, and so on.
  6. Avoid one-use plastic. Instead of getting a new plastic bottle everytime you want a drink, bring along a reusable & collapsible bottle. If you’re somewhere with less-than-safe water, consider a filtered bottle. A lot of hotels these days will have a filter system in place so that travellers can refill their bottles. Additionally, avoid plastic straws when you can, especially on a cruise ship. If your destination doesn’t offer another option yet, bring along your own!
  7. Consider a smaller tour. Smaller groups tend to have less of an environmental impact, as well as less of an impact of the local communities. Before you book, ask what size the group will be and how they give back to the communities or environments that you’ll be visiting.
  8. Stay at an eco-friendly hotel.  Just look out for a LEED certification, which stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design and is a green building certification, meaning that the building was built with the aim of improving energy savings, water consumption and CO2 emissions. There are chain and boutique hotels all over the world to choose from!
  9. Buy souvenirs made locally. Support both the local economy and the environment by avoiding imported souvenirs.
  10. Respect your destination. Just because you’re not at home, doesn’t mean you can start leaving your garbage wherever you want and ignoring local rules. Don’t feed the wild animals, properly dispose of all of your garbage, conserve your water and energy use, recycle where you can and avoid harmful recreation activities (do your research).

Now… what’s the deal with straws?

As most of us have heard by now, plastic straws are really bad for the ocean. America alone uses over 500 million every day, and most of those end up in our oceans, polluting the water and killing marine life. Furthermore, most plastic straws are too lightweight to make it through the mechanical recycling sorter. They drop through sorting screens and mix with other materials, and as they are too small to separate they get disposed of as garbage.

Unfortunately, compostable plastic straws are no better than regular plastic straws when they get into the marine environment. They are designed to break down in compost facility conditions, not sea water. So what about paper straws? While paper straws are a great alternative environmentally, let’s be real… they’re the worst to drink out of. They start to deteriorate if you take longer than a few minutes to finish your drink and you often end up with a paper-y taste.

While normally it’s fairly easy to avoid using a straw all together, it can be a different story when you’re on vacation, where straw alternatives aren’t always available. Trying to tilt a slushy margarita and having it all fall down at once onto your face, spilling your open Mai Tai into the pool, or treating yourself to an iced latte with no option but to take that straw or risk going lid-free in your cute new sundress. This is where ecostraws come in… your new travel companion (and honestly, probably your everyday companion, too).

Ecostraws are made from food grade anodized aluminum (the colour will not chip or fade, does not alter taste of beverage and is bacteria resistant) are compact, easy to clean and are stored in a water-tight canister that can fit on a keychain. And the best part? They’re local! Founded by two women in Kelowna, BC, who decided they wanted to make a difference after a diving trip to Honduras.

Learn more about Ecostraws here.

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