travel + an ecological lifestyle – can these two things belong together?
it’s a hard thing to reconcile for any traveler – how to lessen your personal impact and be a more responsible traveler? there’s carbon offsets you can purchase, either as you make your flight purchase or separately from a few different organizations. there’s booking a trip from a company with a ecologically-responsible policy. (in the past week, rick steves just announced all his tours will be certified carbon neutral) there’s opting to take the bus or train more vs. flying. we live without a car here and do almost all of our errands on foot (including grocery shops, hoofing it over a mile there and back to the store) which i’m considering as my personal carbon offset.
but sometimes, the culture of the place you reach (whether to travel or live in) teaches you much more about living more ecologically-consciously.
living in the czech republic has been one such experience for me.
there are uncountable ways that us americans have felt wasteful in the process of becoming more acclimated here. maybe the times alex had the lights on in his classroom during the afternoon and a teacher would come stick her head in, turn off the lights, and then leave again. (sends a message though, doesn’t it?)
the insistence of my workplace on unplugging all appliances when not in use is something i have taken notice of.
the reassurance from my students that, yes, it is actually light enough in here and we probably don’t need to turn on the lights. (so halfway through the lesson i flip out because i can’t deal with the darkness)
my biggest realization came last summer when alex told me that he was told by our landlords that our flat (one of maybe six or so in the building) uses the most water than any other flat. us – we are only two people! what? how embarrassing.
i have long felt strongly about water conservation, but man, that was absolutely appalling. i had no idea how and why that had happened (alex has since cut back on twenty minute showers).
these days i’m as conservative with water as ever. some might say bordering on obsessive. but it’s such a precious resource that we don’t have finite amounts of, even though it may not seem that way. here’s some little things i do personally….
– when running the tap waiting for the shower to heat up, catching all of that “waiting water” in a bucket and using it to water plants.
– washing hair less frequently than in the past (cuts down on shower time).
– giving the dog water from guests’ undrunk glasses of water
– when i remember, a bucket of water outside in the rain
– a gutter/eavestrough / rain barrel system in the garden – an ingenious way to make use of rain water for plants!
– saving unsalted, cooled pasta water for watering plants (apparently, cooking water even adds valuable minerals)
– doing fewer loads of laundry – re-wearing some clothing, such as shirts and trousers if possible (anything that smells “off” or is visibly dirty though, into the basket)
basically, when you pour any water down the drain, ask yourself – why? is there another option?
i am no stranger to five minute showers since college, so that isn’t an issue, but it’s amazing how many things you can do. living in a culture amongst friends, colleagues and neighbors that are also very conservative definitely helps. we’ve seen what people do and kept asking why? to keep asking about these things that are unknown for us, to take this knowledge with us into the future, no matter where we live.
adopting a new cultural perspective and seeing what the locals do in terms of conservation of resources has really been enriching. i think that’s what travel and living abroad are really about, in a sense – to learn from your hosts and to continue this self-improvement.
has travel or life in another country ever prompted you to change a habit to become more environmental?