Travelling and backpacking to foreign lands will always bring new perspective. But something that has remained important to me and if anything become more in the for front of my mind during our travels is climate change, and the effects we are having on this planet. There is a great deal you can talk about under this heading which is why I’m going to break it up into sections. Part one is about being a conscientious consumer, and is some of the things we try to do to play our part.
When you only own what you carry on your back it can in a great many ways make it much easier to remember what is important in life. Such as a place to sleep at night, clothes on your back and good food and clean water. Not all of these are easy to come by when your out exploring. But normally you find your way to them one way or the other. The most important normally of that list to any backpacker is the food and drink. Normally the cheaper the better! However just because your on a budget doesn’t mean that you have to forgo thinking about the planet we live on. So how you ask do I budget backpack earth wise? Here is a list of some of the things we have done, and tried to do to ensure as a consumer we are helping not harming.
1. Palm oil
If you read my last post you will know that palm oil is a big factor for what we do and don’t buy. A lot of food products will advertise being palm oil free, but the easiest way to check is to read the label. Anything containing the word palm, be it palm oil or palm fat is probably killing orangutans. The British supermarket Iceland as of 2018 has stopped using palm oil in all their own brand products. Waitrose (if you can afford it) also sport a good number of rain forest friendly products. Unfortunately the number of times I have turned over a packet of something and sighed in disappointment has been far to many.
2. Canvas bags
Having a small reusable shopping bag with you when travelling is always useful not matter where your shopping and what for. And if you’ve brought all you need it’s much easier to label your bag and put it in the hostel fridge then a individually label all your food. For those living in a semi/permanent residence leave your canvas bags in your car or by the door to help you remember to take them. You can go one step further use them for clothes shopping as well. Most shops are quite happy to pack into your bags if you ask them.
3. Plastic free fruit and veges
Something else I touched on last time was the fresh produce that gets wrapped in copious amounts of plastic. You can avoid this by shopping at the local markets, and by picking and choosing your fruit and vege. Buy what has the least one use plastic around it. For backpackers carrying a small mesh bag makes a great fruit and vege bag. Or we just carried an extra cloth bag so our fresh produce was separate from any meat or anything else we were buying. While living in our tiny house we have been reusing the small brown paper bags given to us when we go to the markets fruit and vege stall.
4. Carry a water bottle
This seems like the biggest no-brainer, but it is still surprising how many people, even backpackers still rock round with disposable plastic water bottles! I carry a smallish thermos style bottle from Kathmandu which keeps my water cooler for longer and can also double as a coffee thermos. I also carry a bamboo reusable coffee cup. Or if I have forgotten those, I ask for no plastic top on my coffee, and ask to omit the straws on drinks. Unfortunatly this sometimes still backfires. I have given up buying iced coffee’s as every time I do they are served in plastic. Also when your out and do desperately need to buy some liquid try to buy cans or glass bottles as they can be recycled far more readily and a great many more times then plastic.
5. Read the pamphlet, don’t take it with you
Travel pamphlets are never few and far between when city hoping. Try to avoid excess waste by taking a photo of the important information, or finding it online with hostel WiFi. After you have read the pamphlet or found the information you need. Write down the important bits rather then taking the whole pamphlet with you .
6. Buy from markets
Some of the most amazing places in the world are the quaint markets in far away cities. From the huge night markets in India to the Christmas markets in Austria, there is always something to see. Markets normally have a large amount of locally produced goods, so buying from them is putting your money back to the amazing communities your visiting and not to big chains. Also smaller communities tend to be more conscientious when it comes to packaging and you can avoid a lot of the sealed plastic wrappers. As a bonus you often meet some amazing and interesting people. Who are more often then not super passionate about their products.
7. Choose free range
Eggs are a backpackers best friend. they are a great source of protein and don’t take up much space in the hostel kitchen. Free range eggs can be a bit more expensive, but this is one item I will always sacrifice an extra 50p for. The eggs themselves always taste better as well! Carrying along that thread if you can afford to and can find free range. Meat products are always going to be better free range both taste wise and environmentally.
8. Beauty products
This is one I will go into more depth in part two. But basically whats better for your skin and hair is normally better for the environment! And if your not sure google is you best friend. An easy way to cut down on waste is to use bar soap over body wash. It lasts longer and there is no plastic bottle at the end of it. If your lucky the local market might even sell some homemade soaps! If your not a bar soap fan, try and choose products that 1. can be recycled when your finished and 2. are produced in a sustainable way. Or if you can go one step further, make your own! (I will go into this further in another post.)
Our local market here in Leighton Buzzard sports this stall full of Earth friendly products from bars of shampoo to a refill station for laundry detergent. Mimic gifts are made locally in England and are available to order. Go check them out! For those in the Southern hemisphere check out
Ethique make a range of beauty products and are great for backpacking.
9. Eat In
Your a backpacker, your here for the experience. What’s the rush? Rather then choosing the takeaway option at cafes and eateries sit down to eat. Savor the experience, you reduce waste created from takeaway bags and your more likely to to enjoy your meal if your not rushing to eat it on the run. To the semi permanent resident traveller. Again I say what is the rush? sit down and enjoy your coffee and cake! Alternatively bring your take away coffee cups and containers. The first step to changing cultural norms and reducing waste is you.
10. Buy quality products
This might sound a little counter intuitive to the budget traveler but here me out. Buying cheap gear that’s only going to last a short space of time before having to replace it is not really going to save you money. And it also means more production and wastage to get the item to you. Fork out a bit of extra cash and buy something that will last and you can warrant repairing it rather then just throwing it away. (Your more likely to try and fix a $300 jacket then a $30 one.) On a budget you will also think twice about buying more stuff because of the price. Only buy what you need, but buy it to last.
As always thanks for reading, don’t forget to hit the like button if your enjoying the content and feel free to leave a comment with suggestions for further posts!