Our programs are filled with intentional and thoughtful travel experiences that are in line with sustainable development. However, it’s still a bit of a catch 22, figuring out how to limit your carbon footprint whilst out gallivanting in the world. It’s something that’s always on our mind as an experiential travel company, and this list is fluid and changing with the times. Here are a few tips on traveling sustainably.

Extend Your Trip 

Make the trip worthwhile! Once you’ve successfully completed a Gap Program, you will have the skills and techniques to travel independently. So do precisely that - don’t come home! You’ve spent so long waiting to get out in the big wide world, and once you’re out there, it’s worth extending your trip! This will save on air miles, which are single handedly our biggest contribution to CO2 as individuals. You also get the chance to put sustainable travel opportunities into practice! 

Go Slow 

Our programs are designed to be a marathon, not a sprint. This is the type of travel where you get to move slowly, meet people and soak it all in. That could be the biggest tip for sustainable travel for our lifetimes. Cutting out the numerous buses and trains and flights and really getting into the swing of a place can be really helpful to slowing the CO2 footprint whilst exploring our globe. This might include WWOOFing on farms and volunteering with worthwhile organizations. 

Buy Good Quality Gear from Reputable Providers

This seems like a no brainer, although we know it’s a tough one to stick to. It’s easy to give in to a good deal, but think about what foundations that cheap price has sprouted from. It is most likely rooted in unfair work agreements, quantity over quality and shortcuts in materials. You are probably going to need quite a few bits of gear for program, and gear that lasts longer will come with you on more trips. Quality gear will keep the environment happier too! If you go with an organization like Patagonia, your purchases will directly contribute to sustainability. 

Do Your Research When Shopping for Souvenirs 

It’s awesome to return home with some sentimental purchases that remind you of your time abroad. We are on board with this, but with the power of information at our fingertips it's worth doing a little research before you hand over the money. Is the item made in the country it's being sold? Where does the money go for the sale of this item? It’s good to buy direct where possible. It’s even better when the company you are buying from invest their money back into the local community. Aim to shorten the production line, because our consumer demand is what drives production. 

Share the Good Stuff 

Let’s be honest, everyone wants to be out traveling the world. And when you are on the road, your power is in your dollar - and your voice! If you see some good stuff going on, share it on your social media! If you’re doing something good for the world, don’t be afraid to let people know! You’re not big noting yourself, you’re putting the environment first. On the other hand, if you’re posting about something that’s environmentally detrimental, maybe think about shifting priorities. 

Avoid the Plastic 

We tend to make a lot more rubbish with life on the road. A huge way to combat this in countries where you can’t drink water from the tap is to purchase a steripen or charcoal filter. If you do the math for the amount of drink bottles the group would go through if you exclusively buy plastic water bottles on a program, it’s kind of astronomical! Another awesome idea for plastic reduction is by bringing along your own tupperware, keep cup and utensils (some programs provide these, we will let you know). 

Look up the Local Markets 

Not only are they fun to browse, they are selling local produce! It might not work with timing sometimes while traveling, but if you happen to coincide with a local market then hit it up! They tend to have more tasty veggies, healthy food and you will save money. In terms of sustainability, the vegetables are often from small scale farms that aim to be organic. The globe needs small-scale producers to keep communities strong and thriving, and this is a major opportunity we can support. 

Eat with the Seasons 

Rather than looking at a cookbook to decide what to cook for dinner with the group, have a look at what’s in season and create your food accordingly. If you’re on a program where you do less cooking and more eating out, make choices in line with what’s available in the local area. For example, perhaps choose the pad thai over the pizza in Thailand. The food miles will lower dramatically, and we promise you’ll get that pizza the moment you arrive home!

Travel Intentionally 

This one might sound a bit hard to swallow, but it’s worth consideration. Think about what you are getting out of the place you are heading around the world to visit. Have you done your research? What sets it apart from your own country? If the aim is just to drink alcohol with friends from your own country, is that perhaps something you could do back at home? We are strong believers that travel has the ability to change the course of our lives for the better. We have the opportunity to see beautiful places and become more passionate about environmental activism. We have the opportunity to meet people and have interactions that play a big part in our empathy levels and the way we see the world. We have the opportunity to see mind blowing human feats that will make the fire in our bellies burn with passion for a long time to come. Travel with intention; it makes the process more intrinsically sustainable. 

There’s no hard and fast solutions to traveling sustainably, so these are just some ideas. On the programs, we will explore these ideas further and practice solutions based thinking as a group.

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Author Orla O'Muiri Posted