Hi! We’re Sam and Ashley, founders of The Green Shoestring.
In 2015 we quit our jobs in Colorado and moved to China to teach English. From living in China and traveling the world, we’ve come to see the potential side effects of tourism on the environment. We understand that if the beautiful places we visit are to stay that way, the culture of traveling and tourism must become more sustainable. To spread that message, we take careful, but easy measures to ensure we are respectful of the beautiful places we love to explore. With a low budget and an eco-conscious approach to traveling, The Green Shoestring is an extension of our travel philosophy, “take only pictures, and leave only footprints.” We hope to inspire our readers to pursue a life of extraordinary adventure and compassion for Earth.
What is Sustainable Travel?
Being a sustainable traveler is about making conscious choices to reduce the impact you have on the environment while you’re traveling. This planet is filled with jaw-dropping beauty, incredible landscapes, awe-inspiring nature, and more fascinating cultures than we could ever hope to count. That’s kind of the whole point of traveling right? To see and experience things you wouldn’t normally in your day-to-day life. But these destinations, and in fact, our entire planet, are under attack and more vulnerable than ever. The effects of climate change are growing at an ever-increasing rate. If things continue on their current trajectory, the places around the world that inspire wanderlust won’t be around even for the next generation, much less those that come after.
We get it; when people travel they are often looking for an escape. A temporary reprieve from the stresses, concerns and worries of life at home. People want to sit on their beach chair and enjoy a tropical drink. The last thing they want to do is to worry about where that plastic straw will end up after they finish it.
To travel sustainably is to buck that trend; and be more present then ever when visiting foreign countries. To be acutely aware of the effect your presence is having, and to strive to exist as harmoniously with the local community and environment as possible.
It means to travel with a reusable water bottle, utensils, and food storage containers to reduce the amount of waste you create. To reduce your carbon footprint by taking public transportation. To seek out energy efficient lodging, and to avoid activities that are harmful to local ecosystems.
Some of the changes to become a more sustainable traveler are simple. For example, refusing plastic straws. Pretty easy right? That drink will still taste just as good without it, we promise.
Others are a little more challenging. Traveling responsibly might mean having to miss out on something you were really excited for; like swimming with whale sharks or an elephant encounter, because you come to find it isn’t managed ethically or sustainably. In the moment it can be hard to put the interests of the planet above your own personal interests. But looking back and knowing that your conscious decision had a positive effect on the planet is one of the most fulfilling feelings.
It means more than just preserving the environment; it means preserving local communities as well. When we travel to foreign destinations; we are traveling to the communities, neighborhoods, and homes of the native people who live there. It is our responsibility as travelers to make sure that our presence is not negatively affecting the way-of-life for the indigenous people of the locations we visit.
Another part of traveling sustainably is thinking about the impact of your trip BEFORE you travel. What country or region are you traveling to? How will you get there? How will you get around once you’re there? What will you pack? Where will you stay? What will you eat? What activities will you do? When planning a trip, ask yourself these questions, and consider the social and environmental impact of their answers.
The point of this lifestyle isn’t to be perfect, because in the world we live in, you never can. Eventually, you’ll have to buy a plastic water bottle, or fly on a plane. What we think is more important, is to constantly work towards more sustainable travel practices, and to share that message with others you meet along the road.
When you travel, strive to be an eco-warrior, an ambassador of the world. Move with conscious intention, make the little green changes that add up to a sustainability revolution when adopted by the traveling masses.
It starts with us, and it starts with you. Together we can spark a paradigm shift in the perception surrounding traveling. It starts with one person, and then other, and then another, until thousands of travelers are refusing the harmful and unnecessary travel norms of the past. As the sustainable travel community grows, so will its influence. Through our combined knowledge, willpower, and actions, we can change the culture of travel, and preserve this beautiful planet for generations to come.
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