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Responsible travel is to give back to the community you visit

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Travelling can be an opportunity of growth and discovery, but responsible travelers need to be aware of the impacts their actions have on the environment and local people, says eco-travel blogger Yara Coelho.

Travelling can be much more than a getaway weekend or expensive holiday. In fact, for some, travelling is a way of life, a mission. Yara Coelho left her home in Portugal when she turned 18, determined to see what the world had to offer – but being an environmentally conscious and vegan traveller, she decided to do it ethically.

On her blog, Heart of a Vagabond – A Vegan Travel guide, she shares her amazing experiences in Europe, America and Asia, as well as suggestions to travel in a sustainable way.

I can see that you basically made travelling your life, unlike most people who associate travelling with ‘going on holiday’. But travelling is not going on holiday, is it?

Travelling can be just going on holiday for the majority of people. For others, travelling is basically a lifestyle. For me travelling is all about the journey, not just the destination, whereas going on holiday is mostly being at a certain spot for a short amount of time.

I travel to meet the people, to experience the traditional vegetarian foods, to immerse in a new culture, learn the language. I usually blend in pretty well when I travel.  Life is so short and the world has so many wonders to explore. My biggest regret would be dying without experiencing part of them.

Many environmentalists refuse to catch a plane or endorse long-distance journey. Is travelling incompatible with respecting the environment?

Travelling is absolutely not incompatible with being seriously environmentally conscious.

I actually hate flying and the majority of my trips were made by land, using recycled vegetable oil when using my van, or using public transport like trains or buses. I travelled across all the Indian subcontinent and Nepal by land for six months, for example. Same with Thailand and Malaysia, all by public transport.

I think people have to be consistent with their lifestyle. It makes no sense avoiding airplanes, but using the car on a daily basis, eating meat, consuming more than the necessary, or even importing organic products from the other side of the world.

I use my bike on a daily basis, eat local vegan foods only and live a very simple lifestyle, therefore my footprint is ridiculously low.

What is your opinion on the so-called and sometimes controversial voluntourism?

I’m totally against the voluntourism programmes out there. It surprises me nobody sees what they are all about.  It’s a multi-million dollar business that brings nothing good to the communities or the environment.

I’m sceptical of all programmes asking the volunteers to pay. I personally don’t want to pay to work, usually it’s the other way around, right? Many of these young people volunteering abroad and paying fortunes for it, have a really good heart and mean good, but they’re just stealing jobs from local people.

The only positive type of voluntourism I see, is when someone goes abroad and teaches the locals a new skill that will improve their lives.  We all know the old expression: “Don’t give them fish, teach them to fish”.

Why do you travel alone? Do you think people are generally afraid of doing it?

In many ways, travelling alone can be a very deep spiritual practice. For me, travelling is highly spiritual and it’s a way of challenging myself, find new aspects of my personality and find out I’m actually braver than I thought I was.

It’s all about getting out of my comfort zone and becoming a better person. One of the biggest lessons is learning the meaning of detachment, live with very few material things. We need very little to be happy.  I wrote a famous article that focuses exactly on being a solo traveller.

What is the most amazing experience you had while travelling?

That’s a hard one, since every time I’m out there I go through amazing experiences. I’ll have to name two: One was visiting the Buddhai tree in Bodhgaya (India). For the ones who don’t know what that is, it’s the place and the tree where the Buddha got enlightened. Seeing that massive tree in front of my eyes, was really touching.

Another amazing experience was probably snorkeling with a massive wild turtle in the Andaman Islands. Wild animals are so majestic. Swimming side by side with fish who were as big as me and that turtle was something very special.

Can you give us and our readers some tips on how travel consciously?

Travelling can be an extraordinary way to grow as a person and become more open minded.

For me the best way to travel consciously is when we give back to the communities we visit. When we stay at local guest houses, support local restaurants instead of spending money in big international businesses.

Being very aware of our impact, especially when travelling in the nature, where eco-systems are fragile. Travelling by land as much as possible and avoiding buying too much plastic is very important. I always try to re-fill my water bottles instead of buying new ones. Plastic is a really serious problem in most developing nations.

Don’t engage in any tourist entertainment where animals are kept captive, like marine shows, swimming with dolphins, elephant rides and photos with wild animals. These animals are all kidnapped from their homes and families and turned into slaves, living miserable lives. If you love animals then support eco-projects that empower the environment.

Heart of a Vagabond is a mindful, sustainable, vegan-friendly travel and lifestyle design blog. As a long-time solo female traveler, Yara Coelho’s coverage is steeped with experience and a depth of knowledge few others can match.

Further reading:

Tourists urged to stop littering on Mount Everest

TripAdvisor launches green initiative for sustainable travel

TUI launches new sustainability-focused travel options

Why tourism can be a force for good in the developing world, and why it isn’t

Environment

4 Common Items That Can be Reused Again and Again

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reuse reduce recycle plastic bottles etc
Shutterstock Licensed Photo - By Vanatchanan | https://www.shutterstock.com/g/vanatchanan%20buahom

As a society we are getting much better at taking our obligations to the world and environment around us more seriously. This is undoubtedly a good thing! The effects of climate change are beginning to manifest across the world, and this is turning the issue from an abstract threat into a very real danger. Trying to introduce some greener, more eco-friendly practices into your life isn’t just a great way of doing something beneficial for society and the world around you. It is a wonderful way of engaging positively with the world and carries with it numerous psychological benefits.

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Being a greener, more ecologically friendly person doesn’t require any dramatic life changes. Breaking or making a few small habits is all it takes to make your life a greener one. In this article we look at one of the easiest, yet most effective green practices to get into: reusing everyday items.

Jars and Containers

Glass and metal are widely recycled, and recycling is a good thing! However, consider whether any containers you buy, whether it’s a tub of ice cream or a jar of coffee, can be washed out and reused for something else. Mason jars, for example, can be used to store homemade pasta sauce and can be washed for future use. Once you start thinking about it, you will find endless opportunities to reuse your old containers.

Soda Bottles

An ice-cold soda is a wonderful treat on a hot day, but buying soda can get expensive, and the manufacturing and distribution of the drinks themselves isn’t great for the environment. However, by holding on to your old soda bottles and repurposing them as water bottles, you can save money on drinks, or use them to measure out water for your garden.

Plastic Bags

Most of the time groceries come in paper bags, which are better for the environment than the plastic alternatives, but they are less durable and thus harder to reuse. Whenever the store places your items in a plastic bag, hang onto it so you can reuse the bags again. If you want to take it one step further, consider looking into buying some personalized recycled bags. These bags are designed to last for a long time and are made of recycled materials. They look striking and unique, they’ll turn heads, and maybe even attitudes!

Seeds

If you’re a keen gardener, then you will already probably know how to reseed your plants in order to ensure a fresh crop after each plant’s lifecycle. If you have space in your garden, or haven’t yet tried your hand at gardening, then consider planting a small vegetable plot. Growing your own veggies means that you’ll be helping to cut back on the emissions generated by their transport and production. The best part about growing your own food in this way is that, by harvesting properly and saving the seeds, you can be set up with fresh vegetables for life!

Reusing and recycling common household items is an easy way to make your world a little bit greener. Once you start looking for these opportunities you’ll realize that they’re everywhere!

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Environment

These 5 Green Office Mistakes Are Costing You Money

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eco-friendly green offices
Shutterstock Licensed Photo - By Stokkete | https://www.shutterstock.com/g/cyano

The sudden interest in green business is very encouraging. According to recent reports, 42% of all companies have rated sustainability as an important element of their business. Unfortunately, the focus on sustainability will only last if companies can find ways to use it to boost their ROI.

Many businesses get so caught up in being socially conscious that they hope the financial aspect of it takes care of itself. The good news is that there are plenty of ways to go green and boost your net income at the same time.

Here are some important mistakes that you will want to avoid.

Only implementing sustainability on micro-scale

The biggest reason that brands are going green is to improve their optics with their customers. Too many businesses are making very minor changes, such as processing paperwork online and calling themselves green.

Customers have become wary of these types of companies. If you want to earn their business, you are going to need to go all the way. Bring in a green business consultant and make every feasible change to demonstrate that you are a green organization from top to bottom.

Not prioritizing investments by long-term ROI

It isn’t realistic to build an entirely green organization overnight. You will need to allocate your capital wisely.

Before investing in any green assets or services, you should always conduct a long-term cost benefit analysis. The initial investment for some green services may be over $20,000. If they don’t shave your cost by at least $3,000 a year, they probably aren’t worth the investment.

Determine which green investments will have the best pay off over the next 10 years. Make these investments before anything else. Then compare your options within each of those categories.

Implementing green changes without a plan

Effective, long-term planning is the key to business success. This principle needs to be applied to green organizations as well.

Before implementing a green strategy, you must answer the following questions:

  • How will I communicate my green business philosophy to my customers?
  • How will running a green business affect my revenue stream?
  • How will adopting green business strategies change my monthly expenses? Will they increase or decrease them?
  • How will my company finance green upgrades and other investments?

The biggest mistake that too many green businesses make is being overly optimistic with these forecasts. Take the time to collect objective data and make your decisions accordingly. This will help you run a much more profitable green business.

Not considering the benefits of green printing

Too many companies believe that going paperless is the only way to run a green organization. Unfortunately, going 100% paperless it’s not feasible for most companies.

Rather than aim for an unrealistic goal, consider the option of using a more environmentally friendly printer. It won’t be perfect, but it will be better than the alternative.

According to experts from Doranix, environmental printers have several benefits:

  • They can process paper that has been completely recycled.
  • They consume less energy than traditional printers.
  • They use ink that is more environmentally friendly.

You want to take a look at different green printers and compare them. You’ll find that some will meet your needs as a green business.

Poorly communicating your green business strategy to customers

Brand positioning doesn’t happen on its own. If you want to run a successful green business, you must communicate your message to customers as clearly as possible. You must also avoid the appearance that you are patronizing them.

The best approach is to be clear when you were first making the change. I’ll make an announcement about your company‘s commitment to sustainability.

You also want to reinforce this message overtime by using green labels on all of your products. You don’t have to be blatant with your messaging at this stage. Simply provide a small, daily reminder on your products and invoices.

Finally, it is a good idea to participate in green business seminars and other events. If your community has a local Green Chamber of Commerce, you should consider joining as well.

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