One thing we are sure to do when we travel is consume. The very act of traveling is consumption - the consumption of services, like transportation and lodging and entry fees and show tickets; or of goods, like food, clothing, souvenirs, luggage tags, and books to keep us entertained during the inevitable periods of waiting in lines and in rooms for things to happen. Consumption is automatic and can be a mindless activity. The green traveler, however, has to think extra carefully about their consumption during ecotravel. And although this may seem like work, it really is not. Rather, it is a matter of awareness and responsible consumerism; and there are so many organizations today that can help you attain both.
Get Ready: Green Travel Luggage & Accessories
Before you even set out on your trip, you can select ecofriendly travel cases and travel wear to offset your inevitable carbon footprint from flying or driving to your destination. Livity Outernational is a green company based in Los Angeles, California, that sells luggage, bags, headwear, shirts, and accessories to several retail and online boutiques and over 100 Whole Foods markets across the United States, as well as over 70 Wegman's outlets in the northeastern United States.
Founded in 2001 by reggae lover Isaac Nichelson, the word "Livity" is Jamaican patois signifying a free, healthy, and righteous lifestyle of sustainability and unity. Livity Outernational's products are made of organic, recyclable, and recycled materials such as hemp, organic cotton, fleece, and straw and reflect its commitment to environmental sustainability and fair trade. If you live in the United States, their products are widely available to give you a head-start in packing for, and planning, your green vacation.
Get Set: Green Clothing
Everyone packs a bag or suitcase full of clothes to wear on their trip. Why not pack yours with ecofriendly fabrics? People Tree, a London, U.K.-based company, proves that ecofriendly clothes do not have to be drab or shapeless. Their line of fashionable ecowear is all fair trade certified by the World Fair Trade Organization and originates from farmers and artisans in developing countries. Their fair trade organic cotton, for instance, is purchased from an organisation in Gujarat, India, called Agrocel that represents 20,000 small-scale farmers.
People Tree is an advocate of organic cotton farming and a strong critic of the environmental degradation, public health decline, water waste, and farmer-debt spiral that results from conventional pesticide-intensive farming. With a double focus of reducing the environmental impact of their manufacturing processes and reducing poverty in marginalized communities worldwide, the organization favors handmade, natural, recycled, and biodegradable products, and employment-creating manual labor, over toxic and synthetic ingredients and machinery use. They also prefer sea transportation to air freight for finished products. From socks and scarves and underwear to dresses and coats and jewellery, their designers in the U.K. and Japan, and their artisans across the world, produce an impressive and beautiful collection of clothing and accessories for men, women, and children. Their products are available in the U.K. as well as overseas.
Go! : Green Food and Drinks
La Siembra Co-operative, founded in 1999 and based in Ottawa, Ontario, is better known for its brand of products known as Camino; which means "the path," in Spanish. "La siembra," itself, is the Spanish word for planting time. Accordingly, the ecotourist to Canada, or the ecotraveler preparing an international trip from Canada, will find Camino products a way to sew financially into and support sustainable economies and organic consumerism from afar.
Camino products originate from co-operatives of family farmers in 10 Central and South American and Southeast Asian countries, such as Guatemala, Brazil, and Sri Lanka. La Siembra produces a variety of food and drinks, including fruit juices, chocolate bars, coffee, baking products (sugar, chocolate chips, shredded coconut), and hot chocolate. The green traveler can start the practice at home of pointedly choosing organic and fair-trade food as snacks or raw ingredients in meals. By powering up on healthy, fair-trade food and drink, you will have plenty of energy to take your ecotravel adventures to the next level. Camino products are widely availabe throughout Canada.
The Philosophy of Responsible Consumerism
For the ecotourist, the planning stage of a green trip thus starts locally, by practicing ecofriendly lifestyle habits and being a discerning customer at home. Then, it must infiltrate every possible area of your green travel preparation. Reduce the environmental impact of your clothes and travel luggage with organic, biodegradable fabric; favor ecofriendly transportation, such as walking, biking, or taking a bus or train, over driving or flying; and once at your destination, buy local products and support marginalized economies through targeted dollars toward small-scale and microenterprises, local artisans, local farmers, and fair-trade co-operatives.
Responsible consumerism is all about buying products that minimize harm to the environment and invest in the social and financial wellbeing of producers and service-providers. It requires paying attention to what you buy, and asking questions about what the products are made of, who produced them, and what working conditions they produced them under. If it is worth your while to support environmentally and socially sustainable products and services, you make it worth their while to produce and provide them. Just by traveling, you have the power to partake in la siembra, to sew the seeds of sustainability into the caminos you tread through. Happy green travels!
Photo credit: Cuba Gallery