Saturday, August 03, 2013

Travel causes pollution

As strange as this may sound to you, travel does cause pollution. And since I am a traveler too, I am also a contributor to this global pollution phenomenon. The idea behind this post is to make all travelers cognizant of the pollution that they are causing and work towards offsetting or reducing some of these pollutants while we travel across the world. The below headers explain my thought process in detail. Would be great if we all did our bit in reducing the pollution as we cannot reduce travel for sure Smile

Flying, Trains, Buses, Ferries, Cars, Motorcycles
Getting from point A to point B is an important aspect of travel and hence we all fly, take the train/bus/boat or hire a car/motorcycle. But, this causes significant air pollution. I am not saying that we should all go back to prehistoric era and commute by foot or bicycle, but we should try our level best to offset some of the carbon emissions we leave behind in the atmosphere. I have decided to plant a sapling/contribute to plant a sapling every day of the year. What can you do to offset your carbon emissions?

Plastic Water Bottles and other Plastic Waste
I think the biggest consumer of the mineral water industry is us travelers. It is true that we need safe water to drink and the only water we can trust in alien countries is bottled water. We also do the right things by disposing of our plastic trash effectively in garbage bins. But, here’s my train of thought. When you dispose of your plastic trash in trash bins in hotels or in the city, you think that they will be recycled as effectively as it happens in the developed countries. But, the truth of the matter is most of the developing world and especially the poorer countries that travelers go to, do not have a recycling mechanism. Most of them simply burn it (air pollution), bury it (land pollution) or throw it in their rivers (water pollution).

This irks me and that is why I try to reuse my bottles as much as possible and drink filtered or boiled water. A lot of travelers I meet on the way say they do not care. I say we should care or else the future generation of travelers will not see the beautiful world that we saw once. Re use water bottles as much as possible. Even better, carry your own high quality and safe water bottle. Refill filtered water wherever available.

As travelers, we buy a lot of stuff, be it food, clothes or gift items. Most of them are wrapped in plastic bags. Try as much as possible to avoid taking these plastic bags. I don’t take such plastic bags at all. I ask for cloth or paper bags instead. Sometimes, I pay more to buy myself a cloth bag. This is my way of avoiding plastic pollution. What is your way?

Toilet Paper and Napkins
I know that this is a touchy subject, but would like to bring it up nonetheless. We all know that toilet paper and napkins leads to lesser trees, but the point that I am trying to make here is that in most of the developing world, the sanitary system is not built to handle toilet paper and this ends up clogging up the system. And when it is disposed outside it leads to diseases or air pollution when it is burnt. Using water is eco-friendly.

Cigarette Smoking
Most of the smokers who travel do not carry a traveler’s ashtray with them. I don’t know why someone doesn’t design one and tap this market. During my days of travel, I have seen countless tourists throw cigarette buds on the beach, into rivers and into the ocean. This problem can be eliminated if smokers instead use vaporizers (like the ones made by It does not only keep the surroundings clean, it also lessens the concern on air pollution.

And this is in addition to causing inconvenience to non-smokers. Now, these are educated people who say that the country allows smoking anywhere and that’s why they smoke anywhere and secondly, there is no trash disposal system, so they throw it into the open. Well, I don’t think educated people should be talking like that.

Take this as an example, I am inside a wildlife sanctuary and going on a boat cruise. A couple light a cigarette before the boat starts and end up bringing it onboard onto the boat. When I asked them if they were carrying an ashtray, they said ‘No’ and said that their guide said they could smoke and hence they are smoking. The guide is uneducated and poor and since there is no wildlife authority preventing people from smoking, he let them smoke. But, don’t educated people know that smoking is harmful to the environment, especially inside a wildlife sanctuary. One, it can start a forest fire. Animals find cigarette smoke to be an irritant and third, we don’t want a cigarette bud ending up in the belly of a fish. Use your brains while smoking! Smoke the same way the way you would back in your developed world – by following rules and by caring for other people around you.

Sunscreen, Insect Repellants, Deodorant
A lot of us forget that new age wonder cosmetics like sunscreen, insect repellants, deodorants and moisturizer contain a lot of chemicals. It is fine as long as the chemicals stay on your body, but when you jump into the ocean or the river for a swim, you transfer the chemicals into the water body, which in turn cause problems for the marine life. Either wear cosmetics which are water proof, have no chemicals or scrub it off you before you enter a water body. Personally, I don’t use most of these stuff, but when and if I do, I take care not to transfer them into the water.

Sudden Growth and Unhygienic Living This is something that is not within our control, but we as travelers have led to a sudden growth in some places across the world. Hotels, shops, restaurants, travel agencies, vehicles, hawkers and more have sprung up to cater to this demand. The demand is so sudden that safety and hygiene take a back seat. Sometimes, I try and educate people about hygiene and safety. Can you do something too to help such places become better?

Welcome to BE ON THE ROAD Travel Blog! I am Sankara, its founder, a 30 something male from Bangalore who is living his dream of exploring the world and simultaneously trying to inspire others to live their dream.
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