Let’s get real here for a second and talk about something that should certainly be on everyone’s radar more than it is as travelers of the world. We are people that see nooks and crannies of the world that many wouldn’t dare venture into, that many can’t even fathom exist. We are the spokespeople for the world and with that comes a responsibility that we all need to take on. I’m talking about a commitment to sustainable travel.
2017 has been designated by the UN as the Year of Sustainable Tourism Development and I have teamed up with Hostelling International to bring the sustainable travel talk to the forefront.
A little background, Hostelling International USA is a non-profit network of hostels across the United States with a dedication to encouraging and connecting people through travel. Dorm beds are usually under $50 a night and many locations have private rooms for under $100. As one of the few hostels in the USA, I love recommending Hostelling International USA to travelers exploring the US solo.
First, let’s talk about your impact. As a traveler you quite literally pack and unpack your impact with you wherever you go. So Hostelling International’s #PackYourImpact campaign couldn’t be more aptly named.
At the very core, it means:
“Leaving a positive print on every place and person you meet.”
If only this could be the case 24/7/365 the world would be a much much better place.
Hostelling International hostels are committed to sustainability in every sense of the word. From using less resources than even Energy Efficient Hotels to only opening hostels in repurposed buildings, Hostelling International is committed to sustainability.
I stayed in their property in San Diego a couple years ago and it was the perfect place to meet fellow travelers and explore the Gaslamp District from. I’ve written in the past about how hard it is traveling the US solo, and having a hostel option, is a great way to help to bridge that gap.
I had the pleasure of traveling to Portland, Oregon to take part in their Global Goals Fair at the HI Portland Hawthorne Hostel.
The Global Goals Fair was put together to highlight Hostelling International’s commitment to sustainability, and to showcase the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.
In the interest of full disclosure, I have to admit that I was probably the perfect person to attend this event. I travel full-time and often to less frequently visited places but I rarely think about my impact and how I can travel more sustainably. Sure, I cut out plastic when possible, and try to use less water, and I’m always looking to meet people and start conversations with those that come from a different culture than I, but I could certainly be doing more and could be making more informed decision.
The Global Goals Fair was centralized to Portland, but the goals themselves are worldwide. During the fair, each of the 17 goals was paired with an organization or initiative in the Portland region that were actively impacting the region in relation to that specific goal.
Instead of this turning out to be another generic sustainable travel post that encourages you to eat local and recycle, I wanted to take you through each of the UN Sustainable Goals and give you actionable items that you can take to help work towards positive change in the world relating to each goal.
Hostelling International checks a lot of the boxes for many of these goals, I will mention them often, but know, that although I have partnered with them, all opinions are my own, and I’m choosing to highlight their hostels and programs beyond our agreement, because they are pretty cool. 😉
Clean Water + Sanitation [#6]:
Shared spaces in hostels mean less resources consumed per guest. HI Portland Hawthorne Hostel, in fact, even uses rainwater to supply its toilets. In general, staying in Airbnb’s or hostels where towels, sheets, etc. aren’t being washed on a daily basis severely helps in water consumption.
If you must stay in a hotel, look for hotels that are taking actionable steps towards water conservation, like allowing you to reuse towels, skip a sheet change, etc. This information should be regularly available on their websites if they are initiatives they feel strongly about.
When traveling, I always bring a refillable water bottle, I actually get really pissed at airports when they don’t have water bottle filling stations let alone water fountains! Plastic water bottles are a stupid waste of resources and when possible, avoid at all costs.
In Thailand, it never ceased to amaze me that if you were to buy a bottle of water, you’d not only buy that plastic water bottle, but it would have a plastic wrapping around the top, then when you get to the check out they give you 6 plastic straws all individually plastic wrapped, and then they double bag it in plastic bags. Barf. Don’t do that. Walk around the corner and spend 2 baht filling up your reusable bottle at the water filling station.
If you’re looking to get more involved while traveling or at home Water For People is an excellent organization to reach out to. Most of their needs revolve around community outreach to raise awareness and fundraise, which you can do while you’re not on the road. If you’d like to get hands on involved you can reach out to the organization to determine if there are any special projects that you may be able to get involved with.
Charity:Water is a second organization committed to bringing clean, safe drinking water to developing countries. The most simple way you can support the clean water initiative is to donate your next birthday to the organization, aka in lieu of gifts, encourage your loved ones to donate to their initiative.
Good Health + Well-Being [#3]:
This is more than just doing yoga while you’re traveling. For many communities around the world, this is not a priority or even an option to prioritize while the other half spends $100 on pants to sweat in.
Spreading the good health initiative starts by getting the recommended vaccinations prior to traveling somewhere that could be easily impacted by a contagious disease. Travelers who neglect to get vaccinations that seem irrelevant in the Western world could start intense outbreaks in developing worlds.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, hostels are a great place to meet people and foster a sense of community. Many hostels work to get involved in their communities and are a great place to find community events. HI Portland Hawthorne offered free walking tours and other activities; I’ve seen organized runs, volleyball tournaments, yoga classes and so much more offered through the hostel and community partners.
To help promote good health and well-being while traveling, it goes beyond just going for a run. Yes, taking care of yourself is a priority but there are plenty of ways to help in the communities you travel to as well. If you can teach classes such as yoga, pilates, zumba, etc. you can reach out to a hostel or community center or even a hospital prior to arriving somewhere and put together a free or donation only class for the community.
Even if you aren’t technically certified, running a community exercise or wellness event wouldn’t be terribly difficult. Think a track and field day, or hopscotch competition or whatever you like to do! Getting kids and community members out and active helps even if it is on a small scale.
Consider bringing health supplies if you’re going to a developing country. Materials like soap, toothpaste, washcloths, etc. can be utilized more directly than money at times.
If you want to take it to the next level and get involved on the ground while traveling, reach out to clinics that other family planning or community centers and see where you could be of help. Community gardens are a great initiative that not only helps to feed the community but can be therapeutic for those that help out and they also help to teach lasting skills that can change the cycle of good health by rather than temporarily just giving someone an apple you’re giving them the tools to provide, clean, safe, healthy food to their families for years to come.
This is just part 1 of my sustainable travel series. Keep an eye out in the coming weeks for the remaining pieces of the series. Hopefully by the end of this you’ll have at least 1 actionable step you can take to become a better global citizen. I know I have. Please share how you’re working to travel more responsibly on social media and use the hashtag #PackYourImpact
***This post is brought to you in collaboration with Hostelling International USA and specifically their HI Portland Hawthorne location, as always all thoughts are my own.