To help you become a more responsible traveler in 2018 I’ve launched a monthly series of Responsible Travel Challenges. Each month will focus on an ethical change you can make to your travel style that will benefit the communities you visit and ultimately our precious planet. Each detailed guide will contain specific tips on how to be a more responsible traveler. Adhere to these suggestions to make an impact as you travel.
DECEMBER RESPONSIBLE TRAVEL CHALLENGE: HOW TO BE AN ETHICAL EATER AS YOU GLOBE-TROT
Food. Diets. Eating Habits. These are some of the most controversial topics around–and to relate them to travel is no exception. Around the globe, people are quick to judge. Some people disapprove of plant-based diets. Others can’t comprehend eating dog meat but are fine to eat cow or sheep. The first step to being an ethical eater as you globe-trot is to shed yourself of all judgment and preconceived notion.
There was an ill-advised article floating around recently that implied that vegan travelers should just eat meat while traveling in order to have authentic experiences and not offend local hosts. Consuming meat is one of the most harmful industries for the environment. A body that has gone without animal products can’t just simply fold them back into their diet. I haven’t eaten meat in 13 years, if I have even the slightest cross contamination I am violently ill. That’s not something I’d wish upon anyone.
For the last 3.5 years of full-time travel, I was mostly pescatarian but have been vegan for the last year. Never once have I felt like I was missing out on an authentic travel experience or offending my hosts. I always let people know well in advance what I can and cannot eat. Eating plant-based ends up being less expensive for hosts in rural areas who can simply prepare me a simple dish of rice and whatever veggies are in season. Meat is often the most costly food around the world–and many cultures don’t often consume meat.
I do believe there are many ways you can be an ethical eater while traveling–even if you do consume meat. Keep these tips in mind to reduce your negative impact through your food choices as you globe-trot.
NEVER PASS UP A CHANCE TO EAT WITH LOCALS
Whether you’ve been invited to share Berber tea in Morocco or a full-on parrillada in Uruguay, nothing gives you the chance to get in touch with local culture in such a fully emerged way as eating with locals does. Beyond cooking classes and street food tours, I’m always keeping my fingers crossed that new local friends may invite me over to share a meal.
If you’re on a quick holiday and don’t have the opportunity to forge meaningful relationships with locals check to see if there are any upcoming dinner parties on EatWith. The marketplace gives locals the opportunity to extend dinner party invites to travelers. Simply select your location and then your dietary restrictions: vegan and vegetarian are some of the options. They’ve got listings from over 130 countries in North America, South America, Australia, Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. Get €10 off of your first experience of at least €90 with my code 6A369E74.
Likewise, with Traveling Spoon, you can take your genuine foodie experience a step further and actually be welcomed into local kitchens for a private course where you’ll learn how to prepare a home-cooked meal side by side the chefs who know their traditional cuisine best. Get $20 off your first booking on Traveling Spoon.
IT MATTERS WHERE YOU EAT
Do your best to frequent locally owned eateries. Ask your hotel or post in local Facebook groups for recommendations. If you’re just strolling around keep an eye out for the tiny hole-in-the-wall-spots with limited menus and a few plastic chairs, they never disappoint and are usually locally owned!
Support eateries that are committed to being as zero-waste as possible. If you’ve noticed a place has swapped to bamboo straws or biodegradable containers leave them a friendly review on TripAdvisor–they’re a small family run business but have splurged on the expense to invest in reusable products and they deserve kudos for that. I just did this for Surplus, an incredible plant-based and zero-waste cafe in Siem Reap. It’s a one-of-a-kind concept here that I hope will spread quicker than the wildfires climate change is about to bring to the planet.
Seek out social enterprises which tend to give 100% or a portion of proceeds to various community-based projects that either support local NGOs or training opportunities for at-risk youth to get involved in the hospitality industry such as KOTO in Hanoi.
Locate ethically and sustainably sourced meals by using the free app iPhone app Nosh Planet. The app helps you find ethical and sustainably sourced meals around the globe. You can even earn points by checking into places that will add up for sweet deals on dining. Or, you can redeem points to donate to community food projects to help feed those in need!
Don’t go to international chains, especially not coffee shops like Starbucks, when there are almost always local haunts you could support instead in order to ensure you’re channeling your valuable tourism dollars back into the community that you’re so fortunate to visit.
IT MATTERS WHAT YOU EAT
Even if you aren’t plant-based do your best to support eateries that use organic or farm-to-table ingredients as this will have less of a negative impact on the environment. Same goes for sustainably sourced fish and free range livestock.
Avoid processed snacks wrapped in plastic that have likely been imported. Instead carry wax paper wraps to hold freshly prepared street food from local vendors such as pastries or nuts when you need to snack on the go.
If you’re on a budget and will mostly be preparing your own meals don’t fret–you can still give back. Source your produce, herbs, and spices from the local farmer market for the freshest seasonal foods and the best prices!
IT MATTERS HOW YOU EAT
Don’t order with your eyes–order with your stomach. I fail at this often but no matter what I finish my plate so that I don’t offend the restaurant owner, get my money’s worth of the meal, and don’t partake in dangerous products such as styrofoam takeaway containers, plastic utensils, and plastic bags to hold the leftovers. Better yet, bring your own takeaway container which can easily be sourced locally. Or, if you tend to be a light eater, frequent places that use biodegradable takeaway containers.
Keep a zero-waste meal pack with you at all times. This should include a collapsible coffee cup for coffee, tea, or juice as well a reusable water bottle, ideally with a filter like GRAYL, as bamboo chopsticks, metal utensils, a reusable straw (I like bamboo, glass, or metal), and a cotton napkin.
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