If you are travelling in third world countries, like Tanzania for example, then there are many ways of travelling green – as many as there are different aspects and focuses of sustainable travel. Not all of them are always possible and not all of them apply to every place on earth, so it all depends on where you go and how you travel, but in my opinion there is one thing that everybody can and should take to heart everywhere: Avoid plastic!
Besides the obvious reasons that we always hear in the western hemisphere, like high pollution in the production process, lots of toxins, mostly one-time use and hence lots of waste, there are quite a few more that especially apply to third world countries.
The basic problem in these countries is, that people are used to using materials for packaging, food etc. that they’d just throw away afterwards and it would compost by itself – banana leafs, paper, raffia bags, peel from fruits, etc. And people continue doing it, but nowadays they throw plastic bottles, plastic bags, plastic covers and so on after using them. And well… in most of these places there is no such thing as garbage collection of any kind (reasons for this range from missing infrastructure to just the point that it’s not worth to invest in something like this), so the only option would actually be to collect the garbage yourself and burn it in the end. But the mindset for this is still missing.
In the big cities garbage became such a big problem that people themselves started to burn it – and that’s how it smells; it stinks horribly, it’s dirty and the air is even more polluted than just with old cars, simply because there is no garbage collection system. When the rains start and the cities are flooded, and especially Dar es Salaam being located on the Indian Ocean, the water takes all the garbage out to the sea and the current will spread it even further up and down the coastline. This is also true to other places being located close to a river or the sea – a lot of the garbage ends up eventually in the ocean and then right on your beach holiday in the good case or in the stomachs of turtles and birds in the bad case.
And whereas three years ago here in Tanzania you could only buy Coca Cola in glass bottles (which you’d have to drink right away in order to give it back to the shop – deposit wouldn’t work), nowadays you can only get plastic bottles – it’s easier: less transport, lighter and of course more comfortable, just take it and throw it away afterwards.
So as a tourist, it of course won’t make a huge difference on the whole if you buy plastic or not, but it will make an impression on the people who sell it to you, if you refuse plastic bags in stores or ask for your drinks in a glass bottle, especially if you explain a bit about the reason behind it. It will also help if at home you will avoid plastic, because it will reduce demand and make the
industry reduce its plastic production – and this will not only affect you in the western hemisphere, but every other place as well.