The Lessons I Learned When I Failed At Traveling Sustainably

I spent the month of July on the island of Jersey, within the Channel Islands. As much as I prepared for this trip and planned for Plastic Free July/sustainable traveling in general, I failed quite a few times. Instead of hyper-focusing on the “failure” aspect, I’ve shifted my mindset and take this as a valuable learning opportunity. And so, I wanted to share the ways I learned to adjust after I failed traveling sustainably.I hope the ways I “failed” inspire you to keep trying if you’ve found yourself in a similar situation and also, to feel okay with attempting to travel sustainably. As perfect as sustainable traveling seems on Instagram, it can be frustrating when we feel like we’re not doing as well as we can. I’m hoping my vulnerability encourages you on your journey and is a reminder that we don’t have to be perfect, but we have to keep trying to be better––even when we “fail”, even when we learn something new, even when we don’t want to or think it’s difficult.

1. Grocery Store Packaging

Being in a new country and despite researching sustainable grocery stores near where I was staying, I still found myself eating out more and with options that included single-use plastic. My hotel reservations were mixed up and the room I ended up staying in didn’t have a fridge or kitchen option for me to pick up groceries and use my reuseable containers, as planned.

2. Customs

Oof, this was a big mistake. I ended up accidentally packing a bag of things in my carry-on suitcase instead of the suitcase I checked and customs pulled it out. Because I didn’t want to waste all of those reusable items, I ended up having them delivered to my friend’s house that I could pick up later. I opted for the local mail transport since it she was in the same country as the airport. But, because of this mistake, I had to buy more things on-island and they didn’t have sustainable versions of the items I purchase/thrifted before.

3. Local Coffee Shops

Partially due to the pandemic and the other aspect of the business plan, nearly all of the coffee shops I went to didn’t have reusable cups/utensils and they don’t ethically or sustainably source their coffee/products. This was a major bummer for me since I love supporting small businesses––especially in the latte realm.

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4. Weather

The weather was incredibly different than what the forecast/blogs reported. I poorly packed for the colder summertime weather and had to pick up a light coat and proper rain gear. Again, there weren’t consciously made or thrifted pieces in my size so I couldn’t opt for a sustainable purchase.

5. Transportation

I intended to take public transport to minimize my carbon footprint but alas the first few days were more of a struggle due to delays, being lost, and itinerary changes at the activities I was scheduled for. I ended up having to take more taxis and there weren’t rideshare options to minimize my emission. So, overall I was the most defeated with this as I felt wasteful sitting in the backseat. But, I made sure that I walked everywhere else and utilized the bus/carpool other times.

 

If you’re overwhelmed with the idea of traveling sustainably and needing to have it 100% figured out, you don’t! And if you’ve traveled with the mission to reduce your waste and found yourself in a similar state of disappointment with the results as me, comment your fails. I’d love to hear the lessons you’ve learned while trying to make a positive impact.

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