Unnecessary plastic packaging finds its way to our oceans - Photo by Dustan Woodhouse@Sunsplash

.Imagine the world’s oceans inhabited by more plastic than fish - this is our reality by 2050 if we don’t make the changes our planet so desperately needs. When considering buying gifts to mark those annual special occasions, many of the more traditional options contain plastics, or at the very least are stifled by plastic packaging. Over half of the presents we receive end up discarded on landfill sites every year. Opt out of this materialistic mess and get creative for an alternative gift that proves you care - and not just about your loved one.

Potions And Lotions To Protect Our Oceans

Most of us have practiced that ‘grateful for the lovely gift’ face to perfection. No one wants to unwrap a gift and appear to be disappointed, but no one wants to unwrap the usual generic plastic bottles of strange smelling fluorescent gunk either. Consider a more natural alternative that won’t clog your loved one's bathroom - or our oceans - with unnecessary plastic packaging.

A quirky alternative to the regular shampoo bottle is slowly gaining momentum in the market in the form of solid shampoo bars. Functioning in the same way as a soap bar and using natural materials like coconut oil, solid shampoo bars have fewer chemicals than liquid shampoos and usually come in eco friendly packaging. If you are particularly creative you could try making your own solid shampoo for that special, more personalized touch.

Saving The Bees

The global population of bees has been in decline since 1997, but concern really began in 2005, when the population dropped severely. The honey bee in particular is an extremely important pollinator, responsible for the pollination of much our food supply, and its protection, therefore, is of vital importance. Work must be done on a global level to protect all bee species, but we as individuals can also play a valuable role in protecting the environment and helping the bees to survive.

The products are harvested at 8 am on the 360-square-metre roof and at 9 am they are in the store. The roof also generates its energy sustainably with solar panels and by recuperating heat from the store building. The farm in this Brussels store will serve as a test to expand the program to more Delhaize units.

New York, 09 July 2018 – UN Environment and Yale University in collaboration with UN Habitat today unveiled a new eco-housing module, to spark public discussion and new ideas on how sustainable design can provide decent, affordable housing while limiting the overuse of natural resources and climate change. The 22-square-meter “tiny house” is fully powered by renewable energy and designed to test the potential for minimizing the use of natural resources such as water.

In a recent Nature Sustainability paper, a team of scientists concluded that the Earth can sustain, at most, only 7 billion people at subsistence levels of consumption (and this June saw us at 7.6 billion). Achieving ‘high life satisfaction’ for everyone, however, would transgress the Earth’s biophysical boundaries, leading to ecological collapse.

Despite its seeming scientific precision, the claim is old, not new – the latest iteration of the longstanding assertion that our population and consumption might soon exceed the Earth’s fixed ‘carrying capacity’. The concept, tellingly, owes its origin to 19th-century shipping, referring to the payload capacities of steamships. It jumped from the inanimate to the terrestrial at the end of the 19th century, describing the maximum number of livestock or wild game that grassland and rangeland ecosystems could sustain.

How can we dispose of our rubbish, i.e. what cannot be composted, repurposed/upcycled or recycled without using a plastic bag, this modern menace?

In Greece, as in many other parts of the world, people used to re-use plastic grocery bags handed-out free for throwing their garbage, but a new law has applied a tax on plastic shopping bags, so as they are charged people are avoiding them (about 80% reduction in 2 months!). But this also means that consumers now have to buy other plastic bags, from the same grocery store, for their rubbish. Its win-win for the grocery store but not for the environment or our pockets.

In non-vegan households that do not have dogs, these famous omnivores, there are food leftovers that cannot be composted. Perhaps your neighbours are complaining of real or fictitious foul smells or insects emanating from your compost bin. Perhaps your municipality does not have special bins for greasy, meat and dairy-based food leftovers. (Ours has fortunately installed three different points within walking distance, but very few people are using them - old habits die hard). In more environmentally-aware places with city-wide composting, like San Francisco, throwing your food waste in the designated compost bin is mandatory; hopefully this will become the norm globally in this century or the next(see, we are realists).

Ecology, like charity, starts at home. Poor waste management is an acute problem in many parts of the world, while it is possible, with some effort to approach zero waste, through reduce-reuse-upcycle-recycle. In this new, Green Living, section we plan to examine how easy it is to green our everyday routine, and we start with Compost or "black gold", an ancient agricultural practice which can be relatively easily performed even in a balcony or apartment, and save the climate from some more methane, a greenhouse gas that is produced when your biodegradable waste breaks down anaerobically (i.e. without oxygen) in a landfill.

About: We prefer variety over conformity, debating over dictating, and constant improvement over holy infallibility. These guidelines are not ground in stone, and we aim to continuously improve them with the assistance of our Members around the world - please feel free to add comments at the end of this page. The guidelines are broken into three main sections: "Before", "During" and "After - At Home". Eco is derived from 'Oikos' (Greek for Home) and our journeys start and end at home, our private home and our common home, Earth.
(last updated: 4 April 2020)

A. BEFORE
(Before setting out on your journey)
 

  • Study before you travel: local politics, history, culture, environment, basic phrases, health precautions.
     
  • Plan your itinerary to maximise enjoyment and minimise unnecessary transport.
     
  • Seek eco-friendly hotels, community-owned hotels, family-owned hotels and ecotours online.
     
  • Discuss with fellow eco-enthusiasts who have been there or live there, online or offline.
     
  • Try to locate locals and organisations who share your passions and worldview through social networks and arrange to meet them during your trip.
     
  • Try booking directly with local providers so as to minimise leakages and save money to spend at your destination.
     
  • Pack appropriate items for your destination, travel light. Lighter luggage helps save airline and car fuel.
     
  • Choose eco-friendly items and in particular sunscreen as it affects coral reef health.
     
  • House - check utilities, remove power plugs, cords, water the plants drip irrigation, empty fridge - foods to relatives, friends, neighbours.
     
  • Consider bringing gifts for people you are planning to meet - gifts that promote cultural exchange, eco-products (organic, vegetarian, non-violent, appropriate for destination). Do not bring items that may offend, such as clothes, unless you are visiting a destitute area. The chances are that money is more useful.
     
  • Go to your airport, train or bus station using public transport. Travel economy, save money to spend locally.
     
  • Think twice before carbon-offsetting your journey. Consider if the offsetter is a reputable one and investing in transparent, relevant social and environmental projects. You could pay this money directly to a cause or project of your choice in your destination, or by making an extra effort to use eco transport and eco accommodation.
     
  • If you cannot avoid flying, choose a direct flight and a fuel-efficient aircraft such as Airbus A350 or the Boeing 787-9. Bring your own food or choose vegetarian and vegan meal options.

  • During pandemics such as the current one, cancel your travel plans if you are unwell so as not to endanger others.


B. DURING
(During your journey)


TRAVEL

  • Prefer public transport. Share private transport with locals (rides) and other travellers. Be cautious but not hysteric with personal safety.

  • Instead of immersing yourself in your book, try interacting with other passengers, it may prove the most enjoyable and educational part of your journey.

  • Do not show off expensive items (if you have taken with you) avoid generating jealousy.

  • Give up your seat on a bus. Nothing more annoying for local people to see young foreigners taking up the seats for senior citizens.


IN YOUR HOTEL / ROOM

  • Conserve electricity and water.

  • Avoid chemical insecticides, opt for natural products, and nets.

  • Try to explain to your hosts why you picked their hotel (due to their ecological & socially just principles) offer them realistic ideas on how to improve the guest experience, if they are eager to listen. Write polite but honest reviews in guest books and online review sites.


IN NATURAL/CULTURAL SITES

  • Remain on designated trails, respect and keep far from wildlife, do not chase animals to photograph them, be silent, wear natural colours, do not take or introduce anything to the environment.

  • In protected or archaeological areas, do not disrupt scientists at work.

  • Be appreciative and genuinely interested in learning new things, do not try to outsmart local guides or impress them with your vast knowledge and travel experience.

  • Stop your guide if they try to do something inappropriate to wildlife for your amusement, and politely explain why tourists are no longer interested in such gimmicks. Do not insist on watching wildlife in case your guides go overboard to satisfy you.

  • Do not constantly compare your country with your destination in your mind and especially to your hosts, relax!

  • Try to immerse and pace yourself - keep a balance between Museums, cultural events, meeting people, visiting protected areas, monuments.

  • If you find an ancient artifact, leave it where you found it, take a picture/video and notify the appropriate archaeological authorities.

  • Know your physical limits, do not underestimate nature, listen to local advice about weather and suitable trails.
     
  • Stay only in designated campgrounds/accommodation. Be extra careful with cooking near or inside a forest, use only designated fire pits and grills.


SHOPPING

  • Prefer the local family shop to the multinational chain.

  • Buy local products for necessities. Don't carry everything with you from home.

  • Do not buy items made from endangered plants or animals.

  • Avoid wet markets that have a wildlife meat section - this is widely considered as the origin of the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • If bargaining is anticipated or tolerated, do not bargain excessively

  • Support local publishers and bookshops, buy locally-produced guides and maps.

  • Support traditional, locally-made crafts when buying gifts for loved ones back at home.


EATING & DRINKING

  • Prefer local food to international cuisine. Choose in-season dishes, try vegetarianism.

  • Avoid beverages and other products produced by multinationals.
  • Pay attention to hygienic conditions but do not overdo it, treat food as part of your exploration, without wasting it either. Taste is one of the five senses through which you will perceive your destination.

  • Prefer fresh local juice to imported condensed one.

  • Respect local alcohol-related & smoking laws and customs, especially in public.

  • Use a thermos (& purifying tablets if needed) rather than plastic water bottles.


GENERAL CONDUCT

  • Wear appropriate clothes at all times. Your target is to feel comfortable. When in Rome dress like the Romans.

  • Have nothing to do with the sex tourism industry. Avoid sleazy areas and opt for high quality, genuine cultural events.

  • Avoid insulting local sensitivities relating to morals, politics or traditions, especially in public.

  • Share experiences, information and rides with fellow travellers but not only with them, interact with local people, seek ecological organisations and movements.

  • Pay a visit (and money...) to local projects that support local society, environment, economy.

  • Observe violations of environmental laws, human rights (abuse to women, children, minorities) and animal rights (cruelty to animals) by guides, locals or travellers. Do not look away! Speak up and report to appropriate local authorities and international organisations as soon as it is safe to do so. Take a picture or video, if possible, to substantiate your claims.

  • If a fellow traveller behaves inappropriately address him politely but definitely.
  • Do not correct locals when using your language incorrectly unless they ask you to do so.

  • Similarly, do not barge into the homes of locals in tourist sites, respect their privacy.

  • Do not photograph locals without asking, and don't over do it when they accept. Offer to delete a photo you have taken if the person was for some reason offended or changed his/her mind. Be sensitive about religious, cultural or security sites.

  • If the destination you are visiting does not have suitable recycling facilities, take your rubbish (plastic, batteries) with you. For the same purpose prefer reusable items - razors, rechargeable batteries, thermos instead of plastic bottles.

  • Do not encourage children to expect sweets, money or presents from foreigners, nor their parents to use the children so as to sell products or services to tourists. Child labour in Tourism is not a sacred local tradition or custom that you necessarily need to respect.

  • If you promise something to people you meet (sending a picture, a letter), make sure you can keep your word!

  • On longer journeys, contact your relatives and close friends on a regular basis giving your exact location.


C. AFTER
(Ecotourism starts and ends at home!)

  • Consider organising a slideshow for good friends and relatives to increase interest knowledge and dispel misconceptions about the wonderful place you have just been to.

  • Keep your promises, whatever these may be, to local people you have met and fellow travellers.

  • Send a thank you note by email or a postcard to your hosts.

  • If you were satisfied, recommend these hosts to your friends.

  • Consider posting a favourite review in social media or review websites.
  • Try linking up with people from the country you have just visited and happen to live in your city. Visit an ethnic restaurant, a cultural centre, a shop. Tell them how much you liked their home, and they will love yours.

  • Keep up to date with news developments in that country, and check to see if news reports in your country correspond to what you have just observed. If not, protest!

  • Re-read the guidebooks and contact authors to correct errors, especially those about cultural and environmental issues.

  • Practice Green Living: keep reducing, reusing, recycling, composting, sharing, donating, using public transport, being kind to your fellow citizens, neighbours, immigrants and refugees. Switch from single-use/disposable to reusable products. Prefer small, local independent shops to chains and supermarkets and local non-gmo, organic products to imported ones. Become vegan or vegetarian or at least reduce your consumption of meat. Refuse unwanted giveaways and products that create waste due to their packaging. Do not use a fireplace. Do not burn cuttings from your garden, use a garden shredder or a wood chipper. Conserve energy and natural resources. Insulate your house, water heater and water pipes.

  • Finally, unlike bureaucratic & know-it-all documents, we end these guidelines with a poem, "Ithaka (Ιθάκη)" the famous C. P. Cavafy poem that advises travellers far more eloquently:

C.P. Cavafy - " Ithaka " (1911)
Translated by Edmund Keeley/Philip Sherrard

As you set out for Ithaka
hope the voyage is a long one,
full of adventure, full of discovery.
Laistrygonians and Cyclops,
angry Poseidon—don’t be afraid of them:
you’ll never find things like that on your way
as long as you keep your thoughts raised high,
as long as a rare excitement
stirs your spirit and your body.
Laistrygonians and Cyclops,
wild Poseidon—you won’t encounter them
unless you bring them along inside your soul,
unless your soul sets them up in front of you.

Hope the voyage is a long one.
May there be many a summer morning when,
with what pleasure, what joy,
you come into harbors seen for the first time;
may you stop at Phoenician trading stations
to buy fine things,
mother of pearl and coral, amber and ebony,
sensual perfume of every kind—
as many sensual perfumes as you can;
and may you visit many Egyptian cities
to gather stores of knowledge from their scholars.

Keep Ithaka always in your mind.
Arriving there is what you are destined for.
But do not hurry the journey at all.
Better if it lasts for years,
so you are old by the time you reach the island,
wealthy with all you have gained on the way,
not expecting Ithaka to make you rich.

Ithaka gave you the marvelous journey.
Without her, you would not have set out.
She has nothing left to give you now.

And if you find her poor, Ithaka won’t have fooled you.
Wise as you will have become, so full of experience,
you will have understood by then what these Ithakas mean.