In a post I wrote months ago about easy-peasy sustainability ideas, one tip I mentioned was to keep your at-home habits with you when you travel. A super important one to take with you is your eating habits. If you’re concerned about over-fishing, for example, over-fishing continues to be a problem even if you're on vacation. In this post we’ll look at ways we can eat sustainably while we travel!
Be Vegetarian (Temporarily)
Obviously if you are already a vegetarian or vegan, this isn’t going to change when you travel. But if you’re an omnivore and are picky about how meat is sourced—go vegetarian. This is a principle my husband and I generally stick to when we go out to eat even here in Lexington. Unless a restaurant can name the farm they get their grass-fed beef from or free-range chicken and eggs, we stick to the veggies.
In some countries being a vegetarian is easier than others. Many countries’ native cuisines are vegetarian! In those vegetarian countries, not only will you be eating more sustainably, you’ll get to eat a little more authentically! (In the countries that have meat as a large part of their diet, and you truly want to have some authentic cuisine, do your research about the restaurants you’ll be visiting.)
Cook Your Own Food
On vacation?! Who would dare suggest such a thing?! Apart from cruises, I have not been on a single trip where I haven’t at least cooked some of my own food. (Ooooh, aren’t you so great, Kelsey… you might be thinking.) I mention this only to prove how easy it is! There are so many benefits to cooking your own food when you travel. First, generally it’s cheaper. Eating out is more expensive even when you aren’t on vacation.
Second, as you go grocery shopping, you’ll get to see how people get their food. If you’re still in the US, you get to see how different grocery stores are from your hometown grocery! (You probably don’t find that a hundredth as exciting as I do, but try to get into it next time!) If you’re abroad you either get to see shops that are very different from ours, open-air markets vibrant with color, or both!
Third, you can get creative with how you cook on vacation. You could take a cooking class and learn how to cook authentic cuisine of the region as part of your trip. You could stay at a farm/agritourism lodging where cooking is part of your requirements for staying. Cooking food offers so many wonderful options for you to explore cultures!
Limit Your Fish
Okay, you might be saying, I’m going to avoid meat because I’m not sure if it will have been factory farmed, but surely fish is fine? The fishing industry faces an incredible number of issues. First, overfishing is a significant problem—not just for the fishing industry but in our environmental well-being. But overfishing is a minor problem compare to the slavery. Many shrimp that come from Thailand, for example, have been caught by slaves. (Read more all about it here.)
So how do we eat sustainable fish when we travel abroad, especially when seafood is such an important part of coastal countries’ diets? Enter the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch app. With this app you can see which varieties of seafood are sustainable to eat. It’s handy, it’s helpful to you, and it’s helpful to the planet. (Dang, I wish they paid me to say that!)
There are two very easy ways to make sure your beverages are sustainable. One, avoid all coffee, tea, and hot chocolate (nooooo!) unless they’re marked as Fair Trade. It can be so easy to mindlessly make yourself a cup of coffee in your hotel room and not realize what harmful practices you’ve supported until you’re halfway through your second cup. If you can’t go without caffeine, bring your own. Another easy way to make your beverages more sustainable (mentioned in this blog post) is to bring a reusable water bottle with a filter. Lots of countries—especially in Latin America—have bacteria in the water Americans’ digestive systems aren’t used to dealing with. And if you’re trying to stay hydrated in those often-hot countries, the most common alternative is bottled water. But if you have a filter on your reusable water bottle, you won’t contribute to all that plastic waste from the disposable water bottles!
Do you have other sustainable eating suggestions for those of us traveling? Please share in the comments below!
Now get out there and go!