Sunday, 14 March 2010

10:10 Carbon Friendly Backpacking?

I've mentioned a couple of times that I've joined the 10:10uk initiative. This is an ambitious, but achievable goal to unite all sectors of society with the aim to reduce the UK's carbon footprint by 10% in the year 2010. Individuals, organisations and companies are all being encouraged to get involved.

So..if you're a regular follower, you'll also know that in about 3 weeks time (Easter Sunday in fact) I'll be leaving on a jetplane for South East Asia on a 3 month backpacking stint.

Jetplane, I'm not getting off to a good start am I?

If I were looking for a get-out clause then I could probably argue that I won't even be in the UK for 3 months so that's guaranteed to lower its footprint right? I'll be emitting all my carbon in SE Asia so who cares?

Fortunately I'm not that way inclined. Wherever in the world I am, I should be taking responsibility for the resources I'm using and the byproducts I'm producing (is this a fancy way of talking about poo??). After all, at the end of the day, the whole world will suffer, something todays 'superpowers' need to get their heads around.

So, what am I going to do to reduce my carbon footprint?

1) Use as little electricity as possible

I'm blogging my way around so I'll be using a netbook as well as a mobile phone, camera and ipod. There's the danger that I could be using a stupid amount of electricity....which is why I've invested in yet another gadget, this little beastie here:

The Freeloader, a solar charger that will charge my phone, ipod and camera batteries (possibly my netbook though I've yet to try that one). This will be good in reducing my carbon impact and also for reducing the number of chargers I have to lug around with me.

Knowing my luck it'll be cloudy and rainy the whole trip now.

2) Buying Local

It's very easy as a westerner suffering total culture shock to migrate towards anything familiar. I'm sure I'll spend a whole lot of time in Boots on Kho San Road on the first day, just stroking bottles of sun lotion and the like. But supporting local markets and shops is important, as well as really supporting the economy (rather than just the capitalist bigwigs), chances are I'll be purchasing less in the way of packaging.

I'll also get to chat to locals, practice some dire local language and try haggling (something I'm a little bit terrified of given how terribly English I am)

3) Transport

There are a couple of internal flights that I'm unlikely to be able to avoid (Cambodia to Bali for example...if anyone has a good suggestion please let me know), but mostly I'll be trying to go for buses or trains when it comes to long journies such as Bangkok to Chiang Mai and Hanoi to HCMC.

I'm a big walker, I love walking and so if I can avoid having to use a tuk tuk, mototaxi or cab whilst exploring a city, then I will. Bonus, it'll save me a little bit of money too.

In terms of transport, I'm going to try and remember to make a note of what I use and where, and then compare my average carbon usage during a month at home and a month away. A handy resource for working this out was pointed out to me a few weeks ago, a study by the UCL Environment Institute. They carried out a survey into how staff travel to work, and have worked out average footprints for different types of staff. Interesting stuff, if you'd like to read it, here's the link.

4) Use 'green' companies as far as possible, support green initiatives

For trekking opportunities, and organised visits to places like HaLong Bay which is a UNESCO world heritage site it's best to use companies that are sensitive to both the environment and those indigenous peoples living in the area. Green Discovery Laos is one such company I'll probably be harrassing.

You can also find many hostels that are striving to be 'green', and there are restaurants and bars that run schemes whereby they take on young locals as apprentices and train them up as chefs or bar management. These are good to support for the sake of the local economy, I'll be carrying around a list of some good places to visit.

5) Do Some Volunteering

Well, depending on the type of voluntary work you're doing I guess this might not directly affect your carbon footprint, but I like to include it because it fits in with the general theme of awareness. One organisation I'm dying to spend some with is Big Brother Mouse in Luang Prabang.

The main thing these guys do is teach Lao kids how to read and write Lao, in an effort to increase rates of literacy in the country. As you can imagine, I wouldn't be much good at that! What they also do is, from 9-11am every morning, they encourage English speaking tourists to drop by and chat to Lao teens and young adults, to help them develop their English conversational skills. I'd love to do this for at least a few days.

Although it might not directly impact on your carbon footprint, doing work like this helps you to learn more about the people and the culture you're submerging yourself in. I think that this in turn increases your awareness of how your activities might affect them and makes you more likely to take care of how you treat the country you're moving through.

Those are the main things, but there's also the little things like making sure I throw away all my rubbish, don't waste anything, take my own water bottle etc etc. When you think about it there are lots of little things you can do to try and leave as little trace of yourself as possible...who wants to see piles of backpacker detritus building up?

If you haven't joined already then check it out here 10:10uk.

What will you be doing over the next few months to lower your carbon footprint?

Tarrah xx


  1. To SE Asia?? For 3 months?? Oh my, lucky you!!

  2. Lucky me indeed! Though when I booked it, 3 months seemed forever, now after having looked at all the things I want to see it seems like such a short period of time.

    It'll be amazing and wonderful, I can't wait!

  3. Good luck Sprogs and have a great one. Word of advice, avoid the Opium Dens, it's easy to lose track of time when you're there. Not been to one myself but a friend of mine has. She and her mates spent a week smoking opium before realising that they had to get out of there as soon as possible.

  4. Thanks Norm :)

    I wasn't intending on visiting any opium dens actually. I hope I don't fall in with the wrong crowd who lure me there!

    Only because I don't have a week to spare you understand. I'll go back and give myself a good month to check out the dens :)

  5. Looking forward to reading about this spectacular adventure.