By Travel Photographer Margaret E. Hyde
Webster’s Dictionary defines mindfulness as “the trait of staying aware (paying close attention to) your responsibilities and/or being present in the moment.” When traveling, I strive for a mindful experience, meaning I am present and fully take in my experiences in the moment and try to stay aware of the impact of my travel experience.
Travel, which requires the use of transportation, is by its very nature not a “green” activity, but it can be a mindful journey.
Mindful travel involves asking questions and making sustainable choices in how and where you travel and choose to stay. Why bother taking the time and energy to be more mindful and aware? The travel industry is one of the worlds largest industries, with billions of people traveling globally, and it is making an impact on the environment globally in terms of warming effects of carbon and more locally in terms of its effect on wildlife, indigenous cultures, and cultural heritage sites — from the destruction of coral reefs in the Caribbean to the accumulation of plastic waste in remote villages and parks.
Here are some tips to help you be a Mindful Traveler….
This is making the impact of your travel “carbon neutral” by balancing out the impact of your carbon-emitting travel source, be it plane, train, or car by paying an organization money to plant trees to offset the global warming effects emitted by your trip. It is a minor cost, usually between $10 to $ 50 dollars, depending on the length of the trip. The Internet is full of free sites where you can calculate your carbon footprint. My favorite is Terra Pass Carbon Foot Print Calculator.
Once you have calculated your carbon footprint for your trip, you can use an organization like Trees for the Future to offset the carbon footprint of your trip. For other organizations that offer carbon offsetting, you can go to this Green Travel Resources page.
Choose an Eco-Friendly Hotel or Resort:
There are many websites listing organizations that rate eco-friendly hotels, but sometimes it is hard to tell how sustainable they really are. The most important things to look for and ask about are the following:
Do they have a ‘green’ sustainability program? What does that refer to? Is it a recycling program, gray water, energy efficient lighting and/or alternative energy program, or simply an optional guest reuse of towel and sheet program?
To me, the most mindful choice is the hotel and resort that is committed to giving back and supporting the eco-system, culture, and community that they are in. A non-profit foundation that supports the community is the mark of a truly committed sustainable eco-hotel or resort.
For a list of truly eco-friendly high-end hotels and resorts you can go to Eco Luxury.
For a list of budget friendly truly eco-friendly resorts, you can also go to that Green Travel Resources page I mentioned above.
Be a mindful traveler:
In the words of Chief Seattle, “Take only memories, leave nothing but footprints.”
To do this, be mindful of the following:
- Walk, hike, bike, or rent a hybrid whenever possible.
- Be aware of water consumption, take short showers, and participate in towel & sheet reuse programs.
- Turn off lights and air-conditioning when you are out of your room and remember to unplug chargers and small electronics that pull energy even when not in use.
- When sightseeing, be aware of your impact on the environment. Leave nothing behind and do not remove anything, like shells, coral, or rocks.
- Support the local community you are visiting by purchasing local goods and participating in service/give-back programs wherever possible.
My favorite mindful resort is Nihiwatu Resort in Sumba, Indonesia. Sumba is an island east of Bali that is spectacularly beautiful and untouched and is home to one of the last truly animist cultures in the world. The owners of the Nihiwatu resort have created one of the most sustainable, eco resorts in the world and, at the same time, established the Sumba Foundation, which is dedicated to lessening the harsh impact of poverty on the Indonesian island of Sumba. “The Foundation aims to achieve this through village-based projects focusing on health, education, rehabilitation and construction of clinics, schools and potable water sources, and income generation opportunities, while preserving and respecting the cultural traditions of its people.”
About Margaret Hyde:
Margaret Hyde is a travel photographer author and filmmaker born and raised in Memphis, Tennessee. Hailing from a philanthropic legacy, Margaret’s family founded the Hyde Family Foundations (HFF). The Foundation’s passion for Memphis and what it stands for centers on K-12 education reform as well as creating healthy neighborhoods for the communities it serves. Both Margaret and HFF are also deeply involved with the National Civil Rights Museum as supporters and donors. The museum’s repository of artifacts symbolizing the heart of the nation and the birth of the Civil Rights Movement has become a national treasure. For more information visit: Margaret Hyde Photography.