Carnival season is finally upon us. That time of the year when thousands of revelers travel to different parts of the world to celebrate the occasion with colorful costumes and exuberant street parades. Carnival is an annual popular festival that usually occurs before the onset of Lent. These public celebrations usually feature street parties, parades, balls and some other forms of entertainment. From Brazil to Venice, Carnival has become a major tourist attraction for countries all around the world. However, the sharp increase in travelers flocking to one location can have a negative impact on the land, culture, and environment. So if Carnival is on your bucket list this year, read on for ways to enjoy the festivities the sustainable way.
Repurpose, Recycle, Regift!
Whether you’re in New Orleans for Mardi Gras or Trinidad for Carnival, you’re bound to become the owner of a plethora of beads or colorful feathers. While throwing beads has a long, rich history in New Orleans, many end up littering the streets or tossed into trash cans. Instead of throwing these away, re-gift them as souvenirs to family and friends. You can also donate any left over or unwanted beads to organizations like Arc of Greater New Orleans. In other countries, Carnival masqueraders opt to give their feather headpieces aways to local children as souvenirs as the festivities begin winding down. If this still isn’t an option, turn those feathers into a unique piece of artwork and hang it up on your wall.
Bring a Reusable Bottle
If you’re in a city with liberal open container laws, consider ditching the single-use plastic cups and bringing your own reusable bottle or cup for your trips to the bar. If staying hydrated with water is your top priority (trust us, you’ll want to stay hydrated), travel with your reusable bottle to stay on top of your water intake. Not only will this benefit the environment but it will allow you to skip waiting in lines to buy bottles of water, giving you more time to galavant and enjoy the parade.
Car Pool or Take Public Transportation
With thousands of people traveling to one central location to enjoy the Carnival festivities, we can only imagine the amount of traffic one would have to sit through to get from point A to point B. Instead, travel as sustainably as possible by car pooling with others or taking public transportation. If you’re in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, reserve a bike from a BikeRio station and explore the city’s main attractions at your own pace. In the Caribbean? Coordinate your travels using local paratransit vehicles that can sit 9-25 at a time. The less vehicles on the road, the lower the amount of carbon emissions and pollution released into the atmosphere AND the less traffic locals and visitors encounter. That sounds like a win-win!
One of the biggest benefits of the earth friendly travel movement is the increase in hotels and resorts that have sustainability programs in place. Whether you’re traveling to Brazil, the Caribbean or Spain to celebrate Carnival, chances are there’s an eco-friendly hotel in the area waiting to be booked. Simply download the Wayaj app to discover and book sustainable accommodations around the world. Compare the eco-rating score for each hotel and find out how they’re working to build a more sustainable environment.
Give Back To The Community
One part of sustainable travel that may not get as much attention is volunteering. Extend your stay before or after Carnival and find an enriching program to give back to the community. Project Favela in Rio de Janeiro organizes childhood education programs and adult literacy courses to help break the cycle of poverty for local residences. If Trinidad and Tobago is where you plan on celebrating Carnival this year, check out The Volunteer Center of Trinidad and Tobago to find a plethora of volunteer opportunities around the island.
Make Sustainable Food Choices
Eating healthily can sometimes be challenging when traveling but there are still ways to make sure your food choices are sustainable. Cutting back on single use-plastic and waste by bringing your own reusable bottle is a major step in the right direction. Choose cloth shopping bags, bamboo or stainless steel utensils, and water bottles and straws made from glass or stainless steel. You can even take things a small step further and travel with your own “to-go” container for leftovers. Opt for locally sourced or grown foods at restaurants to support the local community and economy. Choosing plant-based dishes over meat will also benefit your health and the environment.
Support Local Businesses
One major part of sustainable travel is supporting the local economy. According to the United Nations Environment Programme, researchers found that in the Caribbean, 80% of all money spent by tourists end up leaving the island through foreign-owned companies. As a result, there isn’t much opportunity left for local residents to profit from tourism. Instead of shopping or eating at larger stores and restaurants, check out and support local souvenir shops and mom and pop restaurants. Avoid products made from animals, which can be illegal or unsustainably sourced. Overall, choosing a locally owned shop or even tour company over a chain or corporately owned one, is a much more sustainable travel practice.
Stay On The Outskirts
Carnival is prime season for over-tourism and can put a major strain on a city or island’s infrastructure. If commuting from a second-city isn’t a viable or sustainable option, consider staying a bit further out from where all of the action is taking place. Not only will you alleviate the load by making less of an environmental impact, but you’ll also experience less crowding and lower hotel costs. That sounds like another win-win situation!
Use a Carbon Footprint Calculator
Travel accounts for one of the biggest sources of personal emissions that can be offset. While environmental impact is unavoidable when traveling, we can at least reduce our carbon footprint and the corresponding effects of our trips. Offset your travel carbon footprint using our carbon footprint calculator and see how your contribution can help reduce greenhouse gases.
Pack Light: Team Carry-On
We know how tempting it is to pack every “just in case” outfit you can find for carnival, but resist! Unfortunately, the more a plane weighs, the more carbon emissions it produces. Every pound counts when flying! Take a more strategic packing route this time around and travel only with the things you’ll need. Packing light will save your wallet from baggage fees and the environment from carbon emissions.
While carnival is an exciting and vibrant time of the year, we must also remember that it is a time of over tourism for many small cities and towns around the world. This can lead to a host of issues with infrastructure and culture, but all is not lost! Travel responsibly and strategically by supporting the locals, eating sustainably and more to make it a great trip for you, your wallet, and the environment. Low impact means more fun for everyone!