Eight ways to be a responsible traveller, and make a real and lasting difference
Words Nadia Margaret
Wear clothing that supports local artisans
There’s a growing awareness about some of the negative aspects of mass-market clothes, from sweatshops and chemically treated cotton, to the edging out of local craftsmanship by multinational corporations. As a response, there are a whole cluster of companies that have sprung up in the past ten years that advocate ethical fashion. One of our favourites is Sika Designs, a company that handpicks Ghanaian prints and turns them into stylish pieces. Each piece is produced by local tailors and seamstresses who get a fair and regular income for the considerable skill they put into each design. Ethically produced clothing is the new black.
Invest in groundbreaking technology to help others
No, we’re not talking about purchasing the latest iPad. The kind of technology that’s really needed in the world are items like solar lamps for the whopping 80% of the developing world that doesn’t have electricity, new kinds of water filtration systems, and cleaner stoves – and this is where you come in. Kopernik is an organisation that brings together community groups that submit requests for these kinds of technologies and people who donate to fund them. You can choose which project and which technologies you want to fund, so it goes straight to the user with no middlemen involved. Next time you feel like a spot of online shopping consider helping others gain access to gadgets that will truly change their lives.
Help to eradicate polio
For many people in high-income countries, polio conjures up images of the 1950s, but it’s still around, and unfortunately it’s endemic in Nigeria. It is possible to eradicate it, though, and that’s exactly what the Government of Nigeria has pledged to do, with help from everyone including the Sultan Of Sokoto, community health workers, the Bill And Melinda Gates Foundation, Unicef, WHO, and Rotary International. Perhaps the best way to help is to raise awareness of this issue and support the efforts to combat polio eradication in the country.
Fly with a conscience
Many frequent flyers will know how much carbon dioxide their flights produce – more on one long-haul return flight than the average car owner produces in a year. Fortunately, there’s a good way to mitigate the pressure flying puts on the environment, and that’s with carbon offsetting schemes. These schemes put the money you donate into alternative energy sources, so supporting them means that you can fly with a conscience as clear as the skies .
Climatefriendly.com, Co2balance.com, Carbon-clear.com
Cycle more, drive less.
Planes aren’t the only forms of transport that put pressure on the environment, of course. Driving a car also emits huge amounts of carbon. Taking a bicycle is a fast, environmentally-friendly way to get from point A to point B, and it’s cheap. London makes it easy to pick up a bike, ride to wherever you need to go, and leave it there. It’s convenient, fun, and exhilarating.
Go local, think local.
The principle of thinking about where you spend your money and whom you give it to applies to a plethora of things while you’re on holiday, including hotels, tour operators, and handicrafts. It’s easy to make the money you spend really count for the local community – just remember the adage “go local” and you’ll help – not harm – while you’re travelling.
Support girls in education
It’s a proven fact that educating girls creates a richer and healthier society. For example, in Nigeria, if young women had the same employment rates as men the country would add a whopping $13.9 billion anually. Unfortunately, there are still millions of girls, worldwide, who don’t go to school, especially in Africa and Asia. Since, like Nelson Mandela said, poverty is not an accident but man-made like slavery and apartheid, we can do our bit to lift people out of it.
Use the internet to enable creative projects
Why not wean yourself off Twitter and use your online downtime to browse for projects you can support? Crowdfunding websites make it easy to find creative projects and organisations you’re passionate about. From community empowerment groups and NGOs, to documentary film and art projects, there’s a world of positive contributions to be made all over the world. As just one example among many, I love the documentary, Elder’s Corner on Kickstarter (elderscornerfilm.com) – a musical journey through the colourful history of Nigeria.”