6 tips on becoming an earth-friendly traveller – Zafigo.com, November 11 2017

It’s normal to let routine go out the window while abroad. Leaving it all behind is what travelling is about, right? Yet, while it’s okay to ease up on your work and other grown-up responsibilities while you’re globe-trotting, it’s important to remain a responsible traveller overall. Taking a few steps to be more environmentally-friendly is one way to do just that.

1: Say no to plastic

You can easily accumulate hoards of plastic when travelling around Asia, where drinking bottled water is the norm for tourists and bagging fresh produce in the market is a given. You can quickly build a mountain of plastic rivalling Mount Kinabalu in size! Avoid this; it’s up to you to take charge of your consumer habits.

Staying hydrated is certainly important in the heat. To keep your water intake up and your plastic consumption down, why not purchase a refillable flask? In Thailand, Malaysia and Vietnam, in particular, clean water stations are quite common. In Kuala Lumpur, for example, you can find water coolers at some malls and at the airport. There are also vending machines that dispense potable water at a fraction of the price you’d pay for bottled water at a convenience store. So not only will you be saving plastic, but also some tourist dollars in the process. You can also use reusable containers for takeaway coffees, juices and street food.

Saying no to straws is another way to avoid unnecessary plastic – your fresh mango juice will taste just as good, I promise! In places such as Koh Tao in Thailand, many bars offer metal straws. Support these businesses when possible.

If you’re staying in one place for a while, it’s likely that you’ll be shopping in markets, so pick up some large reusable bags. They’re better for the environment and much easier to carry on a motorbike than dozens of plastic bags.

2: Repair and wear

As a long-term traveller, I make sure that my entire wardrobe fits into my backpack. Unfortunately, wearing and washing the same things again and again soon leads to wear and tear. The easiest thing to do is replace damaged clothes but are you creating more waste in the process?

Before you say farewell to your well-travelled shirt, ask yourself: Is this mendable? If it’s simply a case of a few holes or ripped stitches, take it to a local tailor to get fixed. Bags, hats, clothes and shoes can be mended in a matter of minutes. Maybe your shorts have a stain that just won’t come out? Why not buy a few colourful patches or badges to cover them? Of course, some things cannot be saved, but that’s not to say that they don’t have a purpose. Your old t-shirt can serve as a cleaning cloth, the strap from your worn bag can become a headband – be creative!

3: Make smart moves

Whether moving by road or air, travelling takes its toll on the environment, and it’s unavoidable. But we’ve got to get to places somehow, right? By being conscious of our travel choices when route-planning, we can at least minimise the effects that our explorations have on the planet.

Air travel is one of the biggest offenders when it comes to CO2 emissions, and cheap airlines make it tempting to fly short distances. While many international flights are necessary, travelling domestically or to neighbouring countries often doesn’t require a flight. Most sleeper trains and buses are extremely comfortable and will leave you with more stories to tell than a quick plane journey.

If travelling within a smaller area, research all public transport options. Trains and buses in Asia are extremely affordable, and in some cases, even free. Taking a car or taxi may sometimes be necessary; if so, try to carpool or share a cab. Even Uber and Grab offer carpooling options in many cities.

Travelling by motorbike is another authentic experience when exploring Asia, and there’s nothing like feeling the wind in your hair as you cruise along in the sunshine. However, if you aren’t going far, why not walk or cycle instead? It may be hot, but a little sweat never did anyone any harm!

4: Get involved

Taking part in a local clean-up allows you to do your bit for the environment while soaking in the sights and sounds of a new place. During my travels around South East Asia over the last nine months, I have been pleasantly surprised to see just how many beach and river clean-ups are organised by locals and expats alike. By asking around or doing a search on Facebook groups, you’re likely to find something similar in your area. These clean-ups are also a great opportunity to socialise, as those involved often arrange to go for some food or a drink afterwards. Some of the more adventurous outings even allow you to kayak as you clean! If you can’t find a clean-up near you, why not be a pioneer and organise one yourself? Who knows what it could lead to.

5: Eat your veggies

It’s well documented that reducing the global meat consumption can benefit the environment but you don’t have to go cold turkey (or should I say cold tofu?) to make a difference. Becoming a vegetarian isn’t for everyone, and I think it’s only fair to respect everyone’s choices. However, even having one or two meatless days a week is a positive step forward. Asian countries have a huge selection of delicious vegetarian dishes waiting to be tried, from pad Thai and papaya salad in Thailand to vegetarian spring rolls in Vietnam. Fresh tropical fruit and juices are also a cheap and easy vegetarian breakfast choice that provide great refreshment in the sweltering heat. It’s quite easy to request vegetarian food anywhere if you can express your needs; learn the word for vegetarian in various languages or better still, use Zafigo’s handy travel cards.

6: Reuse and recycle

Waste collection methods differ in every country, but with a little research and effort, you can find out where to recycle plastic, glass and paper in your area. You can also ask local food businesses whether they sanitise and reuse their packaging. Peanut butter is my biggest weakness, and while living in Da Nang, I found a local company that produces and sells their own. They were delighted to take back my (dozens of) empty tubs to reuse, and many other businesses are equally keen to do the same.

When it comes to recycling clothing that you no longer want, many charities are often crying out for unwanted clean clothes. Ask a local friend if they can point you in the right direction. Alternatively, find or organise a clothes swap party with others in the area – it’s all the fun of a new wardrobe without denting your bank balance.

(First published on Zafigo.com on November 11 2017. Available online at: http://zafigo.com/stories/zafigo-stories/6-tips-on-becoming-an-earth-friendly-traveller/)

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Lisa McDonald calls for proper catchment areas in Wexford – Wexford People, August 27 2016

‘Meaningful and proper catchment areas’ need to be introduced in order to resolve the problem concerning school transport according to Councillor Lisa McDonald.

Lisa, who has been campaigning over the difficulty to secure school places in Wexford, said that she has been speaking with several worried parents whose children have not been allocated a seat on the school bus. She said that this problem is directly linked to the fact that many students are being forced to attend school outside of their locality due to a lack of places.

‘If the government was to introduce meaningful and proper catchment areas, it would solve this problem,’ she said. ‘An awful lot of people want to send their children to schools in Wexford but they are being forced to send them to schools further afield.’

While Lisa believes that parents should have the choice on whether they send their child to school locally or elsewhere, she said that those residing within the vicinity of a school should get ‘first choice’ when it comes to school places, regardless of parental links.

In the meantime, she said that those who are being forced to travel outside of their area to attend school should have their transport funded by the government.

‘The TDs in the county need to get meeting with the Minister and Department and fund the buses for children who, through no fault of their own, are being forced to attend school outside of their area,’ she said.

‘To use a pun, Minister Bruton has missed the bus,’ she said. ‘There are no plans or joined up thinking in relation to this. If he wants to put his mark down, he should go and do what is right.’

(First published in the Wexford People newspaper: print edition. Also available online at: http://www.wexfordpeople.ie/news/lisa-mcdonald-calls-for-proper-catchment-areas-in-wexford-34986351.html)

Oylegate bypass may not go ahead despite earlier indications – Wexford People, July 9 2016

Plans to extend the M11 south of Oylegate after the completion of the Enniscorthy bypass appear to be ‘dead in the water’ according to Fianna Fail TD James Browne.

But the County Council remain hopeful that the project can proceed, despite the Fianna Fail deputy’s concerns.

Work on the proposed four km extension to the southern end of the M11 Enniscorthy Bypass was expected to begin at the end of 2018. However, in a letter from Transport Infrastructure Ireland, Deputy Browne was informed that the proposed Oylegate to Enniscorthy bypass road improvement scheme is not included in the Government’s capital investment plan from 2016 to 2021. It went on to say that ‘the further advancement of the proposed scheme cannot be accommodated in the national roads programme at present.’

‘The letter doesn’t just seem to be saying it won’t be advanced. It seems to be saying it’s not going in ahead. To me, it looks like it’s dead in the water,’ explained Deputy Browne, who received the letter after he put a parliamentary question to Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Shane Ross.

‘I was under the impression that it was to go ahead following announcements during the General Election and articles I have read. However, the government have decided that it’s not part of their plans.’

Director of Services with Wexford County Council’s Road Department Eamonn Hore said that the extension was never part of the government plan but said that they are ‘quietly confident’ that it is still going ahead.

‘It never was part of the government plan. The contract is for the bypass of Enniscorthy but we have made the case that it doesn’t make sense to stop there. At the very least, it should stop after Oylegate,’ he said.

‘The TII agreed to fund the exploration if it,’ he continued. ‘On foot of the recommendations made by Wexford County Council, they have decided to look at it.

‘It’s definitely going to happen at some stage but we can’t put the money in place until we have examined the different routes.’

Mr Hore said that they are taking the process in steps and still hope to have the design and funding secured so that work will commence at the end of 2018.

Mr Hore said that it was not in their view that the extension had been scrapped, adding that he thinks wires have been crossed.

‘From every point of view it makes sense not to bring the dual carriageway to a halt north of Oylegate and we are being listened to. It was never in the programme.’

In February, County Manager Tom Enright announced that approval had been received from Transport Infrastructure Ireland that the M11 project could proceed beyond Oylegate. Speaking to this newspaper in June, he said he hoped that the proposed extension would get underway at the end of 2018. He went on to say that the county council was currently arranging the procurement of consultants to carry out the detailed design work for the extension, which will cost around €30 mn.

However, Deputy Browne was not hopeful following the TII response.

‘The bypass is necessary. If it doesn’t go ahead, Oylegate will be the only village or residential area between Belfast and the Rosslare Europort. This will mean a lot of cars and heavy goods vehicles will continue to travel through Oylegate.’

‘The village will effectively come to a standstill,’ added Deputy Browne, who said that he expects traffic jams similar to those in Enniscorthy to hit the village.

According to him, the village is already dealing with heavy traffic at certain times.

However, Oylegate-based councillor Willie Kavanagh doesn’t view the current traffic situation as an issue and said that he has not witnessed any traffic jams during his 40 years in the village. He said that, if the bypass doesn’t go ahead, he doesn’t expect traffic to increase.

As owner of The Slaney Inn, Cllr Kavanagh said the bypass will not affect his business whether or not it goes ahead, saying that most of his customers are local. However, he said it could have a huge hit on the local supermarket, restaurants and filling station in the village, which rely on visitors and passing motorists for trade.

However, according to Deputy Browne, scrapping the extension will have an impact on Oylegate and the wider community.

‘It is bound to have a knock-on effect for Wexford town. if there are serious transport problems for those travelling from Wexford to the airport and other places, it is going to have an impact on business.’

(First published in the Wexford People newspaper: print edition. Also available online at: http://www.wexfordpeople.ie/news/oylegate-bypass-may-not-go-ahead-despite-earlier-indications-34870325.html)