Backpacking and Sustainability

Dorm ShareBackpackers provide interesting insights into how people can act in more sustainable ways. Recent research reveals the many ways backpackers act sustainably – often without meaning to.

This research reveals sustainable actions on environmental issues such as reducing resource consumption and waste. It shows how backpackers can help improve our economic sustainability, for example by filling labour shortages or spending money in ways that benefit local communities.

So here are seven sustainability lessons we can learn from backpackers.

  1. They carpool regularly

Backpackers are into carpooling because it lets them achieve two of their goals – saving money and having new experiences. It also forces them to drive through some fairly remote areas of Australia. Backpackers still need to purchase petrol, food and accommodation in these places, which provides a small boost to local economies.

While each backpacker’s spending is quite low, the combined effect of their small purchases is significant.

  1. They don’t waste food

It has been reported that the average Australian wastes 200 kg of food per year. But not so in backpacker hostels, where “free food” shelves are a common sight.  Each hostel usually has one in the kitchen and one in the fridge.

  1. They’re not acquisitive

The amount of possessions backpackers can carry is strictly limited.  They are forced to live for long periods carrying only what they can fit in their backpacks (or, increasingly, in their trolley cases).  A backpacking holiday is a good way to learn that life without a lot of stuff isn’t so bad.

  1. They know how to share

Long before the “sharing economy” became a globally recognised phenomenon, backpackers were regularly sharing kitchen facilities, food, bedrooms and cars.

When resources are shared like they are among backpackers, consumption goes down, greenhouse gas emissions are lowered and less waste is produced.

  1. They trust each other

Having to share bedrooms and kitchens and driving halfway across Australia with a bunch of people you’ve just met might seem daunting, but for backpackers it’s tolerated (even enjoyed) as part of the experience.

But what really makes it a functional arrangement is trust. Backpackers have to be able to trust the other backpackers they’re living with. Mutual trust provides social benefits because it helps keep a community together, and backpacking couldn’t function without it.

  1. They want to respect cultural differences

Many backpackers to Australia want to demonstrate cultural respect. In fact, backpackers in central Australia commonly chose not to climb Uluru upon learning it is against the law of the Anangu, the traditional owners. This is a way backpackers can actively demonstrate cultural respect and understanding.

  1. They’re happy without luxuries

Backpackers don’t need to shower every day and they are happy washing their clothes by hand. The cooking utensils, kitchen facilities and bedding at many hostels in Australia are in various states of disrepair – but it doesn’t bother backpackers.

This is sustainable because it prolongs the life of these items. By not having to regularly replace kitchen and bedding products, hostels are able to reduce waste, greenhouse gas emissions and water consumption associated with the manufacturing, transport and disposal of these items.

Perhaps also it’s the freedom we all love about backpacking.

Compiled by Mike Barrow

Source: The Conversation


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