Episode 197: Responsible Travel with Desirée and Ginger

There is no question that travel impacts both our planet and its people.  Yet it’s also an amazing opportunity to explore both ourselves and world, while deepening our understanding for the other humans sharing this planet. Can we travel more responsibly, finding a balance between ethics and exploration?  Amanda is joined by Desirée of The Pewter Thimble and travel writer/educator Ginger to break it down. 

In this episode we will explore the following questions:

  • What is responsible travel?
  • What is our impact as travelers on tourist destinations?
  • How can we get the most out of travel without wearing ourselves out?
  • Why should we skip the bucket list and the search for “hidden gems?”
  • How can we do better with souvenirs? 
  • How does travel connect with overconsumption? And even the fast fashion industry?
  • And so much more…

Check out Desirée’s guide to Porta Portese here.

Read Ginger’s travel writing:

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Welcome to Clotheshorse, the podcast that really knows how to over pack for a trip!


I’m your host, Amanda, and this is episode 197. And yes, this week we will be talking all about travel: how to do it more responsibly, ways to rethink souvenirs, and ultimately, how we can get the most out of our travels.  I am joined by two amazing guests to talk about this today: Desiree, who owns The Pewter Thimble, and Ginger, a writer for Lonely Planet as well as numerous other publications and books, she also teaches courses on the history of travel for Atlas Obscura. We will be breaking down the question: How can we be better when we travel? This might feel like a weird topic for Clotheshorse, but ultimately, travel is yet another thing we consume, and there are certainly tons of people trying to sell us stuff for travel.  In fact, in the mid 2010s, a lot of my employers began selling travel related products, like luggage, sleep masks, travel cubes, passport holders, and so much more because it was another way to sell us stuff! And of course, there were also emails and curated collections of vacation clothing and even comfy stuff to wear on the plane.

Now, I’m going to tell you now that we are not going to be digging into the carbon footprint of travel or the ethics of to travel or not to travel.  And that’s primarily because I just don’t have a simple black and white answer for you when it comes to that. There are many thoughts around this all over the internet, from people who say we should never travel period if we care about the planet, to those that say “oh yeah, go ahead and do it but be sure to purchase carbon offsets.” Others point out that it would be even more impactful to minimize business travel by utilizing virtual meetings more often and pushing companies to stop shipping so much via air cargo, even slowing down our own personal expectations around how fast we should receive those shoes we just ordered by allowing them to ship slowly via train and truck, rather than overnight via air.  And some experts say that the best thing we can do is push the aviation industry to shift to hydrogen powered planes, which ostensibly have little-to-no carbon impact.  


Like a lot of things we discuss here on Clotheshorse, there is no easy black and white answer, and it’s up to us to find what feels right for us on an individual level.

Here’s what I do know: 

  • A 2018 study published in Nature found that global tourism is responsible for 8% of global greenhouse gas emissions. For some context, that’s pretty similar to the greenhouse gas emissions of the fashion industry.
  • About 70% of those emissions from travel are the actual transportation of it, with much of that coming from air travel.
  • The remaining 30% of that  is from food, accommodations, and shopping.
  • There are many people who are opting not to travel at all, or at least not to travel via airplane, in an effort to mitigate their own individual impact.
  • For myself, traveling is one of life’s greatest pleasures and it’s really the only luxury that I give myself.  I minimize my food waste as much as possible.  I buy new stuff only when absolutely necessary, opting to shop secondhand for the things I need. I reuse and repair everything.  I try to avoid plastic packaging and plastic waste. I minimize my car use.  I hang my laundry to dry, rather than using a dryer.  And so on. I do as much as I can to minimize my own impact on the planet. I eat a plant based diet. But I also travel.  It has been a difficult thing for me to reconcile at times, but when I do travel, I practice the same thoughtful avoidance of waste and excess that I do in my day-to-day life:
    • I take public transportation everywhere (unless I am somewhere rural where it is not an option).
    • I avoid overshopping and generating a lot of trash.
    • I skip plastic bottles of water, etc as much as possible by bringing reusable containers with me. And I just try to be thoughtful and respectful at all times.
  • Once again, my concern for the planet and its people has been at times difficult to balance  with my love of travel, of being new places, having new experiences, and meeting new people.  But I also have to remind myself that my entire existence has an impact on the planet and it’s always going to be a process to find that balance between minimizing my impact AND living my life to its fullest.  When it comes to travel, it means changing up my approach to travel by doing it more responsibly, ensuring that I receive the maximum amount of impact from it, while minimizing the external impact of it.  Does that make sense?


My overarching advice on travel is this:

  • You don’t need to buy a new suitcase of clothing for your vacation. I actually always pack my most favorite clothes, because then I know every day of my trip will feel a little bit more special.
  • Don’t buy a bunch of dumb travel-related stuff based on listicles.  Find a travel pillow that you will actually use, you can organize stuff in your suitcase using tote bags you already have (although a hot tip is that I see a lot of packing cubes at thrift stores these days), get yourself a pair of compression socks for long haul flights, and even change into your pajamas and slippers for an overnight flight. 
  • Take public transportation. Seriously, it’s the best, cheapest way to get around and you get to really experience what it’s like to live somewhere.
  • Bring a refillable water bottle (you’ll need it on the plane). Dustin and I even bring stuff to make coffee so we’re wasting less coffee cups and plastic lids.
  • Be thoughtful about souvenirs and other things you buy on vacation.  We will be getting into that a lot more in today’s episode.


I guess I would say that my approach to travel is similar to everything else that is sold to us: don’t make decisions impulsively. Don’t overconsume. Do what you can to get the most out of what you consume (in this case, travel).


Okay, this conversation with Ginger and Desiree is super long (and in my opinion, very fun), so I’m going to jump right into it. I did break this down into smaller pieces for you to enjoy over several days, if you like a short listen. For all of you like me who love a long listen, you’re in for a treat.  

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If you want to share your opinion/additional thoughts on the subjects we cover in each episode, feel free to email, whether it’s a typed out message or an audio recording:  [email protected]

Clotheshorse is brought to you with support from the following sustainable small businesses:

Thumbprint is Detroit’s only fair trade marketplace, located in the historic Eastern Market.  Our small business specializes in products handmade by empowered women in South Africa making a living wage creating things they love like hand painted candles and ceramics! We also carry a curated assortment of  sustainable/natural locally made goods. Thumbprint is a great gift destination for both the special people in your life and for yourself! Browse our online store at thumbprintdetroit.com and find us on instagram @thumbprintdetroit.

Picnicwear:  a slow fashion brand, ethically made by hand from vintage and deadstock materials – most notably, vintage towels! Founder, Dani, has worked in the industry as a fashion designer for over 10 years, but started Picnicwear in response to her dissatisfaction with the industry’s shortcomings. Picnicwear recently moved to rural North Carolina where all their clothing and accessories are now designed and cut, but the majority of their sewing is done by skilled garment workers in NYC. Their customers take comfort in knowing that all their sewists are paid well above NYC minimum wage. Picnicwear offers minimal waste and maximum authenticity: Future Vintage over future garbage.

Shift Clothing, out of beautiful Astoria, Oregon, with a focus on natural fibers, simple hardworking designs, and putting fat people first.  Discover more at shiftwheeler.com

High Energy Vintage is a fun and funky vintage shop located in Somerville, MA, just a few minutes away from downtown Boston. They offer a highly curated selection of bright and colorful clothing and accessories from the 1940s-1990s for people of all genders. Husband-and-wife duo Wiley & Jessamy handpick each piece for quality and style, with a focus on pieces that transcend trends and will find a home in your closet for many years to come! In addition to clothing, the shop also features a large selection of vintage vinyl and old school video games. Find them on instagram @ highenergyvintage, online at highenergyvintage.com, and at markets in and around Boston.

St. Evens is an NYC-based vintage shop that is dedicated to bringing you those special pieces you’ll reach for again and again. More than just a store, St. Evens is dedicated to sharing the stories and history behind the garments. 10% of all sales are donated to a different charitable organization each month.  New vintage is released every Thursday at wearStEvens.com, with previews of new pieces and more brought to you on Instagram at @wear_st.evens.

Deco Denim is a startup based out of San Francisco, selling clothing and accessories that are sustainable, gender fluid, size inclusive and high quality–made to last for years to come. Deco Denim is trying to change the way you think about buying clothes. Founder Sarah Mattes wants to empower people to ask important questions like, “Where was this made? Was this garment made ethically? Is this fabric made of plastic? Can this garment be upcycled and if not, can it be recycled?” Signup at decodenim.com to receive $20 off your first purchase. They promise not to spam you and send out no more than 3 emails a month, with 2 of them surrounding education or a personal note from the Founder. Find them on Instagram as @deco.denim.

The Pewter Thimble Is there a little bit of Italy in your soul? Are you an enthusiast of pre-loved decor and accessories? Bring vintage Italian style — and history — into your space with The Pewter Thimble (@thepewterthimble). We source useful and beautiful things, and mend them where needed. We also find gorgeous illustrations, and make them print-worthy. Tarot cards, tea towels and handpicked treasures, available to you from the comfort of your own home. Responsibly sourced from across Rome, lovingly renewed by fairly paid artists and artisans, with something for every budget. Discover more at thepewterthimble.com

Blank Cass, or Blanket Coats by Cass, is focused on restoring, renewing, and reviving the history held within vintage and heirloom textiles. By embodying and transferring the love, craft, and energy that is original to each vintage textile into a new garment, I hope we can reteach ourselves to care for and mend what we have and make it last. Blank Cass lives on Instagram @blank_cass and a website will be launched soon at blankcass.com.

Gabriela Antonas is a visual artist, an upcycler, and a fashion designer, but Gabriela Antonas is also a feminist micro business with radical ideals. She’s the one woman band, trying to help you understand, why slow fashion is what the earth needs. If you find your self in New Orleans, LA, you may buy her ready-to-wear upcycled garments in person at the store “Slow Down” (2855 Magazine St). Slow Down Nola only sells vintage and slow fashion from local designers. Gabriela’s garments are guaranteed to be in stock in person, but they also have a website so you may support this women owned and run business from wherever you are! If you are interested in Gabriela making a one of a kind garment for you DM her on Instagram at @slowfashiongabriela to book a consultation.

Vagabond Vintage DTLV is a vintage clothing, accessories & decor reselling business based in Downtown Las Vegas. Not only do we sell in Las Vegas, but we are also located throughout resale markets in San Francisco as well as at a curated boutique called Lux and Ivy located in Indianapolis, Indiana. Jessica, the founder & owner of Vagabond Vintage DTLV, recently opened the first IRL location located in the Arts District of Downtown Las Vegas on August 5th. The shop has a strong emphasis on 60s & 70s garments, single stitch tee shirts & dreamy loungewear. Follow them on instagram, @vagabondvintage.dtlv and keep an eye out for their website coming fall of 2022.

Country Feedback is a mom & pop record shop in Tarboro, North Carolina. They specialize in used rock, country, and soul and offer affordable vintage clothing and housewares. Do you have used records you want to sell? Country Feedback wants to buy them! Find us on Instagram @countryfeedbackvintageandvinyl or head downeast and visit our brick and mortar. All are welcome at this inclusive and family-friendly record shop in the country!

Located in Whistler, Canada, Velvet Underground is a “velvet jungle” full of vintage and second-hand clothes, plants, a vegan cafe and lots of rad products from other small sustainable businesses. Our mission is to create a brand and community dedicated to promoting self-expression, as well as educating and inspiring a more sustainable and conscious lifestyle both for the people and the planet. Find us on Instagram @shop_velvetunderground or online at www.shopvelvetunderground.com

Selina Sanders, a social impact brand that specializes in up-cycled clothing, using only reclaimed, vintage or thrifted materials: from tea towels, linens, blankets and quilts.  Sustainably crafted in Los Angeles, each piece is designed to last in one’s closet for generations to come.  Maximum Style; Minimal Carbon Footprint.

Salt Hats:  purveyors of truly sustainable hats. Hand blocked, sewn and embellished in Detroit, Michigan.

Republica Unicornia Yarns: Hand-Dyed Yarn and notions for the color-obsessed. Made with love and some swearing in fabulous Atlanta, Georgia by Head Yarn Wench Kathleen. Get ready for rainbows with a side of Giving A Damn! Republica Unicornia is all about making your own magic using small-batch, responsibly sourced, hand-dyed yarns and thoughtfully made notions. Slow fashion all the way down and discover the joy of creating your very own beautiful hand knit, crocheted, or woven pieces. Find us on Instagram @republica_unicornia_yarns and at www.republicaunicornia.com.

Cute Little Ruin is an online shop dedicated to providing quality vintage and secondhand clothing, vinyl, and home items in a wide range of styles and price points.  If it’s ethical and legal, we try to find a new home for it!  Vintage style with progressive values.  Find us on Instagram at @CuteLittleRuin.