There is no getting away from the fact that our need for travel and the experience other cultures has a detrimental impact on the environment. While the coronavirus pandemic has had a severely traumatic impact on society as we know it, the health crisis has also outlined our unsustainable travel demands. As with most people, we believe it is imperative that we all can think about and help to minimise the problem.
While the environmental world enjoyed a period of self-repair as the pandemic grounded thousands of flights and enforced strict social distancing measures, it comes as an excellent time to reflect on how the travel industry can maintain a more sustainable method of operation when the current crisis subsides.
According to the World Travel and Tourism Council, the travel industry remains one of the most powerful economic sectors on the planet. With travel and tourism providing around 10% of the world’s jobs and 313 million worldwide, the demand and desire to monetise every opportunity continues to have a supremely detrimental effect on the environment.
Here at Far Out we have come up with six simple ways to help be aware of your impact while travelling.
The best ways to practice sustainable travel:
Do your research
It goes without saying that if you plan to stay closer to home, your decision will help the environment tenfold with fewer carbon emissions being used on transportation. Pointing to organisations like Airbnb is becoming a much more viable option with a growing number of unique opportunities being made available. According to Green Match: “Travelling by plane once emits more than 20% of the carbon emissions than a car will emit throughout a year. In 2018, 895 tonnes of CO² due to air travel alone. The same way of travelling by ship emits several tonnes of greenhouse gasses in comparison to a single car. In fact, it takes over 260 million cars to reach the same level of pollution as a few ships alone.”
If you have exhausted all options or want to travel further afield when researching your holiday, try to find locations that promote anti-poaching work or have eco-friendly rules in place.
As the growing trend of eco-tourism continues, there are lots of eco-hotels that are excellent alternate options when travelling abroad.
Stay in eco-hotels
As mentioned in the previous point, the growth in popularity of eco-hotels offers a great alternative to a standard hotel.
Eco-hotels or eco-lodges are most typically found in remote locations such as beaches, mountains and islands. With the sole aim of making sure they limit their impact on the surrounding area, the best hotels offer renewable energy sources, recycling, eco-friendly toiletries, energy-efficient lighting and locally sourced food.
Furthermore, explore hotels that offer organic linens and towels, non-toxic cleaning supplies, non-disposable dishes, water conservation methods and various other sustainability-aimed initiatives.
Offset your carbon emissions
In today’s climate, it is common practice for airlines to offer the chance to offset our carbon emissions. The inner workings of the deal will see money given go towards minimising carbon emissions elsewhere such as planting trees or minimising methane gas in agriculture.
“Human emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases – are a primary driver of climate change – and present one of the world’s most pressing challenges,” our world in data explains. “This link between global temperatures and greenhouse gas concentrations – especially CO2 – has been true throughout Earth’s history.”
To emphasise their point, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change stated: “Anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions have increased since the pre-industrial era, driven largely by economic and population growth, and are now higher than ever. This has led to atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide that are unprecedented in at least the last 800,000 years. Their effects, together with those of other anthropogenic drivers, have been detected throughout the climate system and are extremely likely to have been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century.“
You can use MyClimate to calculate your carbon journey and then pick a global programme to contribute towards offsetting your global footprint.
Better still, avoid the airways altogether. The emerging “slow travel” trend has managed to capture the inspirations of millions of adventurers and train travel is at the very top of their lists. With Europe particularly easy to navigate by rail, other more expansive travel-by-train destinations include India, China, East Africa and Russia.
While this may seem like an obvious choice in the current climate, single-use plastic is still one of the biggest problems we face in this modern age. A simple step, such as remembering to reuse your bottles and avoid plastic straws, are a great way to watch your impact on the environment.
According to Ocean Crusaders, “It is now believed that there are 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic debris in the ocean. Of that mass, 269,000 tons float on the surface, while some four billion plastic microfibers per square kilometre litter the deep sea.”
Adding on the point of bottled water specifically: “More energy is used to fill the bottles, move them by truck, train, ship, or air, refrigerate them and recover, recycle or discard the empty bottles. The Pacific Institute estimates that the total amount of energy embedded in the use of bottled water can be as high as the equivalent of filling a plastic bottle one-quarter full with oil.”
In addition, you can expand your reuse to other areas of your trip. When staying hotels, insist that your towels and sheets don’t need to be changed every day and reduce the water and electricity used. “Reducing our levels of consumption will not be a sacrifice but a bonus if we simply redefine the meaning of the word ‘success’,” sustainable travel author, David Wann, once commented.
Keep it local
This goes for day-to-day living as much as it does when you are away on holiday.
Although it is tempting to choose a large, recognisable industrial company when selecting tours, try to make sure you chose local companies, so you are giving back to the places you visit. The same philosophy can be used for hotels, attempt to pick boutique hotels or homestays over a large resort.
Use trams and buses instead of taxi firms like Uber. Not only does this help you immerse yourself in the culture properly but helps to fund the place you are visiting and has a greener impact in the broader community.
Travel with a group
Wherever possible, travel in groups. As Hans Hofmann once said: “The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak.”
If you are flying to a location, it helps to fly economy as it is more fuel-efficient than taking up less space on the plane. If you can avoid flying try to choose alternate routes on land such as buses, or minibuses. This way not only can it be cheaper for you but will also have fewer carbon emissions than other alternatives.
It other words; consume less and share better.