Environmentally friendly travel seems almost impossible. A single transatlantic flight can be as big of a carbon footprint as a year’s worth of driving, and unfortunately for most, you need a return ticket!
You can click the little “carbon-neutral” box and pay a small fee on your airline ticket and then sleep well at night. However, environmentally friendly travel requires so much more pre-planning than just clicking a few buttons on your reservations. It involves choosing environmentally friendly travel options such as transportation, hotels, activities and food.
Tourism is a billion-dollar industry that accounts for 30% of the world’s trade for services. Without travel and tourism many country’s economies would plummet and this would have grave effects.
Almost alternatively though travel accounts for a huge amount of the environmental impact throughout the world. Everyone who has been to a famous beach has seen straws left in piles, or has visited a thousand-year-old monument has seen the cigarette butts scattered along the ground. These things leave a lasting impact and the problem is some people think that the fact they are on vacation they don’t have to care.
Environmentally friendly travel can also be called ecotourism, which is defined by the International Ecotourism Society as “responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment, sustains the well-being of the local people, and involves interpretation and education”.
This means that every time you travel you should be looking for options that minimize your effect on the environment as well as create a sustainable tourism area in the region.
Climate change, industry and technology are slowly effecting every single inch on the earth and without being aware our own personal impact on the planet those places we dream of going won’t be there when we have a chance.
Tips to Be an Eco-Traveller and keep the planet happy and healthy:
Choose an Ethical Destination
This is the hardest part because the places you’d maybe like to go aren’t the most ethical. To decide if the destination you are choosing is ethical make sure to research the countries stand on environmental and human rights policies.
Every year Ethical Travel releases a list of eco-friendly destinations. For 2017 my favourite three are: Belize, Vanuatu and Palau!
Choose an Eco-Friendly Tour Option
The last eco-friendly tour I did was during my trip to the Whitsundays in Australia. We learnt all about the natural environment and they made sure everything that happened on the boat was environmentally friendly, including food and activities. Win win! There are so many tour operators that are making the switch to watch their impact and it’s amazing to see.
Choose Environmentally Friendly Transportation Options
Most places need at least a plane trip to get to, but as I previously mentioned this is the worst form of transportation for CO2 and greenhouse gas emissions. So after arrival choose buses, trains and ride share options for getting around your destination. Walking and hiking are obviously you’re most green transportation options. So use your feet when you’re exploring a new city. This gives you a more insider view anyway.
Bring a Water Bottle Travelling
This one seems pretty easy. Bringing a water bottle with you while you travel ensures that you aren’t using and discarding plastic pollution. If you need to drink 2-4 litres of water, depending on what you’re doing, then you may go through 4-8 500ml bottles. Over a week trip that’s 28-56 water bottles! That’s a crazy amount of plastic that’s ending up in ‘recycling’ or the landfill.
Stay Green! Choose the Right Accommodation
There are so many green hotels, hostels and other accommodation so it’s relatively painless to find one. Also there are so many budget friendly options that it wont cost you an arm and a leg.
Watch your footprint
Take shorter showers, don’t get your sheets washed everyday, turn off the lights/air-con/heat when you leave your room. All these things add up and you can easily change the impact you have.
Don’t Disturb: Stay on the Trails and Away from Ecosystems
I’m a huge hiker and wandering into the jungle/forest/ecosystems can cause monumental damage that may take years to resolve. So if you’re in a new area make sure that you stay on marked trails so you can keep the environments safe and happy.
The same goes for snorkelling and scuba diving or any other sport. Make sure you aren’t disturbing precious coral or marine environments. Many reefs are dying like the Great Barrier Reef.
I love markets, you should too! Buy things directly from local sources to have a trip filled with environmentally friendly travel.
Think about those Souvenirs
Many countries sell souvenirs that may be made from an endangered species of plant or animal. So always watch that you are only purchasing things that are good for the environment. Your friends and family won’t be very enthused if you come back with a huge piece of ivory. Just saying.
Try to Go Digital
I have a love of paper maps and brochures. If you do too then make sure you keep them as a souvenir or discard responsibly. Whenever possible use digital guides and books. They are less heavy and more responsible.
Worst Case: Carbon Offset
I mentioned above that you can click the little button on your flight to carbon offset. This money goes straight into programs to try to alleviate your impact. Though this is a worst case scenario you should always pay the dollar or two.
Those are my tips! Feel free to comment and share your own below! What do you do to be environmentally conscious while you travel?