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Travel is good! It’s good for the mind, the body and the soul. It clears away the stresses and strains of everyday life, gives us quality time with loved ones, offers new experiences, and is the lifeblood of many local economies. That said, just how good is global travel for the environment? Here are some simple eco-friendly travel tips to help minimise our impact on the planet.
Like it or not, tourism is a mucky business. It’s responsible for almost one tenth of the world’s carbon emissions. And a massive 72% of the CO2 emissions from tourism come from the mighty beasts that transport us to our destinations, with air travel being the biggest culprit.
The carbon hierarchy is clear. One: don’t fly. Two, if you have to, then fly as efficiently as possible. Three: offset, offset, offset your flight.
Local tourism, staycations and microadventures have seen a massive spike in popularity, and with good reason. Exploring the world on our doorstep makes us think more creatively, be spontaneous and is way less taxing on the environment. Cue our fixing hero Alastair Humphries, the world’s greatest microadventurer! Learn from the master how to plan your next trip.
There’s really no such thing as flying green. But there are ways we can minimise the carbon footprint of our flights.
Pack for the planet
We can make our flight more efficient before we even board the plane, simply by packing light. Do we really need a large coat and sweaters when travelling in the middle of summer? Could we make do with one nice pair of trainers instead of three pairs of shoes? The less weight on the plane, the less fuel it uses. So it’s kind of a no-brainer that the lighter we pack, the lighter the load on the planet.
Think budget airlines
It’s easy to believe that budget flights will be the least eco-friendly option. Well, that’s not entirely true. The lack of legroom might not be the most comfortable thing in the world, but it does allow airlines to carry more passengers per flight, thus lowering the individual carbon footprint. At the other end of the travel spectrum, first class seats take up more space and are often significantly heavier. Do the maths!
Book non-stop flights
Being cramped up on a plane for long journeys is never fun, but take-offs and landings require much more fuel than the rest of the flight. So try to fly direct. What’s a little bit of discomfort for a lot of greater good?
Consider the flight length
But of course, long-haul flights guzzle more gas. Ouch! If we are taking a long trip, maybe break the journey up a bit. Travelling through neighbouring regions by land allows us to see more on a lower carbon budget.
Use the website Carbon Footprint to calculate the impact of each journey, then offset it by investing in green projects such as Atmosfair and Climate Care. Just be sure to choose carbon offset schemes that meet the Verified Carbon Standard or Clean Development Standard.
Flights may be the big-ticket item, but there’s so much more we can do during our travels to help make tourism more sustainable.
Picking the right place to stay
Regardless of budget, there’s a wealth of green options out there. From luxury hotels using solar power and rainwater tanks to eco-resorts that offset more carbon than they use.
Don’t have the room made up every day
We wouldn’t vacuum the floor, wash the towels and change bedding once a day when we’re at home. So why do it when we’re on holiday? Using the ‘do not disturb’ sign, or asking your hotel not to have your room made up every day reduces the use of water, electricity and cleaning products. You’ll survive.
Get on your bike
Seeing a city by bicycle or on foot isn’t just green, it’s a great way to immerse ourselves in the region we're visiting. There’s time to see more and discover some hidden gems along the way.
Support local businesses
Let’s not be that person who flies halfway around the world to eat a McDonald’s cheeseburger. Avoid big chains that clock up horrendous product miles. By going to local stores and buying local goods, we reduce our carbon footprint and give back to the regional economy.
Take a reusable water bottle
Be sure the local tap water is drinkable. If not, take water filters. Better still, take a reusable bottle with a filter. Avoid buying single-use plastic water bottles at all costs. They damage the environment, and a lot of countries don’t have sophisticated recycling facilities yet.
Then, when it’s back to reality after all the fun of the trip, we can easily continue cutting our carbon footprint in everyday life. Try carsharing or cycling to work. Even going vegetarian or vegan for a bit. If 10,000 people ate a plant-based diet for one week, we’d save enough carbon dioxide to fly to the moon and back!
Travel may not be the greenest pursuit. But it is fun and extremely fulfilling. So let’s do our best to make it better for the planet.
If you’ve got a great sustainable travel tip, share it with us on Facebook. Or check out our blog featuring the best destinations to see fixing culture in action.