According to the Sustainable Development of Tourism Program, tourism produces 5% of the world’s carbon emissions.
The easy solution to offset this would be for everyone to use their vacation days while sweating away in their non-air conditioned homes, immerse themselves in culture through Youtube and GoogleMaps, conduct business meetings exclusively through Skype, and recycle, recycle, recycle!
In reality, it’s impractical to drastically limit ourselves because we want what’s best for the environment. The freedom to explore the world and experience cultures other than our own is one of the most beautiful things our world has to offer. Therefore we must balance our understanding of how our actions affect the eco-systems around us while still enjoying the privilege of travel.
Here are six easy things we can all do to become more environmentally friendly in our travels:
Every kilo counts! The more weight trains, planes, and automobiles have to carry, the more fuel they use. Consider bringing clothing items that you can easily wear from day to night, and leave the fourth pair of shoes at home!
Explore your transport options
Buses, trains, and carpooling are all greener options than a seat on a flight. In fact, taking a round trip journey by train instead of a plane can cut CO2 emissions by 91%! Even an economy seat on a budget airline opposed to a first class seat on a business charter will help cut emissions.
Further, while at your destination why rent a car when you can either rent a bike or walk to your favorite points of interest? The earth, and your body, will thank you!
Travel with eco-tourism companies
Consider planning your next getaway with companies that use Carbon Offset programs, such as Intrepid Travel.
Three of Intrepid’s current roster of Carbon Offset initiatives include:
- Akbuk Wind Farm Project in Turkey: involves the installation of 15 turbines reducing 67,570 tonnes of CO2 entering the atmosphere each year.
- Purchasing the GS (Gold Star) carbon credits of the production and dissemination of ceramic water purifiers in Cambodia: provides access to clean drinking water for an estimated 400,000 people and saves 43,087 tonnes of CO2 entering the atmosphere.
- The Verified Carbon Standard (VCS) Kasigau Corridor REDD+ project in Kenya: a program that avoids unplanned deforestation and degradation of forest that are home to vulnerable species such as the African Elephant, cheetah, lion, African hunting dog and Grevy’s zebra. Source
Before you travel, make sure that your tour company has a similar Responsible Travel page. If not, inquire via e-mail as to what initiatives they have in place to offset their emissions.
Purchase food/goods from local vendors
Not only does buying locally sourced goods support the local economy, it helps cut down your carbon footprint as well. For example, a pint of beer from a local brewery travels a shorter distance than one from halfway around the world. The extra dollars you spend on an import is essentially buying it a place on a plane or boat.
Bring a reusable shopping bag and water bottle
It’s easy for us to buy and use reusable shopping bags and water bottles while we’re at home, so why not while we’re on the road? These items will take up minimal space in your bag, and you can even carry your own water-sterilization equipment for use when water conditions become questionable.
Additionally, water-fountain fill-ups and having your own shopping bag will save you precious spending money!
Stay at hotels that are Energy Star or LEED certified
Did you know that the average air-conditioned hotel room generates 105 pounds of CO2 a day? Before checking into your hotel room, consider booking a double-bed room and staying with a friend. Or, for the more adventurous types, couch-surf or stay in a hostel dorm room.
The Energy Star program supported by the EPA rates hotels on their energy efficiency. Look for their logo while shopping for lodging.
Likewise, the LEED program by the U.S. Green Building Council puts its stamp of approval on buildings that meet minimum green requirements.