These days it’s probably fair to say life experience has been found to trump material possessions.
However, the impact of an increasingly popular need to travel the world has taken its toll on the planet. A new study has found that tourism makes up 8% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. The top three things that contribute to this were found to be transport, shopping and food.
So how do you make sure your travel plans are as sustainable as possible? Here are some recommendations.
Look into ‘carbon offsetting’ your air travel
Here’s how it works. You can calculate the carbon emissions created by your flight and donate to carbon reduction programmes using tools such as Carbon Clear, who work to rebalance the scales with projects such as tree planting.
According to Geoff Bolan, CEO of non-profit Sustainable Travel International, told HuffPost UK, it’s an easy way to give back to the environment, considering the environmental impact attached to a large proportion of tourist activities, especially air travel.
Think about the transport you use while at your destination
Holly Tuppen, a travel writer and sustainable travel expert, recommends walking, using a bike or public transport whenever you can while you’re away. She advises against renting your own vehicle. This way, you’re seeing things the way the locals do, while cutting your carbon footprint considerably.
Making sure that you buy any essentials (or non-essentials) that you might need from a local establishment can go a long way to keeping your carbon footprint as low as possible.
“When countries are sourcing locally this reduces long-distance shipping and the environmental impact that comes with that,” explains Michael Gold, editor of The Economist Intelligence Unit’s Sustainable Tourism Index.
“After all, you’re there to engage with the area, not parachute in and leave. It’s also an opportunity to meet people and see the local colour.”
Try travelling to your destination by train
Brits have the (often forgotten) privilege of living right on the doorstep of the great continent of Europe. Why not explore it without the added environmental footprint of a flight?
“Holidaying via train is a great way to cut down on carbon emissions and it doesn’t have to limit your adventures,” Ben Rider, a representative of Friends of the Earth, told HuffPost UK. “Some of Europe’s most beautiful cities such as Paris and Amsterdam can be reached within a few hours by train from London.”
Book hotels and excursions that have passed certain sustainability accreditations
When you’re doing your price and convenience comparison of your top choice hotels and trips, add sustainable accreditation to your criteria.
According to Michael Gold, editor of The Economist Intelligence Unit’s Sustainable Tourism Index, the Global Sustainable Tourism Council is one to look for, but there are also regional and local accreditations, such as Green Tourism in Scotland, TourCert and Viabono in Germany and Green Globe in LA.
“When you’re choosing somewhere to eat, try to make sure that the ingredients are locally and sustainably sourced. This is a great way to sample the best of the local cuisine,” Ben Rider, a representative of Friends of the Earth, told HuffPost UK. Although it might be tempting to stick with familiar food while you’re away, straying from your comfort zone may help boost your sustainable credentials by beating the environmental impact of imported food.
When you’re choosing somewhere to eat, try to make sure that the ingredients are locally and sustainably sourced
Cut your plastic waste while on the go
An important responsibility of any tourist (wherever you go) is to keep all single-use plastic out of the sea. According to Holly Tuppen, travel writer and sustainable travel expert, the easiest ways to do this are to take a reusable shopping bag and water bottle everywhere and to say no to straws.
Check that the attractions you’re looking to visit are protected
If you’re putting together an itinerary of all the best sights for your destination, check to see that they are UNESCO-certified. This will mean that the temple, castle or ruin that you’re desperate to see has gone through sustainability checks and is fit for the impact of tourism.
Look into travelling off-season
Instead of planning your holiday by weather forecast, plan it by how popular your destination is. Go when it’s quiet, your future self and the planet will thank you. “Shun the crowds and help destinations have less of an impact on the environment, while providing year-round economic opportunities for local people,” Holly Tuppen, travel writer and sustainable travel expert, told HuffPost UK.