Travel is the one thing that motivates me and pushes me more than any other thing. Nik and I are constantly planning for, looking at, or dreaming off our next travel adventure. Always looking for that next destination. I do however acknowledge that travel increases our carbon footprint! In fact, the travel industry, and in particular the transport of tourists, is one of the main sources of green house gas emissions. It no doubt adds to the damage that we are doing to our planet. We all have to be more aware of steps we can take to help protect this planet of ours, so I started looking at ways I could undo or minimise the impact that our travel has. I have found some amazing schemes and ideas since my quest started, so thought I would share some with you. This is just a drop in the ocean (s’cuse the pun) in what we can do, but Im hoping it will get you thinking and start a discussion x.
So firstly, I thought I would share very briefly the way in which travel can be detrimental to the environment. I am no expert by any stretch, but I do try to learn about it, and will continue to do so. Basically, any form of travel that uses fossil fuels, impacts the environment and adds to the climate change. Planes/flying in particular as they release their “greenhouse gasses” directly into the higher regions of the atmosphere, where they do the worst of their damage. To be fair, all forms of transport except walking, cycling and maybe sailing boats will leave a large carbon footprint, but as these methods don’t really get us too far, and planes do, what can we do to offset our impact and look after our beautiful planet?
The first thing we can do is care! I know that sounds simple, but if we are completely honest with ourselves, how any of us actually think about how or travels affect our planet? I know I didn’t until a few years ago. I wasn’t even making the connection between travel and eco issues! My discovery started when I was looking at other issues bothering me. I am a passionate animal lover, and had become distressed about how our vast use of palm oil was wiping out so much, (you can read my post on it, Palm Oil, what you need to know) It got me looking into alternatives, which in turn led me into learning about sustainability. This is where I was made aware of how much travel can be damaging. It wasn’t that I didn’t care, it was that I didn’t know. I think this is the case with many of us, do you? So, Im hoping with this post I can maybe give you a little awareness. Here are just a few great ways that may help a little. They will not undo damage totally, but surely its better than doing nothing at all.
Look at using an alternative travel method;
With low budget airlines making it so cheap to fly, especially to Europe from the UK, its so easy to jump on a plane! However, with the Eurostar, there are many destinations that we can now get to in Europe via the train. It reduces our carbon footprint massively. I have made a commitment to look at traveling to my City breaks via train if at all possible. We went to Scotland last year by train as opposed to flying, and it was stress free and relaxed, as well as better for the environment. Win win! Im also using my car at home a lot less. I have a rule now, that if I can get to the destination and back within an hours walk, then I walk. It has saved me money on petrol, made me feel fitter and my car is sometimes, not being used 5 days out of 7. Small changes, but changes none the less.
Reducing our single use items;
Face wipes, anti-bac wipes, cotton buds, plastic water bottles, plastic shower gel/shampoo bottles, the list goes on and on. Well did you know that it is estimated that around 10 million tonne of plastics end up in our oceans? We have created over 400 coastal dead zones, which is areas where no under water life can survive. That is the equivalent to an area the size of New Zealand! We are literally killing our oceans. How shocking is that! When travelling, there are some great things that we can use to reduce our single use items. Make up remover cloths instead of wipes, shampoo bars, bars of soap instead of plastic bottles of shower gels and shampoos, water purifying tablets instead of bottled water, the list goes on! I have put a few suggestions for you below, but there are so many more. Just consider the items you are taking, and see what sustainable alternatives there are.
Water Purification Tablets – turns water safe to drink, just take a refillable bottle
Make up remover cloth – works with just water. No chemicals, no single use items
Shampoo Bar – No plastic containers, last for ages, no liquid limits issue
Picking up litter;
I found this fantastic scheme on Instagram. Basically, The Adventure Bag Movement encourages us to pick up one bag of trash from the beaches/streets/walking trails of the places we travel to. They then encourage us to share with our social media audiences the fact that we have done this, to spread the word. I think its such a simple way of trying to do our bit and I have been the crazy rubbish collecting lady now for a while. Of course, this doesn’t need to be restricted to your travel destinations, do it in your home town to!
I think this is a great idea, and more and more schemes are coming up to make this easier. Basically, carbon offsetting is buying an “offset” that funds projects that reduce greenhouse gas. You work out your carbon footprint, then “offset” it by funding the planting of trees for example. These schemes have many benefits, both for the environment and local communities. The site Carbonfootprint.com gives lots of information and ways that you can get involved. Its well worth a look, even if just for education purposes. A lot of airlines are also offering ways to do carbon offsetting, so have a look next time you book a flight.
Take the road less travelled;
Social media in part, adds to the large swathes of people flocking to destinations. Often, these destinations are fairly fragile environments, and large footfall can erode the landscapes etc further. Take for example Iceland, the “hot” destination for a while now. Out of the 1.8 million estimated visitors, around 90% of these visitors will visit the Golden Circle. A beautiful, stunning area of the world, but under immense threat from the countless tourists. Its a tricky one as we all want to see these stunning destinations, but maybe look at alternatives areas of the destinations too?
Look at Staying in “Green” Hotels;
More and more places are moving towards and adopting greener practises in running their accommodation. Even hotels that you may be considering could have a better green practise than you think. It could be good to email them and ask questions about their recycling practises, their operating ethics, whether they are staffed by local people etc. All will help you make informed decisions about where you stay. You can also use the wonder that is google for answers. Googling something as simple as “eco friendly hotels in XYZ” will give you lots of accommodation choices. Home stays are also another fab alternative. These newly emerging ways of the residents of the area sharing their homes is a beautiful way to support communities and local people. Nik and I are planning to do a home stay in India or Thailand when he is well.
Find Eco tours where you visit;
There are so many fantastic tours now world wide that are passionate about sustainability and ethical tourism. You just need to seek them out. These tours will often take you to the most beautiful destinations still, but all while limiting the negative impact that tourism to the area could have. Get in touch with the local tourist boards where you plan to visit,. They can be a wealth of information and only too happy to provide help.
Honestly, if you start looking at ways to reduce your carbon footprint, you will be inundated with information. There was so much more that I could tell you, but I wanted to keep this post less than 3 days long! I also, hope that it peaks your interest enough to go and do your own research. Honestly, you will be shocked at what you read, and I am positive it will motivate you to think more and seek out ways to lessen your own impact. There is so much fantastic information available for us all to start educating ourselves.
Without being an old nag about it, it is ALL of our responsibility to try to stop the damage we are doing. I read a statistic that said that as early as my grandchildren generation, (so around 30 years time roughly) there will be over 40% of species wiped out! That distresses me no end. We need to all do our bit.
So, as ever, i would love to hear what you think about this. Has it ever occurred to you that travel has such a negative impact on the climate? Do you think you will be prompted now to think a little more about it when you book a trip? Have you found any great ways to reduce your impact? Do you have any great tips to share? I would love to hear. I think its great that we can all learn from each other.
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