A recent study published in “Nature Climate Change” found that global tourism accounts for about eight percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. This is four times greater than scientists had previously anticipated.
While a lot of that can be attributed to the unfriendliness of air travel to the environment, the new numbers also take into account other factors that go into our travels. Things like what we eat, what we purchase and local transportation in our destinations. And with tourism continuing to grow at a rapid rate, the scientists behind the report expect its contribution to climate change to keep growing, as well.
Certainly, tourism is by no means the world’s biggest contributor to greenhouse gases (the agri-food industry tops that list), but that’s still a poor excuse not to be as friendly to the environment as you can while traveling.
With that in mind, here are six tips for being a more eco-friendly tourist when you’re planning and taking your next vacation. (It also doesn’t hurt if you want to implement these into your everyday life either.)
1. Choose More Efficient Transportation
If you must fly, then be smarter about which airlines you pick. Some like Jet Blue are purchasing biofuels to run their planes on. Others like Qantas, Lufthansa, American Airlines and JetBlue have all purchased more efficient planes, or like Costa Rica’s Nature Air that builds carbon offsets into flight prices. There’s even startups who want to use solely electric planes.
When in places like Europe, always travel by train whenever possible, and ride a bike when possible traveling local, saving yourself the taxi ride.
2. Think Smaller
That saying “adventure starts in your own backyard” is more relevant now more than ever. Why go explore somewhere across the globe when you could just as well go camping at a local state park, or even making a jaunt to your nearest national park? Or maybe road tripping to a nearby city you’ve always wanted to spend more time in? The point is, there are plenty of places to explore that don’t necessitate flying around the world. And packing lighter will always help no matter which transportation method you pick.
3. Buy Carbon-Neutral Offsets
Now, this act always felt to me more like it was geared towards giving someone peace of mind more than actually making a difference. But a new way of thinking about public lands could actually help create an effective method for the cap-and-trade market.
4. Stay at LEED or Green Resorts
Many hotels have been implementing small changes recently like not washing clean towels. But the trend to green hotels and resorts has been slow. LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified hotels are on the rise, and sustainable and green resorts can be found all over the world with a little bit of digging. The Global Sustainable Tourism Council has lots of helpful resources.
5. Be More Conscious About What You Consume
We tend to take forget that lots of people around the world don’t have access to clean water. And some places, drinking any water other than bottled water will make you downright sick. So while it can be difficult to find water to drink other than bottled in some places, it’s not impossible.
For starters, you could get involved with an organization like Waves 4 Water and turn your trip into one that helps a community establish clean drinking water by supplying easy-to-use filters.
Food has a big part to play in this, as well. Eating plant-based diets when possible can leave the smallest carbon footprint – so you can also keep this in mind when picking somewhere to travel. Some places are much more vegan-friendly than others.
6. Skip Flying Altogether
Former professional surfer Fergal Smith gave up his career because of all the air travel he had to take. If he can sacrifice his entire profession, you can afford to skip flying every so often. Try a bikepacking trip leaving from your own house. Think outside the box and you’ll find that you’ll have just as much fun and do a little good for the environment all at the same time.
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