We’ve all heard how the environment is in danger, maybe you’ve even watched Before The Flood (definitely recommend I watched it on the plane to Costa Rica and cried but mainly from sleep deprivation). But how much impact do we really have?
(For the sake of ease and to stop this going into dissertation territory, I’m going to be focussing specifically on the impact of travel on the natural environment as opposed to any cultural impact or impact on the inhabitants of a given area. Which I’ll definitely cover in another post.)
Naturally, environmental stress from tourism is bigger at different locations. For example, visiting a fragile eco-system like a coral reef is going to have more impact than wandering around a city like Beijing for a few days, but by being mindful and choosing our actions wisely, we can minimise direct damage. It’s also no lie that air travel is a huge factor in the damage we’re doing over all – just a return flight from London to New York can add 1.2 tonnes to the UK citizen’s average 9.5t carbon footprint in a year.
In brief (because any Netflix documentary and quick google search will explain it much better than I will), the more rubbish we put into ocean the more we will damage marine life, the more carbon dioxide we put into the air the more we will damage ozone layer and in turn warm up the planet, and the more forests are cut down the less trees there will be to absorb CO2 and the less habitats there will be for endangered animals.
But what can we do to help?
Limit air travel
Where possible, take the train and the bus. Although these still have their own impact, it’s dramatically less than air travel. When travelling around a city, grab a bike or walk instead of taking public transport – most European cities are incredibly walkable.
2. If you must fly…
If you must travel by air, go direct. Most damage is done during take off and landing, so limit the times you have to do this by limiting stop overs. Another trick is to travel with budget airlines – with more people on the plane, luggage fees discouraging people from bringing heavy bags, and younger, more fuel efficient planes, the effect is minimised.
3. Travel with green tour groups
Just googling “Green tour companies” will give you a bunch of information about companies you can travel with that minimise their environmental impact, be that by not visiting harmful animal exhibits, or as simple as not leaving the motor running for hours on an empty tour bus so you can come back to air-conditioning.
4. Research green airlines, cruises, and companies before you travel
Caribbean cruises are estimated to produce 70,000 tonnes of waste per year – but some newer fleets are working to be greener. If you’re not travelling with a tour that works it out for you, take steps yourself to find how to get around as cleanly as possible.
5. Stay at eco-hotels
Simply by googling green hotels/hostels in the area you’re staying, you can easily reduce your impact. These hotels might limit water and energy wastage, use green energy and energy saving lightbulbs, and much more. If this isn’t possible, you can limit your wastage by not having your towels and sheets laundered every night, and making sure you turn off your electronics and not leaving them on standby (much like you’d do at home).
6. Bring a water bottle (and a tote bag)
To avoid mad un-recycled plastic wastage that takes years to decompose and poisons the environment in landfills, bring your own water bottle and bag.
7. Don’t use straws
Let’s be honest, do we ever actually NEED straws? They might be small, but they can cause a lot of damage, especially if they end up in the ocean where any plastic can directly pose a threat to marine life when it doesn’t decompose.
8. Pick up litter
Simple but effective – pick up the litter you see on the beach, and won’t end up in the ocean.
9. Treasure your trash
A lot of developing countries don’t have efficient ways of recycling things like plastic, and might even just dump it in the ocean. To minimise this, be conscious of how much trash you’re producing and take things like clothing and batteries home to recycle, so they don’t end up in a landfill.
10. Go carbon-offset
If you’re travelling in Central or South America, booking transfers or tours with Anywhere.com will allow you to pay extra on top in the form of a carbon offset.
Carbon offsetting basically means to find out where your emissions are, and then financially supporting a project that equals your emissions in reduction, making it carbon neutral. For more information on projects you can support and how to go carbon offset, click here.
11. Avoid meat and dairy (especially fast food chains).
Most of deforestation is caused for growing crops for cattle being bred for consumption, especially fast food chains. On an individual basis, cutting meat out of your diet can save hundreds of litres of water.
Can anyone think of any other ways we can protect the environment? Comment below!