How to Travel More Sustainably
As the effects of climate change continue to manifest in the form of increasingly destructive extreme weather events, including the massive wildfires currently affecting Australia, people are becoming increasingly interested in how to reduce their own carbon emissions to mitigate their personal impact on the crisis. While travelling the world is a personal goal and aspiration for many of us, it unfortunately also represents one of the most serious contributors to climate change, as the carbon emissions released during travel can be substantial. Luckily, there are a number of changes that travelers can make during their trips to reduce their carbon output while still being able to visit attractive destinations.
Although travel by airplane is the quickest and often only viable way to reach many of the world’s most popular travel destinations, it also causes substantial carbon emissions. That being said, some airlines are better than others in this regard, as airlines like United, Qantas, and KLM use sustainable aviation biofuel instead of traditional jet fuel, which is less damaging to the environment. Travelling by train generates up to ten times fewer carbon emissions than travelling by plane, and while choosing this form of travel limits your selection of destination severely, it also makes for a cheaper and generally more enjoyable mode of transport. If you’re interested in avoiding air travel for environmental reasons, it’s likely a good idea to research travel destinations near train stations, which include major cities and national or state parks. Alternatively, if you’re interested in going on a cruise, there exist a few environmentally-friendly options, including Alaskan Dream Cruises and Aqua Expeditions, which work to protect the environments of the communities they visit. If your ideal vacation involves immersing yourself in nature, you generally don’t have to travel far to do so, as the United States is home to countless parks, forests, and natural wonders. If it’s practical to do so, opt to travel within your destination via bicycle, which has no environmental impact whatsoever.
Travelers interested in minimizing their environmental impact should also take their accommodations into account. Staying at a hotel generally uses more energy and produces more carbon emissions than staying at home, but this doesn’t have to be the case. Some hotels adopt environmentally-friendly policies to reduce their impact on the local ecosystem and the global environment more broadly, making them a good choice for the environmentally-conscious. Angama Mara, a hotel in Kenya, has a zero-plastic policies, as do Edition Hotel properties, which can be found in cities around the world. Some hotels also work to restore natural areas, such as Brazil’s Pousada Literária de Paraty, which helps to sustain the local bird population by planting foliage. Alternatively, you can minimize your carbon emissions by camping, but make sure to leave your campsite in at least as good a condition as you found it.
Lastly, it’s important to take into consideration the environmental impact of your activities at your destination with an aim to limit energy use and waste. Deciding to use reusable containers instead of disposable ones can dramatically reduce waste, as can taking shorter showers and reusing towels. According to Bee + Hive, a sustainable tourism association, tourists in a developing country use 1,800 liters of water per night, whereas a village of 700 only uses 500 liters of water per month. As roughly 2 billion people around the world do not have access to clean running water, it’s important to be mindful of your water usage, particularly when visiting developing or poor countries. One way to do so is to ask your hotel about how they approach water conservation and the steps you can take to limit waste as a guest.
Tyler Olhorst is a Contributing Editor at The National Digest based in New York. You can reach him at email@example.com.