Earlier this year, the government of Thailand was forced to close down three popular islands in the coast of Phuket because of the negative impact of tourism. Just a couple of weeks earlier, they needed to close one of Thailand’s National Parks because of damages in the marine ecosystem such as coral bleaching.
The increasing number of tourists who damage corals, catch marine animals, or feed them, is slowly killing ocean life.
But that’s just not everything.
It might come as a surprise, but your travel choices can make a huge difference to the environment. Whenever you choose your mode of transportation, pick a hotel or buy a product at the local store, you’re making the choice. And that choice has everything to do with the environment, every single time.
For example, between 1972 and 1994, the number of international air passengers worldwide rose from 88 to 344 million. Tourism accounts for a huge chunk of air travel and is responsible for a huge amount of CO2 emissions. One study estimated that a transatlantic return flight emits almost half of emissions produced by all other sources (electricity, cars, etc.) consumed by an average person yearly.
Would you like to know what has a positive impact on the environment in your travel and how to make sure that your next holiday doesn’t significantly increase your carbon footprint?
Here are 15 tips to help you become a real eco-friendly traveller.
1. Avoid plastic bags
You want your memories from the trip to last a long time, but over 500 years is a bit too long. Plastic bags take a lot of time to biodegrade so take a reusable shopping bag with you and whenever you go to local markets avoid taking extra plastic bags. Just because you’re travelling, it doesn’t mean you should give up your eco-friendly habits from home.
2. Double check green products and businesses
Since green tourism is booming these days, many companies use eco-friendliness as another way to trick travellers into buying products that aren’t eco-friendly at all.
Most companies are genuine, but plenty might be making mistakes. Before settling on a trip make sure that it has a third-party certification. That goes for picking hotels, cruises, airlines, and tour operators. Have a look at the company’s websites to see the comprehensive program.
Companies need to show that they’re aware of local environmental issues. For example, if you travel to Africa where water conservation should be commended, your tour operator should do so. Look for companies that are honest and support eco-friendly tourism.
3. Pack light
Whenever you’re flying, every kilo counts. The more the plane weighs, the more carbon emissions it will produce. That’s why you should make sure to pack only the items you will need.
How to lighten your load? Remove clothes that aren’t multipurpose and download your books on Kindle instead of bringing paper ones.
4. Pick a fuel-efficient airline
If you’re about to choose an airline, you should know that some are more fuel-efficient than others. A recent study revealed that Spirit, Frontier, and Alaska are the most fuel-efficient domestic companies in the United States. American Airlines which boasts the third oldest fleet ranked the lowest in the research.
5. Rent out from locals
Instead of choosing a hotel resort, support the locals by renting rooms directly from them. The truth is that renting out a room will generate less waste that comes as part of every hotel experience. You’ll also get to know the locals who will be able to introduce you to their cultures.
6. Look for these labels
Fortunately, you can tell whether a hotel is environmentally friendly or not by the kind of labels it has. So make sure you look for these labels:
- Energy Star – this program scores hotels on the basis of their energy efficiency. In order to get that label, hotels have to submit verified energy bills for review. The label doesn’t cover water use for recycling.
- TripAdvisor GreenLeaders – to get that badge, hotels need to meet some minimum standards for example recycling or linen reuse programs.
- LEED – this label is used by the US Green Building Council on buildings and upgrades that meet green requirements. They add points for extras – for example, building on land that has already been developed.
7. Use public transportation
One of the best things you can do for the natural environment when you’re traveling is taking public transport. You won’t be creating any extra carbon emissions that come with private transport like taxi. Also, you will have a much more interesting travel experiences because you get to interact with locals.
8. Fly economy
One study demonstrated that the carbon footprint of the traveler who decided to fly business class can be three times as much as one who chose the economy class tickets. Remember to have a look at frequent flier mile programs. Many of them now allow passengers to donate miles to their favorite nonprofits.
9. Travel overland
Whenever you can, exchange a five-hour flight for overland travel. You will not only reduce your carbon footprint, but also get to learn more about the country you’re visiting.
10. Try an eco-friendly tour
Some companies use the best environmental practices in their tours. It’s worth to pay more for that kind of tour, because you will be paying people who actually live in that space and know how to organize your visit in a way that has the least impact on the environment. These tour operators are simply the best because they make sure that a large percentage of the money stays in the country.
11. Enjoy local beers
Have you ever heard about the ‘beer mileage’? It refers to drinking locally brewed or imported beers. Naturally, choosing a locally brewed beer will not only mean higher quality but also reduce your carbon footprint. And that applies to eating local produce as well. Experiencing different tastes, you will also reduce your carbon footprint.
12. When in a hotel, act as if you were at home
When in a hotel, behave as you would at home. That means you should avoid getting new towels every single day, have excessively long showers or forget to turn off the TV, light or air conditioning when you leave the room.
13 Don’t buy bottled water
Just like plastic bags, plastic bottles make a lot of waste. Many hotels have water filters installed for travelers to fill their reusable bottles with safe water. Make sure that the place you’re visiting has such equipment in place.
14. When hiking, stick to the path and observe local rules of conduct
If you’re planning to hike this summer, make sure that you always stay on marked trails and keep a safe distance from any animals you encounter. If you decide to go off the beaten path, you might pose a threat to protected or endangered plant species too.
15. Let wild animals be wild
Entering a cage with a tiger high on drugs? Riding an elephant who was previously severely ‘trained’ to obey through beating and keeping in captivity. Swimming with whales who are being fed against nature for the sake of tourist. And any other activity which harms animals for the sake to get some additional bucks from the tourists’ pockets. You don’t want to be a part of these activities.
Use these 15 tips and you’ll be on your way to making your next travel truly friendly.