The following is a guest post by Marcela De Vivo. Marcela De Vivo is a freelance writer from Southern California who writes on everything from health, marketing, and tech. She loves spending time at beach-side Destin vacation rentals and has done a lot of travelling in her life, and always travels green when she can. In addition to reducing her own carbon footprint, she focuses on spreading the awareness of human intervention in nature.
Traveling can sometimes be considered to be a less-than-environmentally-friendly activity: the greenhouse emissions, paper and plastic waste and general consumption involved during the average trip only adds to environmental woes.
On the other hand, traveling can help raise awareness and appreciation of the different cultures, flora and fauna and the land itself. Rather than turning a blind eye, or ceasing travel altogether, try to minimize your carbon footprint. Here are a few suggestions on how to improve the eco-friendliness of your trip, while possibly enhancing the overall experience.
If your travel involves flying, this will be the largest contributor of greenhouse emissions during your trip; however, airlines are adopting new technology and practices to reduce their carbon footprint. Newer models of planes have more fuel-efficient engines and are built out of composite material for a lighter overall weight, helping save up to 25% on fuel. Some airlines are also looking into alternative fuel sources, like biodiesel—which produces fewer emissions.
If you are planning on renting a car, select a hybrid or electric car, instead of a standard car or a gas-guzzling SUV.
If possible, consider alternative sources of transportation. Instead of renting a car or hopping into an unshared taxi, try using a shuttle bus, if offered by the hotel, or use public transportation, if available. In major cities, especially in European countries, walking or biking is the normal way to get from point A to point B. Not only will you get a good workout while traveling green, but you are more likely to see and experience things missed while whizzing by in a car. Many cities offer bike rentals; some hotels often rent bikes for free. Of course, walking is always free.
If possible, instead of driving to a destination or flying to it, try traveling by train. As a great way to see a side of the country most travelers won’t see, you also will have the opportunity to meet local people.
Eco-tourism focuses on socially-responsible travel and environmental sustainability, therefore, the animal and plant life, and culture are the main points of interest. Such trips are meant to be as low-impact as possible and may even help provide funds or manpower (if the eco-tour includes volunteer work) for conservation or development of the environment and/or communities.
Eco-tourism also can help travelers understand the impact of people on the environment. Minimizing the influence of human intervention, eco-tours also try to preserve the local ecology and culture so that future generations can experience these destinations as untouched as possible.
Based on environmental performance index developed by Yale and Columbia, countries like Costa Rica, Palau, Poland, Uruguay, Dominica, Belize and the Galapagos Islands, are some of the top destinations for eco-tourism.
Eat, Drink and Buy Locally
A simple way to reduce the amount of energy used by your trip is to make sure that you consume and use products that are produced locally. Eating, drinking or buying goods that had to be shipped in increases the carbon footprint of your expedition.
By eating, drinking and buying locally, you will also be supporting small businesses, which is an investment back into your destination, helping secure their future.
If you’re staying at a hotel, try to treat it like your own home. Turn off lights as you leave; reuse sheets and towels at least more than once or for just one day. Hotels waste thousands of gallons of water a day washing linens that have only been used once.
Doing something as small as bringing your own reusable water bottle can go a long way to reduce your carbon footprint while traveling. Many other countries (and some states) do not have recycling programs and, as water will be consumed in great quantities during your travel, can lead to a lot of non-biodegradable plastic waste. Check to make sure that the water is safe in your destination—if it’s not, you may have to buy plastic bottled water after all. In all locations where the water is safe to drink, you can refill them at water fountains and soda machines (make sure the bottle is empty when you go through airport security).
You could also try to offset your carbon footprint once you return home. Compensate for the energy you used and waste you created during your travels by donating to an environmental cause or invest in a company that enables an equivalent reduction in greenhouse gas produced by your trip. Options include organizations that plant trees or generate wind energy.
With a few small adjustments, you can improve the eco-friendliness of your travels, while experiencing moments you might otherwise would have just driven past.