Green travel is often misunderstood, with people thinking that they have to sleep in tents, or never use cars to get around. Most people forego even trying to plan an eco-friendly trip because they are under the misconception that traveling green involves sacrificing too many “regular” activities, especially those that make holidays fun.
In reality, traveling sustainably is not difficult. In fact, it should be looked at as a choice – a choice to opt for the alternative that will have the least impact on the surrounding environment. While you might think simple choices like booking non-stop flights as opposed to ones with layovers, and choosing hotels with recycling programs don’t make much of a difference in isolation; when clubbed together, these choices can significantly reduce your impact on the environment and make your travels more eco-friendly. Here are some environmentally-friendly choices for your next adventure:
Going green doesn’t mean that you have to give up on transport altogether – though if you are visiting a walking-friendly neighborhood, then take advantage of this and spend time walking around. Walking is a great way to really get immersed in the local culture of a place, and see parts of it that you might have missed if driving by.
Another option is hiring a bicycle (perfect for keeping off the holiday weight) as this significantly reduces your overall emissions. If you are renting a vehicle, make sure it is a hybrid or electric, so that it uses less fuel and decreases emissions. Using local services like buses, ferries and boats etc. generally have a lesser impact.
Often it won’t be in your control, but if you are in the position to pick specific flights to get to and from your destination, then try and pick a non-stop flight as the takeoff’s and landing’s are what hurt the environment most. Many airlines now have carbon offset programs where they try to compensate for the airplane’s emissions by investing in carbon reduction projects and initiatives – these are a good option.
When choosing a hotel for your stay, look for seals or certification that the hotel is eco-friendly. For the US, this involves a LEED certification, from the U.S. Green Building Council, which judges on sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, material selection, indoor environmental quality, and innovation in design. Other international certifications include EarthCheck, Rainforest Alliance and Green tourism Business Scheme. A lot of hotels have recycling programs, and choosing one with these is a great way to promote stable use of resources.
Another thing to consider is how “local” the hotel is. The “go local” movement has revolutionized consumerism in a big way in the food industry, with more and more people opting for locally grown produce. One of the reasons for this is that choosing local supports the immediate local economy, while also helping the environment by cutting down on shipping and transportation emissions, and being energy efficient. The same stands true with hotels. Inquire about how many local staff the hotel hires and whether their food, infrastructure materials and more is sourced locally. By supporting these hotels, you will be helping a local community sustain itself efficiently.
Every place has a unique set of activities for tourists and locals alike. While most people go with the cheapest choice, paying a small amount for travel activities can benefit in a huge way. Small eco-friendly tours are often slightly more expensive but guarantee that the tour is conducted sustainably and often, these tours will be more holistically satisfying than large commercial group tours. Consider activities that get you closer to nature, and maybe educate you about local landscapes, customs and traditions.
As a scuba diver, I urge you to take up environmentally friendly practices while engaging in adventure activities. This involves not touching coral while diving or snorkelling, purchasing eco-friendly and non invasive equipment for water sports like surfing, and consciously choosing to not take any tours that involves hands-on interaction with animals. These encounters stem from an industry that abuses and tortures millions of animals each year, to get them domesticated and compliant just to entertain us humans.
For activities such as hiking, bird watching and more, be wary on your environment and don’t encroach upon other species’ habitats. These days, if you are keen to ID various species, you don’t need to be invasive – thanks to many data plans that offer comprehensive 4G coverage all over the world and even remote locations, you can equip yourself with nature-supporting apps that let you learn about and ID various species without disturbing their homes.
Simple choices like the ones listed above, when put together have a huge impact in changing the way we travel. And if the positive impact made by one person can result in bettering the environment, think about what would happen if we all did our part to travel sustainably – we would be more fulfilled as travelers and our world would be all the better for it.