Travel and tourism have an enormous impact on climate change, contributing 10% of all carbon emissions. International travel is on the increase due to cheaper air fares and consequently causes more pollution than the construction industry. In order to manage your carbon footprint effectively some careful planning is advised before you hit the road.
Do you Need to Fly?
Air travel contributes significantly towards carbon emissions and is the single most important consideration when planning any journey. Consider what alternatives are available and, if you have no option but to fly, choose to fly direct. Direct flights reduce air mileage and avoid the excessive fuel consumption of take-off and landing.
Flying economy is advisable, saving money while making a more efficient use of cabin space. Although it is debatable if some airlines will remove their business class seats if nobody uses them.
When you touchdown take trains or buses to your final destination instead of a connecting flight. This is a fabulous opportunity to enjoy your journey close up at a much slower pace and actively engage with the local culture.
The weight of your luggage will affect the fuel consumption of your plane. It may seem that the weight of your hand luggage and suitcase is insignificant but if every traveller carries less, the combined saving makes a considerable difference to your flight, train or bus trip. The extra fuel cost and the charge for transporting your belongings from the plane to the terminal determines the fee for placing your suitcase in the hold.
Make yourself at Home
Treat your holiday accommodation as if you were at home by turning off the TV, lights, heating and aircon when you leave the room. Towels and linen don’t need to be changed every day, saving on power and detergent use. Tidy as you go and use the do not disturb sign to notify the staff that your room does not need attending to.
Wherever you are respect the indigenous animal and plant wildlife, making efforts not to stray from paths or venture into nature reserves. Local guides can advise you on safe places to visit and what to look out for. Never contaminate water sources and take everything away that you bring.
Travelling alone can be a fulfilling experience, affording the space to appreciate new experiences without distraction but it often makes sense to make some journeys as a part of a group. Sharing rooms or local transport reduces your carbon footprint but also saves money and may even introduce you to new friends. Larger groups, on the other hand, tend to swamp tourist destinations and have a much greater environmental impact.
Disposable Bottles and Cups
In parts of the world it is inadvisable to drink from the domestic water supply and tourists are encouraged to purchase their own. Carry your own water cannister and top up whenever you can from a trusted source. Local entrepreneurs will be eager to sell you bottled water but resist the temptation by going out prepared. Reusable hand portable water filters and purification tablets are now easily available.
Take your own travel mug with you and avoid the wasteful disposal coffee cups served up at airport and train station lounges and bars.
Give something back to the area you are visiting by buying local. Wherever possible shop in local markets, choosing food and other items that are manufactured or grown in the region. Consuming globalised brands, often available at home, affects the local economy and contributes to unnecessary airmiles.
Take the opportunity to experience local culture, sampling whatever culinary or other sensory treats are on offer. Street food is always a cheap way to experience regional delicacies especially if you fancy something vegetarian.
Be prepared to barter for local handicrafts while ensuring the vendor is still receiving a decent income. Take your own reusable shopping bag with you and refuse any plastic bags offered.
Take time out to stay in one place and adjust to the local pace of life. There may be much more to see by exploring a region in depth than flitting from one tourist hot spot to another. Rent a bicycle and break away from the crowds to seek out beautiful views and quiet corners off the beaten track.
Planning a holiday has never been easier for independent travellers, we can choose when and where to go and build our own itinerary. Incorporate your eco credentials into your schedule and put together a trip that suits you but aims to leave nothing behind but your footprints in the sand.
And finally, before you go, remember to switch off and unplug everything at home.