The polar ice caps are melting, sea levels are rising, extreme weather events are becoming more frequent – there is no denying that climate change is a real threat to our planet and everyone on it. It is dangerous to blame consumers instead of holding those accountable who have the power to change the systems that cause climate change. But we can still all play a small part in reducing our carbon footprint.
Tourism often destroys the very thing it relies on. After all, we travel places to experience earth’s beauty with our own eyes. To ensure generations after us have that chance too, we have to rethink the way we travel.
This is kind of a no brainer but vacationing closeby, or at least on the same continent, gives you access to more eco-friendly travel options (see our second point). If COVID-19 and a summer of limited holiday options have proven anything to us, it’s that you don’t have to travel far for a great adventure. So how about a trip to Sweden instead of Canada?
Of course, it can be great to venture further once in a while to experience a completely different culture or climate, but do you really have to fly to Mexico for a week-long holiday? Maybe limit your transcontinental trips to one every few years and plan more local holidays for the rest of the time. Another point is avoiding destinations with ecosystems already suffering from the effects of overtourism (like Boracay in the Philippines, Hawaii, or Bali).
Transport makes up a big chunk of carbon emissions on holiday, so choosing eco-friendly transport is the way to go. The lowest CO2 emissions per passenger mile are generated when traveling by bus or train, then comes the car, flying is in the last position. We do not even include cruise ships here, because they are just. that. terrible. for the environment.
When flying, avoid stopovers, check Skyscanner (they label flights that emit less than the average amount of CO2), and choose your airline wisely (low-cost carriers might be a greener choice because they pack more people on one flight). Finally, if you have enough money for a holiday, you can fork out some extra cash and offset the CO2 emissions of your flight.
Sustainable tourism is pretty trendy right now, so many places have eco-certified hotels or eco-friendly hostels. That means they use renewable energy, collect rainwater, or have energy-efficient equipment. Camping is an excellent low carbon accommodation too. If you feel up for trying something new, a farm stay or wwoofing might be for you.
Even in a regular hotel or Airbnb, there are things you can be mindful of. Tourists usually consume a lot more water on holiday than they would at home, in regions that are often already impacted by water scarcity. Behave as you would in your own home: don’t leave the tap running, take short showers, and use the correct button if there is a dual flush toilet.
It came as a surprise to us, too, but emissions caused by food consumed on holiday can exceed the emissions from transport or accommodation! That doesn’t mean that you should go hungry, though. Generally, it is much better to self-cater than to opt for all-inclusive packages. This way, you decide how much food you need and avoid wastage. When cooking, choose regional and seasonal ingredients – you aren’t on holiday to eat the same old meals you have at home anyway, right?
Inform yourself about the water situation in your destination; you can drink tap water in many places. The website Tap shows you where you can refill your water bottle (also as an app for iOs and Android). Otherwise, consider investing in a filter bottle or water purifying tablets. Think about all the plastic bottles you will avoid!
Let’s talk about eco-friendly travel products. The goal here should be to reduce waste and conserve resources. The three R’s – reduce, reuse, and recycle – are a great guideline. It’s your first time trying out a new activity? No need to go and get the full equipment. Ask your friends whether you can borrow their stuff or check for rentals at your destination. Otherwise, buy second hand or items made from recycled materials.
Consider switching out your toiletries for products without excessive plastic packaging. Bring bar soap and shampoo instead of little bottles, wooden toothbrushes instead of the regular ones, or menstrual cups instead of tampons and pads. Try and find eco-friendly sun cream without microbeads and Oxybenzone, which contributes to coral bleaching.
Nothing wrong with a holiday spent lying on the beach, but it can be nice to pack in some more action. Some pastimes are decidedly not eco-friendly, like playing golf or skiing in the desert (looking at you, Dubai). Choose activities that are appropriate for the climate you are in. Be aware where you spend your money: Look out for eco-conscious tour companies.
Whether you are on a hike through the forest or a walking tour through the city center, DO NOT LITTER. Show respect for the community and ecosystem you are visiting. A gratifying way to give back to the place you’re visiting is participating in a beach cleanup or helping out in environmental projects.