After two years with little or no travel, many people are ready to fly away as soon as they can. Travel for pleasure or business has a massive impact on climate change, though, so it’s important to travel sustainably.
Travel has a Big Impact
Indeed, the travel and tourism sector creates as much as 11 percent of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, according to research cited by the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC). So even though travel and tourism also accounts for more than ten percent of global GDP and drives employment opportunities as well as economic growth worldwide, the WTTC said the sector has the responsibility and potential to be a catalyst for profound
With the impact of travel being so large, it might seem like the actions any one person takes might make little difference. In reality, though, simple steps to travel more sustainably can limit GHG emissions and help change
There are actually are a multitude of relatively straightforward steps each of us can take to reduce our personal impact on climate
It starts with our flight. Rather than taking lots of short trips, for instance, taking one longer trip on a non-stop flight can be more enjoyable and causes less climate impact. Whereas a non-stop flight from Los Angeles to the Philippines travels 7,292 miles, according to Sustainable Travel International (STI), adding a layover in Taiwan comes in at about 7,600 miles. Those 300 extra miles add about 163 pounds (74 kg) of carbon dioxide (CO2) to each passenger’s carbon footprint.
And with more airlines taking action to reduce climate change, selecting the right one is important, too. Air France/KLM is investing in alternative fuels such as biofuel, Travel & Leisure magazine noted, while Alaska Airlines has a “Greener Skies” program and United’s “Eco-Skies” program has improved its planes’ fuel efficiency by more than 30 percent
As you get ready for your trip, consider traveling lighter. Transporting heavier luggage uses more fuel. STI found that reducing your baggage by 15 pounds (6.8kg) decreases emissions by about 80 pounds (36.2kg) on a ten-hour flight.
When you arrive at your destination, buses and trains are more climate-friendly options for side trips. Whereas rail travel creates 14 grams of CO2 emissions per passenger mile, according to the European Environment Agency, air travel creates 285 grams per mile and cars create 158 grams. Taking a train can cut 90 percent off
As you choose where to stay, consider a hotel with a lower carbon footprint. Hotels that use energy efficient fixtures and appliances, renewable energy and locally-sourced products are better. You can use Google to search for eco-certified hotels or look for “green hotels” on Trip Advisor. And once you’re in the hotel, reduce energy and water usage. Even though it’s tempting to use electricity that the hotel pays for, you can mitigate climate change by turning off the lights, TV, mini fridge and digital devices when you’re not using them. Some green hotels use energy from renewable sources, less water, and natural furnishings. The environment at an eco-friendly hotel can then be healthier than at a traditional hotel because the materials used in construction, paint, furnishings, and cleaning products avoid ingredients that pollute or release toxins into the air.
While staying in one place rather than taking many side trips reduces your carbon footprint, it has many other benefits. You can deepen your appreciation for the place by walking around and interacting with locals so you really get to know the area. Tour company Trafalgar suggests choosing a local tour guide, drinking local beer and wines, and enjoying local dishes. Local foods are tastier, support local food producers, and keep food transport miles low.
Offsetting your carbon footprint
Inevitably, though, travel has an environmental impact. While reducing the impact is most important, offsetting GHGs caused by your travel can be beneficial. You can purchase carbon offsets such as planting trees at organizations such as Sustainable Travel International, Native, Carbonfund.org, and Tomorrow’s Air.
In the end, it’s important to relax, reconnect with family or friends and enjoy your trip. At the same time, travel will be even more meaningful when you make small changes that have a huge impact by mitigating climate change.