It seems we can do hardly anything these days that doesn’t in some shape or form damage the environment. Especially while travelling, when we can become so preoccupied with the hedonist goals of our journey that we hardly notice the impact we’re having. However, if we shift our focus from joie de vivre to taking a parting glance at the carbon footprint every traveller leaves, the whole picture is suddenly very sobering.
The question arises: can one be a travel addict and still spare the environment?
Transportation is the crux of the problem
Most people travel either by aeroplane or fuel-powered vehicles. These travelling methods account for about 15% of the greenhouse gas emissions around the world, and that’s on an annual basis. There are more than half a million people in the sky at any given time. If that doesn’t boggle your mind, hardly anything will. In other words, flying is terrible news for the global climate. Jet fuel is responsible for the CO2 emissions just as much as your average car that runs on petrol or diesel.
What are the alternatives?
This is why people are on the constant lookout for travelling methods that bear the least impact on the environment. Ethical travel is the buzzword for good reason. That being said, this does not count if you are obliged to fly for business or if you have to deal with a family emergency somewhere far away. We are strictly discussing travelling for pleasure. For example, you can always rent or purchase an electric car. Once you reach the destination, you can use a bike to go around and see all the landmarks.
This also means that you can ‘spice it up’ with additional interesting activities. For example, if you are not getting to your destination as fast as you would by flying, you can turn the journey there and back into an integral part of the experience. Don’t rush it. Instead, seek out interesting places and rent a room in a hotel or an Airbnb nearby. Turn your 14-hour drive into a 3-day trip filled with exquisite sights.
Furthermore, if you plan to travel to a different continent, you might want to look into cruise liners and why they have become such a popular format of travelling the world. Remember – make the most out of the trip, not destinations only.
Packing lightly also makes a difference
Also, pack lightly for your travels, and stick to this philosophy for any and every trip, no matter how long. While you’ll most certainly have to pack more for lengthier absence from home, try to set the fixed goal for yourself.
For example, you can purchase a sturdy suitcase of a specific size, and aspire to fit all of your travelling stuff in it, no matter what. Still, you should aim for smaller luggage if you don’t need the space. Fit it all into a perfect daypack if possible. Did you know that every kilogram of luggage makes a difference when it comes to a carbon footprint?
There are also small items you can bring along for the trip; details which seem insignificant but which also contribute to a greener behaviour. Instead of purchasing endless plastic water bottles on your trip, you can take a portable water purifier, and put it alongside your designated reusable plastic bottle before placing it into your suitcase.
Research your destination and see if there are items you can purchase once you arrive. This means that you can take those items out of the equation for your luggage weight. Some people will haul several bottles of wine across the world, but many destinations have their own kind on sale, the type that is quite often cheaper than the one you’ll purchase at your local supermarket.
Jump on the ‘carbon offsetting’ bandwagon
You can do many things as an ethical traveller if you want to contribute. If you come from an affluent economic environment, you can dip into your savings and put something aside for your ‘carbon offset’ donation. This is a conscience-quenching alternative for people who simply cannot avoid travelling via the method that is damaging to the environment. The core of the idea of carbon offsetting is to, for lack of a better term, buy your way out of the damage you cause to the environment.
You can go to a website such as Carbon Footprint Ltd. and put in the information that will calculate the CO2 emission your travelling arrangement causes. Based on that, you can pay a particular company that in turn invests the money into a large-scale project dedicated to reducing carbon emissions.
When you look to these examples you might be tempted to forget about the climate change angle and simply enjoy all the conveniences of modern travel. After all, you deserve to pamper yourself and belay all the worrying at least for a few weeks a year. While there is an argument here, you should try to imagine how many people around the world embrace the same mindset and what sort of impact that has on the environment. If we want to change the world for the better and ensure humanity’s future, we need to start with ourselves, no matter the excuses.
Bio of Guest Writer: Ian Lewis is a father, writer, and a fitness nut. He’s passionate about many forms of strength training and spent years lifting all kinds of heavy objects. His favourite quote: “There are three ways to ultimate success: The first way is to be kind. The second way is to be kind. The third way is to be kind.” He has contributed to PlentyOfFish, BioFriendlyPlanet, RaiseVegan, and many other online magazines. Find him on Twitter.