“Travel makes one modest. You see what a tiny place you occupy in the world.”
~ Gustav Flaubert
On October 8, 2018, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change published its latest report on global warming. The report issued dire warnings on a global scale. Now, more than ever, we need to reexamine how we travel.
Travel is important. It gives us opportunities to see our incredible world. Exploring a place, its history, culture, and food teaches us more than any textbook.
Traveling also offers us a chance to give back. Our dollars support local communities, organizations and conservation efforts.
5 Eco-Friendly Ways To Travel
Consider Your Means Of Transportation
Transportation is a critical part of your carbon footprint when traveling. When flying, most carbon emissions are released during takeoff and landing. Therefore, fly nonstop whenever possible. Also, consider purchasing carbon offsets. Finally, choose airlines with sustainability initiatives like KLM, Air France, Cathay Pacific, Jet Blue, Alaska Airline and Emirates.
On the other hand, train travel is more sustainable than flying. Consider the carbon-neutral Eurostar with its newly updated “Tread Lightly” program.
However, if you choose to cruise, your vacation comes with a high environmental cost. While most lines are pursuing more eco-friendly efforts, progress is slow. Opt for smaller, more efficient ships instead of mega-liners.
Choose Sustainable Destinations
Where you travel is just as important as how you get there. Choose a destination that values sustainability. Countries that value their natural resources, such as wildlife, coral reefs, and beautiful beaches enhance the traveler’s experience.
According to the 2018 Environmental Performance Index, the top 5 most sustainable countries are Switzerland, France, Denmark, Malta, and Sweden. For example, Copenhagen, Denmark, has fewer cars than bicycles while Stockholm, Sweden plans to be fossil fuel free by 2050.
Book Eco-Conscious Accommodations
Photo Courtesy of Six Senses Con Dao
Hotels, worldwide, have adopted “green” initiatives. Many go way beyond installing LED light bulbs and giving guests the option of reusing their towels.
However, sustainability doesn’t mean foregoing luxury. According to National Geographic, five of the world’s most luxurious hotels get it right when it comes to economic, social and environmental sustainability.
- The Brando, Tetiaroa, French Polynesia
- 1 Brooklyn Bridge, New York City
- Beyond, 29 locations across Africa
- Vermejo Park Ranch, Raton, New Mexico
- Six Senses, Vietnam
Support Local Communities
With only $5 of every $100 spent on a trip supporting the destination, it’s important to seek out travel companies and tour operators that support the local community. Tourism should provide employment and other economic benefits to the local people. Likewise, it should offer incentives to care for the culture and natural heritage of a destination. By hiring local people and purchasing local goods, you are contributing to the community you visit.
Opt For Sustainable Choices and Activities
Single-use plastic pollutes the environment and kills wildlife. You can help by making sustainable choices. For instance:
- Carry a reusable water bottle. It makes a big difference in the amount of discarded plastic bottles.
- Consider walking or bicycle trips that produce little to no emissions.
- Be sure any activity involving animals is 100 percent ethical.
Lastly, consider eating more meatless meals, which are better for health and the environment.
Savvy, Smart, Sexy People Travel Sustainably
There’s a great big, exciting world out there to explore. However, our rapidly changing climate threatens some of the planet’s most incredible places. Above all, it’s really up to us to educate ourselves about how our actions affect the world at large.
Before packing that suitcase, ask yourself,
- “Does this destination value its cultural and natural heritage?”
- “Does this tour operator support the local community?”
- “Can I volunteer or make a donation to a local NGO?”
- “Are my accommodations doing all they can to support the local environment and people?”
- “Are my planned activities eco-friendly, humane and culturally rich?”
If you answer “yes” then it sounds like you’ve done your homework. However, if the answer is “no” or you just don’t know, then maybe you should do a little more research or rethink your plans.
Now get out there and remember to
“Take only memories, leave only footprints.”
Michelle Moreno is a travel blogger, freelance writer, pastry chef, Elephant Ambassador, and animal activist. She is a former travel consultant and impassioned environmentalist, using social media and the written word to expand awareness of animal suffering and climate change and its effects on the world.