It’s estimated that by next year, roughly half of the UK and American workforce will be freelance. This means, among other things, a lot more freedom to travel.
What’s more, the nomadic lifestyle and global wanderlust has become exponentially popular in the West. The unfortunate truth is plain to see: while the demand for travel is higher than ever, the act of travel itself can be highly detrimental to the environment.
Luckily, there are many small steps you can take while traveling to minimize your impact on the well-being of our planet.
Here’s our list of practical changes you can make to reduce your carbon footprint while exploring the globe:
1. Eat Local
Choose local street food over big chains to offset emissions from fast-food giants like McDonalds.
Also, important note: do eat local, don’t eat the local wildlife.
One of the best things you can do to help the planet is limit your red meat consumption (and all meat, if possible). While the burning of fossil fuels accounts for the bulk of greenhouse gas emissions, agriculture is still responsible for a whopping 9 percent, with livestock making up 4 percent of this. On your next trip, why not try out vegetarianism or veganism?
2. Change Your Flight Patterns
Air travel is the least sustainable way to get from here to there. However, airlines like Delta and United do have programs that let you compensate for the emissions you’ve generated while flying. After calculating the carbon footprint of your travel with the airlines’ respective carbon calculators, you can donate to a number of carbon reduction program, including forest conservation and renewable energy.
Unfortunately, this won’t make much of an impact, because, well, planes still burn ridiculous amounts of fuel. While offsetting your emissions certainly helps, it’s much more impactful to try and fly less frequently. Even airlines are entering the conversation. KLM Royal Dutch Airlines recently launched a new campaign called “Fly Responsibly” in which it urges travelers to ask themselves three simple questions before booking a flight:
- Do you always have to meet face to face?
- Could you take the train instead?
- Could you contribute by compensating your CO2 emissions or packing light?
Also, do your research on biofuels—we should really be lobbying airlines to fund research on (and make use of!) renewable energy.
Note: try to pack light! It’s a simple equation: the heavier your luggage, the more fuel required to fly it.
3. Print No More
This should be a given by now—always choose the e-ticket option when available!
Many environmental groups, like Sierra Club and WWF offer a wide variety of eco-tours. Basically, just punch in your destination followed by “eco tour” and a ton of options will come up. Also, avoid tours that harm animals (swimming with dolphins, playing with elephants, taking photos with tigers, etc.).
5. Green Volunteering
6. Calculate Your Impact
Check out this online carbon calculator—for planes, trains, and automobiles. The service costs only a few bucks per ton of CO2. After your calculation, not only do you get to offset your emissions through one of Carbon Footprint’s climate-friendly projects—you also get a personalized certificate recognizing your efforts.
7. Bipedal Exploration
Get back to your mammalian roots—the best way to see a city is on foot. Slow down, look around, and talk to strangers. For covering longer distances, rent a bike. If that won’t do, take public transportation. If you must take a car, Uber pool or Lyft line are better alternatives than riding solo.
8. Comfort Is No Longer Key
The hardest thing for most people to accept about the environmental movement is the uncomfortable fact of having to relinquish daily comforts to make real change. However, this will be absolutely key as we move into these next few crucial years for the future of our planet.
To do your part, choose lodging where you can open windows and turn off your A/C or heat. Take shorter, and colder showers. Travel with your own biodegradable toiletries to avoid those little plastic shampoos and soaps.
“Suck it up” has never been a more important adage.
So, there you have it—your list of eco-tips to consider while traveling. Please note that this is a useful start, but just doing the things on this list doesn’t mean you’re absolved of your duty.
The most impactful thing is to lobby your community and local government to make change. Change at the legislative level is the only chance our planet has against the ongoing and inevitable effects (read: disasters) of climate change.
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