How many of us are jet setting, piling on the frequent flyer miles, and racking up those traveller points? The world is becoming smaller, more accessible, and the curiosity that comes with our human nature has us exploring the most undisturbed parts of the planet via non-sustainable travel. We are discoverers, seekers, divers, and trekkers. But are we actually doing the world any favors?
Travel is to explore as sustainable travel is to get from one destination to the other – smartly. And when you get there, making conscious decisions to minimize your carbon footprints. Sustainability starts from the moment you decide to book that dream trip. Instead of just planning all the fun excursions, take a moment to consider the minimal changes you can make to protect the future of travel for all of us. Becoming a conscious traveler, one person, and destination at a time will preserve all the beauty and wealth the world has to offer.
Carbon Footprint – The Basics
When we think of carbon footprint, what exactly do we mean? In simple terms, anything humans do burns energy or carbon dioxide and that electricity is coming from our diminished natural resources which are called fossil fuels.
According to Encyclopedia Britannica, “gas turbines used in jet aircraft—the heat yielded by burning a fossil fuel serves to increase both the pressure and the temperature of the combustion products to furnish motive power.”
So yes, my jetsetters, we are quickly sucking up those natural resources that took a lifetime to create, every single time we fly. Blue Sky Model states planes are producing nearly 54 pounds of carbon dioxide for every mile.
We are not saying to forgo flying. The proposal is, fly non-stop when you can; take longer trips when possible to decrease time in the air, and if you can go by bus or train – go for it! Now that we’ve covered actual commuting, let’s get into the accommodation choices we make and how that impacts our planet.
International Tourism Partnership (ITP) is a resource that is collaborating with massive groups like the United Nations to combat critical social and environmental issues. ITP’s research emphasizes that hotels must decrease their emissions by a whopping 66%!
And where are these emissions coming from?
If you think practically, the larger the hotel, the more use of water, resources, waste, and all that energy. Just envision how often those beach towels are washed and rewashed in high-occupancy, all-inclusive resort. Of course, while sunbathing, that’s the LAST thing we want to consider. Again, the solution is not to avoid hotels. The alternative is to take a few minutes to research that favorite hotel of yours to ensure its practices are moving in the positive direction towards becoming eco-conscious. You don’t have to be a research guru. Green Globe, for example, provides worldwide certifications to only the hotels that meet the strict standards – just a 30-second search on the internet!
The pressure from organizations that measure carbon emissions is forcing the tourism industry to wake up, and hotels are a big part of the concern. Accommodations all over the world are learning the many ways to improve, such as the use of solar, proper recycling, reduction of plastic, and waste/water reservation. While I’m at it, you can quickly help by absolutely never using plastic straws – invest in bamboo, metal, or silicone options that are reusable. You see –small changes do add up!
Tourism – The Cultural Impact
Another consideration for smart travel is the cultures we are so eager to immerse ourselves in. We are naturally and emotionally moved when we see outstanding photos of wildlife, unique villages, and other less-frequented parts of the world. That feeling drives us to encounter the experience for ourselves. Some of us go far and wide to reach those remote destinations. There are a few challenges that occur as a result.
Awareness of how our behavior affects local communities and their environment financially are fundamental. The concerns with hotels can go hand in hand with how the local economy is either being supported or neglected.
Some questions you can ask yourself – again with a tiny bit of research include:
· Are hotels sourcing their food locally whenever possible?
· What corporate responsibility initiatives are major hotels providing for their local communities?
· Are the hotels hiring locals?
· Are they focused on bringing in outside employment, goods, and resources?
If you find that your favorite hotel is not living up to its sustainability efforts, you can play a small role by ensuring that you:
· Choose excursions that are local and managed by the people of your destination
· Purchase handmade, crafted items that give back to the communities that need it
· On cruises, book with locals, so you get an authentic experience, and the funds will feed the community
There are plenty of small ways to become a conscientious traveler. Your minimal changes will help contribute to a world that is cleaner, greener, and you don’t have to sacrifice your love of exploration.
If this all feels too overwhelming, you can always rely on socially aware travel agencies. Ruri Blue Destinations specializes in sustainable travel that is quite luxurious and not too restrictive. Stay tuned as I explore the difference between eco vs. sustainable in our next addition!
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