Mention eco-friendly travel and you might think of camping or backpacking. But eco-friendly travelling is so much more than that. There are many other “green” things you can do to reduce your carbon footprint and protect the earth.
Ecotourism is a rapidly growing industry, thanks to greater awareness and more environmentally conscious travellers trying to do their part. Regardless what type of travel you choose, conscientiously making sure you leave nothing behind but footprints can go a long way.
Ready to embark on your green journey? Here are some simple ways to minimise your carbon footprint while travelling.
1. If possible, try not to fly
Out of all the modes of transport, flying produces the most carbon dioxide emissions per kilometre. If possible, take the train or go on a road trip. Even one short flight produces more CO2 than driving or rail travel.
Also, avoid stopovers if you can, because those mean longer journeys and more fuel and CO2 emissions. A direct flight not only saves you time, it will also be less taxing on the environment.
2. Pack light and fly Economy
Business Class may be more swanky than Economy Class, but the latter actually produces a smaller carbon footprint. How so?
Firstly, Economy Class is far more efficient in terms of passengers per flight. Business Class takes up more physical space and accommodates not even half as many people.
Secondly, Business Class flights come with Business Class facilities, such as airport lounges and spas, all of which use up lots of water and produces lots of waste.
Also, pack light. A light backpack means the airplane uses up less fuel than if it has to transport heavy suitcases.
3. Walk or use public transport
Compared to driving or taking a cab, mass transit is a much greener way to travel, because it uses less fuel per passenger. Even better, explore by foot. It’s a great way to experience any place and make new discoveries off the beaten track, and you get to clock those 10,000 daily steps.
Wherever you plan to go, do your research on the most efficient way to get around to cut down on travelling time and fuel emission. Depending on where you are, public transportation can be a better alternative to renting a car or taking a cab. Doing due diligence will ensure that you pick the most convenient and sustainable mode of getting around.
Another way to cut down CO2 emissions and petrol costs is by hitchhiking, which also allows you to meet new people. Gone are the days where you have to stand at the side of the road with a sign asking for a ride. There are apps that make hitchhiking easier and safer now, such as Carpooling.com (particularly popular in Europe), Hitchhiker Carpooling, and Waze Carpool. These apps allow you to see ratings online, the names and license numbers of the drivers, and everybody is registered.
5. Stay in eco-conscious resorts or hotels
The tourism industry — especially island resorts and spas — can jeopardise local wildlife and culture, and destroy the land. However, more and more accommodations are becoming aware of the need to preserve the environment and the local communities.
Look for accommodations with eco-certification. Such certifications indicate whether an establishment is eco-friendly, in that it gives back to the community or acts on sustainable best practices such as preserving wildlife and local cultural heritage or employing local staff. They are typically given by sustainable tourism organisations or non-profit ones that support sustainability in tourism around the world. These certifications may differ in standards from country to country, so it’s best to research on them before booking.
By supporting establishments with these certifications, you’re helping to develop a travel trend that reflects the growing lucrativeness and sustainability of eco-tourism.
6. Travel with fair-trade travel agencies
Aside from eco-friendly accommodations, choosing fair-trade travel agencies also helps to ensure that your travels are environmentally friendly.
Design your trip using an eco-friendly, socially aware travel agency such as EXO Travel. It helps you tailor sustainable travel experiences by regularly carrying out assessments and on-site inspections before classifying hotels as Eco-Friendly or Socially Aware, supporting local charities and fair-trade shops, and actively supporting community-based tourism projects such as Cultural Revival in Cambodia and saving wildlife and nature in Indonesia and Vietnam. It also ensures that its partners such as retail shops and hotels practise everyday sustainability by reducing waste and using biodegradable products.
7. Pack your own reusables
Instead of using the mini shampoos and body lotions in your hotel(s), pack your own toiletries to reduce wastage. Fill them in reusable bottles so you can use them for the next trip too. Also, bring along a foldable cloth shopping bag for your purchases, utensils and a metal straw, and perhaps even a container to pack any leftovers during your meal. With these on hand, you will never have to ask for single-use disposable items such as plastic bags and styrofoam or cardboard containers.
8. BYOB: bring your own bottle
After checking in at the airport, we tend to head straight to Starbucks for a coffee while waiting for our flight. That disposable cup would be the first waste we create on our trip. There will undoubtedly be more over the course of our trip. Those disposable cups and plastic bottles are usually non-biodegradable and will be tossed into landfills. Using a reusable water bottle or tumbler is an important change you can make for a much greener trip.
Also, avoid visiting places that may be facing a water crisis as it creates even more strain on the locals.
9. Skip the animal rides
Animal rides may seem like harmless fun, but it’s common knowledge by now that the animals used as tourist attractions suffer seriously poor living conditions. They are chained, kept in cages, and frequently abused, starved and overworked — and many have died under the adverse conditions. Skipping the animal rides or other tourist-y activities with animals will show that such inhumane practices have no place in the tourism industry and create a change in protecting local wildlife.
10. Shop for souvenirs wisely
It’s tempting to reach for a bunch of paper fans or keychains as souvenirs when you’re on holiday. But more often than not, those gimmicky items are thrown away eventually and create waste.
Put some effort into buying your souvenirs and look for something that is locally-made and not imported. Find something that is long-lasting, such as ceramics, textiles, or consumables such as local spices or spirits — these will make for more sincere gifts and memorable keepsakes.