With travel off the table for the past year, we’ve had plenty of time to reflect on past adventures, embrace our wanderlust dreaming of future journeys and realize the gift travel really is. With vaccines rolling out and borders preparing to open, soon enough it will be time to make our dreams a reality.
When the time is right to travel again, here are 7 tips to ensure you travel sustainably:
1. Understand your carbon footprint and how to limit carbon consumption
Carbon can be complicated, but it doesn’t have to be. Essentially, your carbon footprint is the total amount of greenhouse gases (GHGs) released into the atmosphere as a result of your activities and lifestyle, measured in tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent. Increased GHGs are directly linked to Climate Change, which is why it’s important we collectively work towards a low carbon economy.
The majority of a person, business, community, or product’s carbon footprint comes from emissions from transportation, energy consumption, food, water use, and waste management. Because travelling can involve flights, transportation, restaurant dining, shopping and other activities, it can lead to extra GHG emissions — but again, it doesn’t have to. Understanding carbon is the first step towards reducing your carbon emissions and implementing these tips will help reduce your overall carbon footprint.
2. Go plastic-free with reusable items
Simple swaps like bringing a refillable water bottle and coffee cup, metal straws and a travel cutlery set can make a big difference. Additionally, instead of always purchasing and throwing away new travel-sized toiletries, get a set of reusable toiletry bottles to refill per your needs for each trip! Approximately 2.75 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions are estimated to have come from plastic by 2050 but making these doable changes can go a long way. As an added bonus, you’ll save money not having to purchase water bottles along the way and new toiletries every time you go on vacation.
3. Do your research — go with a company that cares
It can be overwhelming to plan a vacation and adding in sorting out the logistics of how to do it sustainably can add extra stress. Instead, travel with a company that’s already got it worked out and enjoy your travels guilt and hassle-free. Contiki, an adventure travel company for 18–35-year-olds, is on a mission to MAKE TRAVEL MATTER® guided by its not-for-profit, the TreadRight Foundation. The brand recently announced it will be a 100% carbon neutral company by January 1, 2022, including its 350+ worldwide trips — at no extra cost to travellers — and it launched a 5-step Climate Action Plan to support its ambitious GHG reduction goals. It also offers MAKE TRAVEL MATTER® Experiences across 60% of its itineraries, which are conscious and immersive experiences hand-picked to have a positive impact on the environment, people and places you visit. Each experience educates travellers on pressing global issues and local community actions being taken to address them, while directly advancing the UN Global Goals.
4. Consider alternate transportation methods
Travelling to far-flung destinations often requires long-haul flights contributing to our carbon footprint. Fortunately, new tools via Google Flights and Skyscanner help identify flights with lower emissions based on the type of aircraft and fuel. In destination, say if you’re travelling between European countries, opting for train travel instead of additional flights lowers emissions, as does travelling by coach. Some companies, like Contiki, use Euro 6 engines on their coaches, the most fuel-efficient option in Europe, so sometimes the air leaving the engine is cleaner than the air that goes in. If you need to fly, flying direct reduces emissions since take-off and landing are the most fuel-intensive portions of flights, and packing light helps too because the more the aeroplane weighs, the more GHGs it emits. If every traveller packs one less pair of shoes — or the equivalent of 1 kg — the impact would be equal to taking 10,500 cars off the road for one year. In destination, walk or rent a bicycle where you can, or choose public transit.
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5. Eat local and opt for meat-free options
Being away from home will often mean a lot of eating out and restaurant dining but choosing restaurants that locally source their food helps cut down on emissions from food transport and supports the local economy. Additionally, mixing in some vegan and vegetarian options can cut food-related carbon emissions, with beef, chicken and eggs creating more carbon than their protein-rich vegan alternatives of tofu and beans. Just going vegan for 2/3 of your meals can reduce your food-related carbon emissions by 60%. To make the transition easier, start by implementing Meatless Mondays!
6. Engage in ethical animal experiences
To truly travel sustainably and consciously, you have to consider the experiences you partake in — especially when it comes to wildlife. It’s important to educate yourself and only engage in ethical animal experiences to learn how you can help protect the world’s most at-risk wildlife from extinction. Unfortunately, ‘sanctuaries’ aren’t always what they seem and often exploit animals for profit. Do some research before you go and try to visit rehabilitation centres instead, where you’ll also learn how to protect and support endangered species.
7. Offset your carbon use
Being carbon neutral is the first step towards a low carbon economy. Being carbon neutral means reducing your carbon emissions as much as possible and balancing the unavoidable emissions by reducing the same amount of emissions elsewhere. By investing in environmental projects that prevent or reduce emissions, achieving carbon neutrality is possible. Tools like South Pole, a partner of Contiki and TreadRight, help travellers measure impact and provide the option to purchase verified carbon credits to offset.
For more information and tools to help reduce your carbon footprint, visit TreadRight’s new Impact Hub.