Guiding You to a Greener Vacation
January 27, 2024
January is the busiest month of the year for booking future vacations — but in the world of travel, adrenaline and adventure often trump the needs of the environment. Living near the coast of Florida, joining voluntary trash clean up teams, is something I do, unfortunately, way too often. Most of the trash is plastic — single use water bottles and a lot of food packaging — the stuff that often tourists seem to forget to take home or put in trash cans. The issue is that this plastic trash can harm wildlife and once it breaks down into tiny fragments, called microplastics — it hurts us all.
The answer is not to retreat from the world but instead to embrace adventures that are planet-friendly. Sustainable ecotourism has dramatically increased in the last couple of decades as more and more people want to travel responsibly. The Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) just announced they are holding a Sustainable Tourism Conference in Grenada and have chosen to do it on Earth Day, April 22nd. They even adopted EARTHDAY.ORG’s theme for 2024, Planet vs Plastics.
So how can you indulge your wanderlust without the guilt or wrecking planet Earth in the process? Here are my top tips.
Transportation is a major contributor to our environmental impact when we are traveling, accounting for about 20% of the world’s carbon emissions. So, before going on a trip, consider the different ways you can get to your destination.
As you shop for plane tickets for that romantic getaway to Athens, take a look at the amount of carbon you will emit on your flight. Many booking services showcase this detail which is based on aircraft type, the number of passengers on-board, and the seat class you pick. Economy is best and private jets are clearly the worst when it comes to your eco-footprint! So, choose discomfort! Better still, consider a romantic trip closer to home, and take the train.
Once You Arrive
Remember that traveling by train might make for a longer journey, but it will cut your emissions significantly. Data shows, for example, that taking the Eurostar from London to Paris will result in 4% of the emissions you would rack up if you flew there. Plus, you get to see MUCH more of the country you are traveling in.
In cities, be sure to use the local public transportation available — be it trams, the metro or the bus — instead of renting a car. It will save you money and a lot of headaches when it comes to navigating and parking! Of course, walking or biking are great options too and mean NO extra emissions.
Luckily, ecolodges are all great options. They aim to minimize your ecological impact by utilizing renewable energy, minimizing waste, practicing water conservation and using local materials in their construction. Plus, they support the local community by creating jobs as well as sourcing food and drink seasonally, and locally, too.
You could consider alternative forms of accommodation like hostels, homestays, or even camping too. Depending on what kind of vacationer you are, you might be interested in World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms, also known as WWOOFing! WWOOFing involves working on farms to pick crops and care for domesticated animals in exchange for housing and food. This is a great way to learn more about a culture, agricultural practices, and connect with other like minded travelers.
Consider adding activities to your itinerary that benefit the locals and the environment. By visiting local parks and well-accredited nature reserves, you contribute financially to their upkeep. This tourism-driven revenue is a vital incentive, be it for privately-owned or state businesses to care for their natural resources and wildlife.
Volunteer tourism is another impactful way to engage with your destination. For example, Kanu Hawaii, an nonprofit based out of Hawaii, works to connect tourists with local volunteer opportunities. Their Pledge to Our Keiki even encourages mindful exploration for future generations.
Wherever you travel if you can’t find a local organization to volunteer with, then why not see if there’s a cleanup going on that you can join instead? Check out EARTHDAY.ORG’s Global Cleanup Map for opportunities. Volunteering while you are traveling may seem counterintuitive but it offers a unique chance to engage with your destination, leaving you with a much deeper appreciation for it.
Remember that living sustainably is a journey for many of us and traveling in a mindful way is another way to connect with the planet, to connect with different cultures, and to connect with different people.