Written by Abby Rodgers, Programs Intern, Texan by Nature
Summer is finally upon us, and for a lot of people that means it’s time to go on a vacation! Traveling has many positive benefits, like taking a healthy break from work and daily life and learning about new cultures; however, there may be a few not so positive impacts that come along with travel. From flight to souvenirs, it has been estimated that tourism accounts for 8% of total greenhouse gas emissions. At Texan by Nature, we recognize the impact that every single person can make. That’s why we’re kicking off our #TxN5WayFriday series, providing weekly insight on being Texan by Nature. Here are five ways to reduce your impact while traveling.
1. Choosing a Destination
A travel destination can have a major impact on carbon footprint as a whole. It can seem more exciting to travel to a far off international destination, but there may be places just as interesting close to home. Look into more domestic locations that you’ve never been to or heard of before, and you may be surprised with what you find – especially in our great state with 11 eco-regions! If you are going to be traveling internationally, take into consideration the environmental fragility of a place and how a country prioritizes responsible eco-tourism. High tourism in areas with fragile environments like Antarctica and the Galapagos Islands can cause harmful impacts on the land and wildlife. Thailand recently closed a world famous beach, made popular by the 2000 film The Beach, to allow it to recover from the environmental damage made by millions of tourists over the years. Each year Ethical Traveler releases a list of the top 10 most ethical destinations based on the ones who have improved the most on promoting human rights, preserving the environment, and supporting social welfare. Social media has become a large part of people’s travels, documenting the places they visit for all their friends and followers to see. As more places get geotagged, this encourages people to want to visit those secret untouched locations which can harm a place with increased human traffic. If you are fortunate to be visiting a sensitive or secluded environment that can’t handle large crowds, be careful in the ways the location is shared.
2. Traveling to a Destination
Flying is usually the quickest and most convenient form of travel, but it is also one of the most impactful forms of transportation. Two climatologists put the impact into a visual perspective, stating that one passenger’s share of emissions on a 2,500-mile flight shrinks the Arctic summer sea ice by 32 square feet. So what are the other options? If you are not traveling overseas you could opt to drive, take a bus or a train. Choosing to drive instead of fly can cut your carbon footprint by half, and traveling by bus can have up to 75% fewer emissions than flying. Use The Fly or Drive Calculator to see whether car or plane travel produces less CO2. If you decide to fly you can always look into purchasing carbon offsets, which offset your carbon footprint by investing in environmental projects. When purchasing carbon offsets, make sure the organization/project is reliable and verified. Make sure to think about your transportation choices when you arrive at your destination. Public transportation such as buses or a metro is an environmentally friendly option, and sometimes the cheapest! Depending on where you are, walking can be a good choice that also allows you to see more of the area that you might have missed traveling by car or bus.
3) Choosing Lodging and Treating it Like Your Own
There are many options to choose from nowadays when looking for lodging on your trip, from hotels to hostels to airbnb. When researching places to stay, look for options that have sustainable practices. You can search for green certified hotels at Environmentally Friends Hotels, and also look into ones that are LEED green building certified. If you enjoy meeting new people, hostels could be a good option for you. This could also reduce the energy usage from your stay since you are sharing a room with multiple people.
To be sustainable in your travels, treat your lodging as if it was your own home and you were paying the bills. When you leave for the day remember to turn off your lights and TV and turn up or down your thermostat to use less energy. According to the EPA, laundry on its own accounts for 16% of average water usage for hotels. If you do not need your sheets or towels changed, hang a sign on your door so housekeeping knows not to change these out for the day. Many hotels now have environmental education about their green initiatives in each room, so be sure to check it out when you first arrive to best contribute to their efforts.
4) Pack Reusable Items
You may produce more waste while traveling than you would during your daily routine at home. It is easy to use a lot of single use items on your trip just while walking around and eating out. To help reduce your waste, remember to pack reusable items like a water bottle, utensils, and straw! Bring your empty water bottle and fill it up in the airport before your flight, or fill up before you leave for a long road trip. When you are going to be out all day, remember to grab your utensils and fill up your water bottle at the place you are staying before you leave. If you are in a location with a reputation for unclean water and are wary of drinking from the tap, look into purchasing a filtered water bottle for your trip.
5) Trip Activities and Wildlife Tourism
You have finally arrived at your destination and are excited to explore the new area! While researching your new adventure take into account how the businesses and tourist attractions are treating the environment and wildlife, if there are any protections and limits, or if they are using natural resources without regulations.
A big form of tourism in many countries is wildlife tourism. People like to experience and learn about new things, and it’s exciting to see an exotic animal up close. However, as shown in National Geographic’s latest article, The Dark Truth Behind Wildlife Tourism, many animals in these captive environments are treated very poorly, and tourism and social media may to promote these practices. If you do decide to experience wildlife on your trip, do your research. Look for any signs that shows the animals may be harmed or kept in cages. Remember that these animals are wild, and no matter whether they were born in captivity or not it is not natural for them to pose for pictures, give rides, or perform. Instead choose activities and wildlife trips where you can observe animals in their natural environment.
Find out more ways to be more sustainable by visiting our blog page.