Our world is here to be explored, enjoyed and experienced. Although, travelling locally, regionally, and globally is a great burden to the environment, especially from air travel. For example, according to the ETA, just one return flight from London to New York produces a greater carbon footprint than a whole year’s personal allowance needed to keep the climate safe. Furthermore, findings from a study conducted by the United Nations identified a growing population of travellers, for example there were nearly 1.2 billion international travellers in 2015, up from 674 million in 2000. The environment therefore faces significantly increasing pressures.
Additionally, if you are a climate change sceptic. Perhaps, these facts and statistics found on reputable sources, for example NASA’s Global Climate Change: Vital Signs of the Planet, may change your mind:
- Global sea level rose about 17 centimetres in the last century. The rate in the last decade, however, is nearly double that of the last century.
- Most of the warming occurred in the last 35 years, with 15 of the 16 warmest years on record occurring since 2001.
- The year 2015 was the first time the global average temperatures were 1 degree Celsius or more above the 1880-1899 average.
- The current pace of the global average temperature increase puts approximately 25 to 35% of plant and animal species at increased risk of extinction.
- In 1910, Glacier National Park was home to an estimated 150 glaciers. That number has now shrunk to 25 as of December 2016. This is only one example of glacial melt that is occurring all over the world. Including in the Alps, Himalayas, Andes, Rockies, Alaska and Africa
- Rain forest destruction contributes to climate change because tress store carbon dioxide as they grow. Clearing and burning forests also releases large amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
- The oceans have absorbed much of this increased heat, with the top 700 meters of ocean showing warming of 0.302 degrees Fahrenheit since 1969.
- Average sea level is expected to rise 1-6 feet before the end of this century.
- The world’s coral reefs are in the midst of a global decline. As of 2015, coral bleaching has impacted 40% of the world’s coral reefs, killing over 4,630 square miles of reefs.
Crazy? Scary? I know. What then, can we do to reduce our carbon footprint when travelling? You can begin by thinking in a more environmentally conscience way, known as Sustainable Travel. Although, what does this mean? While this term is difficult to define, The World Commission on Environment and Development defines it simply as “meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” The difficulties in understanding how to travel sustainably may be reflected by a 2016 global study of 10,000 travellers conducted by Booking.com, which described itself as the world’s largest travel hotel booking site, identified how 65% of respondents claimed they hadn’t stayed or didn’t know whether they had stayed in eco-friendly accommodations.
To help further your understanding how to travel sustainably, here are some key tips that can help reduce your carbon footprint when exploring our beautiful world.
- Identify Eco-Friendly Tours
- For example, Intrepid Travel now offers more than 1,000 group tours a year that are fully carbon neutral.
- Luxury tour operators like Remote Lands, Butterfield & Robinson and Abercrombie & Kent are also incorporating sustainability on select trips.
- Perhaps, stay at eco-friendly hotel/hostel
- The international hotel industry directly contributes 1% of the global CO2 emissions, which is as large as the total yearly emissions of the United Kingdom.
- Eco-Friendly hotels, include the Six Sense in Vietnam and the Tree hotel in Sweden.
- Conduct research to identify whether your hotel engages in sustainable practices, such as allowing you to turn off the power to your room when you leave for the day.
- What to do when booking flights?
- If you can, choose the option to offset your carbon emissions when flying.
- Be careful what you eat and drink.
- Choose local products and produce that support local people. They often taste better too.
- Sustainable travel also branches out into cultural sustainability, which can be understood by preserving traditions and beliefs of other groups. By accepting and respecting the differences in culture, can further your authentic and unique travel experience.
While there are those, who argue against sustainable travel. Vicky and I however completely disagree. Especially, when you read and hear the substantial amount of evidence that suggests how travelling is causing negative consequences on the environment. Thus, if we want to continue exploring the wonderful mysteries of the world, then we urgently need to start acting and respecting it. Sustainable travel is therefore a fantastic way achieve this, especially as it often provides you with a more meaningful and authentic experience by immersing yourself into other cultures, making informed purchases and lowering your carbon footprint on your destination.
If you agree with Sustainable Travel, then come and join us by signing up to WWF’s Earth Hour Campaign, where millions of people, business and landmarks around the world have set aside an hour to host events, switch off their lights, and make noise for climate change action at 8:30pm on 25th March 2017. “Together, with your support, we’re helping change laws, lives and our planet!” – Earth Hour, WWF.