The United Nations declared 2017 as the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development. The main objective is to connect the growing industry of tourism with the three pillars of sustainability—economic, social, and environmental. As the United Nations will work with governments from all over the world, organizations within the United Nations, as well as international and regional organizations, there are also many things that we as tourists and travellers can do to make the tourism more “green”.
Here are some useful tips to employ when travelling.
1. Carbon Offset
Did you know that carbon emission per person by air travel is much worse than any other type of transportation even over long distance[i]? If there is a place where you can get to by train, car, or bus with still relative ease, do that instead! But of course, most of the places in the world are almost impossible without an airplane. Many airlines now, however, offer the option to offset your carbon emission when you’re making a purchase. Carbon offset is a credit you pay for greenhouse gas reductions that is used to compensate the emissions made elsewhere. Who wouldn’t want to travel guilt-free?
2. Direct Flights
Air travel already emits a tremendous amount of carbon, but the landings and take-offs do even more damage to the environment, as those instances require the most fuel. Although we’re always looking for the cheapest way of arriving at our destination, that couple hundred dollars you might save just to take three different flights to get somewhere could probably be avoided if you strategize on the best times to buy airplane tickets. You were literally just complaining about inefficiency. Stop it.
This might sound less exciting, but how much of your country have you really seen? Not to mention travelling can actually be extremely stressful. Having a staycation or even travelling to somewhere closer to home can alleviate that anxiety and stress burdened by cost, expectations, and over-planning. If your destination is a mere several hours away, you can end up saving a lot on both money and carbon emission. I know you hate going through airport security. They’re all perverts!
4. Day and Summer Flights
It’s true. Night flights contribute twice as much to the warming effect compared to day flights. This is due to the effects of condensation trails that airplanes leave. As clouds do, contrails trap heat, but their effects are less prominent during the day as they reflect sunlight back away from Earth, helping the planet stay cool[ii]. Winter flights are also observed to contribute more to the warming effect than summer flights. So, a staycation during winter and a vacation by daytime and direct flight during summer? Deal?
5. Light Luggage
We all hate waiting for luggage, especially that moment when everyone’s picked up theirs and left, and you’re still left waiting at the carousel weeping over your luggage-gone-rogue situation. This could’ve been avoided if you hadn’t packed twelve outfits and five pairs of shoes for a six-day trip. The key is to pack light. As in, just have a carry-on. The lighter the plane is, the less fuel get burned. It’s not like you’re going to a fashion show anyways. A few outfits is enough.
These are some of the important factors to consider. Obviously there is a lot more that we can do when we’re travelling. Immerse yourself in the local culture by eating locally produced food and buying locally made souvenirs. Ask your accommodation if they have any sustainable practices like recycling. Turn off the hotel lights. And I know that you know that throwing the hotel towel on the bathroom floor means you want a new one every single night. Stop it. Reuse your towel. Seriously, how dirty can you be after you shower?
What will you do to help with sustainable tourism? Share with us any sustainable and green travel tips that you have!
Visit the United Nations World Tourism Organization and see what you or your company can do to support the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development.