In one of my earlier posts, I already mentioned my passion for travelling. Travelling has always been very important and inspiring in my life. As my das had his own travel agency, my sister and I grew up seeing many parts of the world and always doing and visiting new things.
It wasn’t until a couple of years ago, that I realized how damaging this has been for the world around us. Probably my Carbon footprint is higher than average and I haven’t been doing much to reduce or compensate this. In the old days, with a lot less publicity given to climate change, it was a lot harder to be accurately informed and especially, people in my parents age, they were just happy they had the means to travel and apart from recycling and maybe switching off the lights, they didn’t really think about what they could do to be/travel more sustainably. What does sustainable travel actually mean? For me, it means travelling with respect for future generations and other parts of the world, so that travelling will still be possible and equally beautiful in 10, 100 or 1000 years from now.
With the effects of global warming and the consequences for the climate being more and more clear, I have gotten really very worried and I decided that I really actively want to help stopping or at least slowing down climate change. If we keep on doing what we’re doing today, the average temperatures will increase by 3.5% and already by an increase of 1.5%, there will be some unstoppable disastrous consequences… (glaciers disappearing, polar ice melting, animal extinction, water Levels rising, etc!!!) Next to the fact, that I changed job and am now working for an NGO, whose mission it is to protect the climate, I would like to focus today on things we can all do to make travelling more sustainable as well… so that we don’t have to give up on it all together.
First of all, mobility has the most important leverage on the CO2 consumption of your trip, so choose wisely how you travel. Airplanes and cruise ships have the highest carbon footprint, so if you can find an alternative, by train, bus , car, bike or even your own legs, please take this one. If there is no available alternative for your destination and you really need (want) to go there, please try to at least stay longer than a week or 2, to make the most out of it.
In case you do travel by plane or cruise ship, you have an option to neutralize the CO2 you produced. This is called offsetting or compensating your carbon footprint. If you google this in your country, you will definitely find options of compagnies or NGO’s with whom you can do this. These companies or organisations will work with projects all over the works that are reducing CO2 Emissions. So if your flight from Brussels to New York results in 1.5Tonnes of CO2, you can then ‘buy’ or pay for the reduction of the same amount of CO2 elsewhere. This way you keep your Carbon footprint neutral. Don’t get me wrong, it is always better NOT to fly or cruise, but in case you still have to do so, I believe offsetting your emissions is a good thing to do. Please choose wisely with whom you do this though, as you have big differences in projects and also in types of organization offering this. (I would always look for an NGO offering it).
Another thing you can do to keep your Carbon footprint low is fly in Economy class. Flying in Business or in first class means you will use a lot more space in the Aircraft and it might triple or even quadruple your CO2 emissions. It’s maybe logical, but also direct flights are a lot better for the climate , then travelling with 1 or 2 stops. When you are at your destination, consider to travel slowly, using the same transportation means as the locals do. This means: avoid local flights and take trains, buses or private cars instead. When it comes to accomodation, try to avoid big resorts and try to stay at private accomodation instead. (Airbnb for example) If you do some wildlife excursions or go scuba diving, make sure that the organizers operate ethical standards. Do your research beforehand to check whether they handle their excursions responsibly.
Last, but not least, when it comes to eating and drinking, wherever you are in the world, it’s always recommended to eat local and seasonal food, and avoid unnecessary food waste. Eating vegetarian a couple of times a week will also help to reduce your carbon footprint, at home as well as on holiday… which is good as well for the endometriosis patients amongst us. 😉 The last thing I try to do on holiday is to always take some reusables with me. (Reusable bottle and bag) This will avoid some unnecessary plastic.
So, in summary, try to be mindful about the impact of your trip. Fly only when absolutely necessary and offset your CO2. I believe we can all make a difference… but there is 1 catch: we have to do it all together. 😉