The travel and tourism industry take a heavy toll on the environment, but there are some things you can do to reduce the impact and make your traveling green.
Green traveling can mean anything from choosing a train instead of a plane to participating in ecotourism.
One of the biggest ways in which travel affects the environment is energy consumption. Planes, many of them with empty seats, criss cross the globe in ever increasing numbers. There are several ways to reduce the energy consumption associated with travel.
If you are traveling for a business meeting, you can suggest to the decision maker avoiding traveling entirely and use video conferencing instead. New video conferencing technology, known as telepresence, has advanced to the state where it is almost as good as meeting someone in person. Not only is choosing videoconferencing over business trips good for the environment, but it will also save your company or organization a lot of money, so if you are in charge or have influence over the decisions, reserve business trips for only the most important meetings.
If you are traveling for leisure, you can opt to travel closer to home, since traveling a shorter distance will result in less energy use. Of course, the environmental impact doesn’t just depend on distance traveled, it also depends on what method of transport you use and whether it is filled to capacity.
For example, trains are more energy efficient than buses, but if they are burning coal, then they can emit more greenhouse gases. Similarly, if trains are not filled to capacity, then they can consume more energy per passenger than a bus that is filled to capacity.
A train that’s filled to capacity will consume a lot less energy than a plane that’s filled to capacity that travels the same distance. If you are able to take a train or even drive instead of flying, then you will reduce energy consumption (assuming your car is at full capacity and has an average fuel efficiency). While taking a train or driving takes longer, you can often enjoy the scenery more, and in the case of driving, explore places on the way. If you are in a city, instead of renting a car, try using public transit, renting a scooter, or cycling if possible. You may even find that walking is the best option. Another way to reduce energy consumption is to bring less on your trip. The reduced weight saves fuel.
Ferryboats, helicopters, cruise ships, motorboats and personal jets are among the least energy efficient ways to travel, so try to avoid these forms of transportation if possible.
Cruise ships, aside from consuming a lot of energy, have a detrimental effect on the environment in other ways too. Cruise ships release sewage, graywater, solid waste and even hazardous waste. Because cruise ships tend to concentrate around certain popular coastal areas, their collective impact can add up to a lot of environmental damage. For this reason, you should avoid cruises, or look for one of the new green cruise alternatives that are starting to become available.
While traveling, avoid leisure activities that may harm the environment. For example, avoid driving, boating, cycling, or even hiking and climbing in environmentally sensitive areas, unless you’ve researched it in advance and know that it won’t harm the environment. Also avoid hunting, fishing or consuming endangered species while traveling.
Instead of environmentally damaging leisure activities, you can participate in the growing ecotourism movement. Ecotourism often involves exploring natural areas and their flora and fauna in a sustainable way. It has provided economic opportunity throughout the world, where the economic alternatives might be environmentally harmful activities such as deforestation or mining. By supporting ecotourism, not only can you have great traveling experiences, but also assist the growth of green industries around the world.
If you are camping, exercise all appropriate fire precautions, and be sure to clean up any garbage. Try bringing reusable beverage containers, utensils and dishes.
The same principle applies to traveling anywhere. If you can carry a reusable water container and fill it up at the hostel or hotel where you’re staying, you won’t have to buy beverages in disposable bottles. Try to avoid eating at fast food restaurants since they tend to produce a lot of waste.
Also, if you don’t mind having less privacy, staying in a hostel is a great way to save money. Hostels have a lower environmental impact than most hotels, because they use less space, and less lighting and energy per person.
If you prefer to have a little more privacy and the comfort of a proper hotel, then try selecting a green hotel. More and more hotels are discovering that buy conserving energy and water, and practicing the 3 Rs, they can attract new customers. As a result the selection of green hotels is steadily increasing. In addition, it’s a good idea to bring your own toiletries. Also, be sure to turn off the lights when you leave your hotel room.
Green traveling involves the consideration of many factors and careful planning, but it is an important part of living a green lifestyle and should not be neglected.