If you’re thinking about taking a vacation, you might want to reconsider the way you travel.
Tourism contributes significantly to pollution and climate change. It’s responsible for 8% of global greenhouse gas emissions, and food, transport and shopping are significant contributors.
Meanwhile, the industry is growing at such a rapid rate that decarbonizing tourism technology simply can’t keep up with the demand. In other words, people are traveling farther and more often than the planet can handle.
Yet, if anyone deserves a break, it’s you, right? After all, you’ve survived a pandemic and could probably use some time off. Luckily, there are still sustainable ways to travel in 2022. Here are some of the most effective.
1. Travel Light
Traveling by air is one of the worst decisions you can make when trying to vacation or volunteer sustainably. Taking an overseas flight produces more carbon emissions than many people generate in an entire year. However, if you have no choice but to board a plane, there is one thing you can do to minimize your environmental impact: travel light.
By packing fewer items and choosing thin and light bags, you can minimize the load you personally put on the plane. The less your luggage weighs, the less fuel the aircraft will need to get to where it’s going. It seems like an insignificant decision, but it really adds up when you consider how much jet fuel it takes to go overseas — or even cross-country.
2. Take Public Transportation
Once you reach your destination, renting a car or hailing a taxi might seem like the easiest way to get around. Maybe the country even has Uber or a similar rideshare service. While these options may be more convenient, private vehicles emit far more carbon than public transportation systems.
If you can manage it, plan to take the bus or rail when you arrive. The rides are typically affordable and some are completely free, so you can get wherever you’re going for less. Taking public transit can also conserve land, reduce air pollution, and facilitate compact development to minimize runoff and construction.
3. Support Geotourism
Have you ever wondered if petting zoos or wildlife safaris are actually ethical? Some are helpful and sustainable, while others abuse animals, threaten their habitats and contribute to wildlife trafficking. Make sure you support ethical, sustainable practices by visiting places that have formal geotourism programs.
These destinations are committed to sustaining or enhancing the geographical character of a place. In other words, geotourism experiences will positively impact the environment, culture, aesthetics, heritage and well-being of local communities — human and otherwise. See wildlife in their natural habitat and choose experiences that are rewarding and give back to the local landscape. Doing so will ensure your dollars stay in the area and go to supporting on-the-ground conservation efforts.
4. Choose Accommodations Wisely
Hotels are massive waste generators by nature. In the United Kingdom, they produce a whopping 289,700 tons of waste each year, which doesn’t even account for wasted energy, water and other resources. That’s why it’s important to think small when traveling and choose accommodations wisely.
Consider staying in an Airbnb to support a local family or camping to reduce your electricity consumption. Even hostels can provide adequate shelter and possibly free meals if you’re just passing through. These options support the community financially and lessen your impact on the surrounding environment.
How to Travel More Sustainably
When it comes to sustainable travel, it’s easy to get overwhelmed and caught up in trying to do everything right. However, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach. Wherever you go and whatever you do, making a real connection with your destination will deliver an adventure that’s rewarding and immersive. Better yet, both you and the planet will be better off for it.
Author - Ginger Abbot
Ginger Abbot is a learning and education writer with a personal passion for study abroad and international travel. She also serves as Editor-in-Chief of Classrooms.com, where you can read more of her work.