With eco-anxiety on the rise amongst young people, and the world approaching a point of no return with the climate, it’s time to start thinking about how we can incorporate sustainable travel and eco-conscious travel into our lives.
It’s no secret that air travel is harmful to the environment. According to Transport & Environment, “the emissions of all flights departing from an EU airport have grown from 1.4% of total EU emissions in 1990 to 3.7% today.” And if things keep going the same way, we can expect to see emissions double or triple by 2050.
And planes aren’t the only culprit either. Cars also contribute a hefty chunk to the overall greenhouse emissions produced in the atmosphere.
Both of these modes of transport are often regularly used in an individual’s travels abroad. We use planes to fly to new countries, and many rent out cars when they arrive. And lots of other behaviours when we travel to new locations can contribute to structures that harm the planet.
So let’s wise up on what eco-conscious and sustainable travel should look like.
What is sustainable travel?
Sometimes also known by other terms, such as ecotourism, the Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC) defines it as “an aspiration to acknowledge all impacts of tourism, both positive and negative. It aims to minimize the negative impacts and maximize the positive ones.”
But whilst the definition may be relatively easy to get your head around, what does it actually entail?
Finding sustainable accommodation
First on the list is accommodation. You might be thinking, how does accommodation impact the climate? But what it boils down to is, your choice of accommodation is an investment into the behaviours of the place you stay at. So, if you choose a hotel that takes no measures to mitigate negative impacts to the environment, your stay unfortunately funds unsustainable behaviour.
Changing your accommodation criteria to include genuine green practices will, over time, encourage a structural change in the accommodation industry. Businesses will feel the effects of their unsustainable behaviour and be encouraged to reconsider their practices for the better.
If you’re travelling thousands of miles away, there’s not much you can do about needing to fly. But in some instances, train travel isn’t beyond the realm of possibility. Take the Eurostar, that’s a perfect instance of improved travel consciousness.
You can also make more climate conscious travel decisions once you arrive at your destination. For example, rather than hiring a car, opt for buses and trains. Or if you’ve got a bit more money in your pocket, you can even consider hiring an electric vehicle.
And more obviously, you can make a conscious effort to fly less frequently. Although, in truth, a smaller percentage of individuals are responsible for a significant portion of aviation emissions.
Think niche destinations
It can be easy to dismiss but choosing more niche destinations for your travels can increase sustainability. Sustainability isn’t just cutting down on plastic or using your car less, it’s about protecting infrastructures and positively influencing them.
By visiting less tourist populated locations, you help combat overtourism. Overtourism is characteristic of cities such as, Paris, Rome or Budapest.
Overtourism puts a number of important structures at risk. For example, it increases pollution, litter, deforestation and results in the destruction of ecosystems. By opting for somewhere lesser known, not only do you help mitigate detrimental behaviour to the climate but you just might experience something unique and wonderful.
Plan your activities in advance
Again, as with most things on this list, it can be easy not to give a second thought to your travel activities. If you’re travelling for leisure, you don’t want to restrict your fun. But eco-conscious activities don’t mean you have to cut out fun, just be mindful of the environmental impact of them.
Think about numbers, do you need a personal safari tour? Perhaps you could join a group safari instead and help reduce your carbon footprint.
Where are you getting your food from? Have you tried to find a slow-production local business instead? All these small things add up, and it’s a nice way to say thank you to your host destination by investing in local economy.
Overall | Sustainable travel and eco-conscious travel
Ultimately, only you can decide how sustainable and eco-conscious your travels are going to be. You might even think they sound like nuisances right now, but you may later change your mind if climate projections continue to worsen.
There’s only so much individuals can do, particularly when corporations tend to be the most harmful to the environment. But if everybody helps a bit, who knows, it could help a lot.