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Global warming is far from cool. As we wake up to the impact of climate change, eco-friendly travel is becoming less a trend, more a necessity. From reef-friendly sun cream to carbon offsetting, we’ve rounded up some of the best ways you can travel more sustainably.
The world is waking up to the impact of climate change. In March Swedish activist Greta Thunberg was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize. Earlier this month Extinction Rebellion convinced the UK to become the first country to declare a “climate emergency”, and both the UK and New Zealand have unveiled plans to go carbon neutral by 2050.
Does travel have a place in our more sustainable future? According to a recent report by booking.com almost three quarters of UK travellers believe that more people need to make sustainable travel choices. In light of this, here are 11 things you can do to travel in the most eco-friendly way possible.
1. Research alternative travel options
For many of us, cheap travel is a priority. However, air travel is one of the chief contributors to environmental damage caused by tourism. Research alternative ways to reach your destination; avoid unnecessary short-haul flights and excess carbon emissions by opting for coaches, trains or boats. If a plane is necessary, choose direct flights.
2. Get to know new destinations by foot
The best way to truly get to know a place is on foot. Zooming past tourist hotspots in private rental cars may appeal to some, but by exploring slowly you’ll be able to understand the destination, build a mental map of the area and learn about new cultures as you go. If you need a vehicle to get around, use public transport where possible.
3. Only participate in responsible wildlife tourism
Many of us are foregoing the city break and beach flop in favour of getting up close with animals. Yet lots of operators promote irresponsible or unsustainable wildlife experiences. Research tours that advocate ethical interaction – in particular, look for those that practice admiring wildlife from afar, avoiding any unnecessary disturbance of the animals.
4. Support local economies
Wherever you go, choosing to spend money at local institutions will help the economy and infrastructure. This doesn’t need to be a huge difference to your typical spending choices; just opt for a family-run restaurant, shop or local market when it comes to buying snacks, souvenirs and the like.
New “eco-mmodation” and green hotels are popping up all over the world, from Greece to Nicaragua. While it’s easy to opt for the cheapest or most centrally located hotel, it’s worth researching the best sustainable places to stay in your destination – chances are there will be an eco-friendly choice that suits your needs.
6. Be respectful of your surroundings
Many of us want to travel to the world’s most remote corners, where daily life is entwined with the surrounding environment. Although it’s tempting to bring all of your electronics, be aware of the impact you have on local habitats; noise emissions from speakers, for example, can have a negative impact on nearby flora and fauna.
Quick to book flights to far-off lands, many overlook the destinations on their doorstep. Emit less travel pollution – and save a pretty penny – by making the most of your country’s various locations and attractions. Explore a new city or escape the daily grind and see what the countryside has to offer.
8. Be a slow traveller
While our holiday entitlements often make several short breaks a necessity, taking one prolonged trip to a single destination has several benefits. Having time to settle gives you more opportunity to truly grasp a new culture while flying less means you’ll be saving money and reducing your carbon footprint. Win, win.
9. Check your beauty products
The beauty industry has a huge carbon footprint. If you’ll be swimming in the sea, wear reef-friendly sun cream. Many products include nanoparticles and chemicals that pose danger to marine ecosystems, particularly by contributing to the bleaching of coral reefs. Check the labels on your products.
10. Don’t leave anything behind
Whittling down an essentials-only packing list is no mean feat. Try to pack mindfully and steer clear of items you know won’t last the trip. Avoid unnecessary plastic by decanting beauty products into small, reusable containers, and don’t forget insulated cups, reusable water bottles and cutlery for on-the-go dining.
11. Carbon offsetting
One of the newest developments in sustainable travel is carbon offsetting, a system whereby passengers pay a little extra to help compensate for the carbon emissions produced from their flight. The money is spent on projects such as planting trees or installing renewable energy sources. While not many airlines offer this alternative at present, the future looks promising. Opt for airlines such as Ryanair and Lufthansa to try the scheme.
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