By now almost everyone has heard (if not taken to heart) the harrowing statistics on how badly our thirst for world wide travel impacts on the environment, and, though the aviation industry is, through the use of alternative fuels, gradually getting greener, there’s no way round the fact that flying is highly environmentally damaging.
As a result, we are left with a saddening paradox; by travelling huge distances to take in as much of the world’s beauty as possible, we may well be damaging it forever. So, what to do? The obvious answer is, of course, to simply stay at home, but that’s a little too joyless for most people.
Fortunately, there are a number of ways you can go about ensuring that the environmental impact of your holiday is kept to a minimum, without having to compromise on your sense of adventure;
Take Conservation Trips
Given that flying is so harmful (if you take a long haul flight, it will likely make up the majority of your annual carbon footprint) when doing your bit to preserve the earth is a concern, you’ll probably need a more compelling reason to get on a plane than a simple longing to go and relax in the sun, or to take in the architecture of a foreign city.
Whilst this might put paid to many travel plans, there are still a huge number of incredibly exciting trips you could take- you just need to find a compelling environmental reason to justify the plane journey.
Arguably the best way to this is by volunteering on a wildlife conservation holiday. On such a trip you can visit some incredible parts of the world, safe in the knowledge that you are in fact doing your bit to help the planet. Of course, as environmental issues gain more and more press coverage, more and more companies with fairly tentative green credentials have been attempting to tap into this growing market. Therefore it is important to make sure the trip has ties to a reputable organisation.
For example, you could go to Borneo and work with the EIA (Environmental Investigation Agency) on their Orang-utan projects. You’ll get to see the animals (and many others) in the wild, help with the project and, as 10% of what you pay goes to the organisation, you can be sure of making a real difference. This is just one of the many amazing options open to you. A huge variety are available if you hunt them out.
Stay at Eco- Friendly Resorts
Of course, if green issues aren’t close enough to your heart to determine how you’ll plan out your travels, they can at least figure into where you choose to stay. Eco-friendly resorts are getting more and more popular and, whilst staying in one will probably only go a small way to offsetting the carbon emissions racked up by the transport you use to get there, every little helps.
Many of the resorts with a commitment to sustainability are, despite what you might expect, very lavish. If you’re heading to Costa Rica, for example, you’d be well advised to check out La Cusinga Eco Lodge, which, as well as being run in a sustainable way that seeks to eliminate waste, offers incredible views of the ocean and borders the Ballena Marine National Park, a hot spot for hump back whales.
Or, if you prefer cooler climbs, you’ll struggle to beat the Sadie Cove Wilderness Lodge, located in Alaska. The lodge sits on a privately owned beach, is constructed entirely from reclaimed driftwood and is powered entirely by renewable energy, namely a mix of hydro electric and wind power. The activities on offer include both whale and bear watching, as well as hiking and kayaking.
Unfortunately, some of these top eco-friendly resorts will be out of the price range of many of us, but, if you make the effort to look, there is likely to be accommodation in the area that you are travelling to which places sustainability as a priority.
Purchase Carbon Offsets
If you have the travel bug, you’ll know that, a lot of the time, in order to set aside the budget you need for a trip, sacrifices have to be made in other areas of your life. However, once you’ve saved the funds you need, you’re free to follow your heart and hit the road.
You can think of the environmental impact of your travel in much the same way. If you think of emissions as currency, going on a flight is a big expense. However you can ‘save up’ for it by reducing emissions in other areas of your life, or by even by simply purchasing carbon offsets.
There is a good argument to be made that seeing offsets as a license to go out and cause pollution isn’t a helpful attitude, but, if you have your heart set on a trip and are going to make it no matter what, you may as well minimise the impact.
Steve Waller is an environmental writer with an interest in a huge range of issues, spanning industry, agriculture and our day to day lives. You can read more of Steve’s thoughts on his green living blog, GreenSteve.com