Tips for eco-travelling: Tips and advice on eco-travel and eco-friendly travel providers
In recent times extensive debate has centred on the sustainability of the airline industry as a result of its contribution to carbon emissions. Together with today’s eco-consciousness, travellers are rightly concerned that their globetrotting is trampling the planet. Yet those afflicted with wanderlust know that the only way to ease the bite of the travel bug is to feed it. So what are the alternatives?
Unfortunately there is probably no such thing as truly sustainable travel, but reducing the impact through responsible tourism can be a positive step on the road to a more sustainable future. Adopting a triple bottom line approach of; treading lightly on the environment; respecting local people and culture and providing a financial benefit to the local community ensures that the impact is as negligible and temporary as possible.
Planning travel using these principles from the outset will ensure that you are treading as lightly as possible. Choosing a destination can have one of the biggest impacts on carbon emissions. Consider the need for air travel as it may have the most serious eco-consequences, especially if you reside in one of the far flung places of the world or dream of visiting them. (Image suggestion: person at computer)
Ironically, if you ask almost any local about their own city, most will admit with a touch of embarrassment that they have never seen precisely what you may have flown half way around the world to visit. The grass it seems is always greener on the other side, of the world that is.
Unfortunately, air travel accounts for an estimated 3% of worldwide carbon emissions, which are thought to be more damaging as they are created at altitude. Avoiding long distance flights is one of the best ways to green your travel plans. Seeking out the best sights in your own part of the world means appreciating the uniqueness of what you have on your very own doorstep. (Image suggestion: child flying a kite)
Responsibletravel.com offer a wide range of holidays with a directory of over 270 organisations and business that provide sustainable, responsible tourism activities. With a search engine to help narrow down the range of “hand picked holidays from the world’s specialist operators” inspiration for a sustainable local trip can be found for anywhere in the world.
If venturing further a field, opt to save long haul flights for longer trips. Also consider offsetting your carbon emissions. Many airlines offer this as an optional extra on the price of the ticket. Alternatively, based on an online calculator a fee can be paid directly to a reputable company that plants trees or invests in renewable energy to counterbalance your emissions.
The Carbon Neutral Company provides online calculators to work out the carbon emissions from your flights and then offers a selection of projects to invest in. Guarantees are provided for the delivery of every tonne of carbon offset purchased and verified by 3rd parties. This helps ensure that what you pay for is actually going to make a difference. However, offsetting emissions should be considered a last option rather than as a conscience-clearing alternative for regularly jet setting carefree. (Image suggestion: tree plantation)
Choosing a sustainable tour can be a great way to ensuring that your travels are eco friendly. Making use of local knowledge, a reputable company will aim to provide an authentic experience by opting for locally owned and made.
Intrepid travel goes one step further by practising what they preach. Offering small group adventure tours to around 100 destinations this company aims to give travellers a grassroots experience of the world. Travel is largely on public transport with both dinning and accommodation in locally owned premises. Carbon emissions from any flights are automatically offset. But Intrepid take it one step further by aiming to become a carbon neutral company by 2010 demonstrating a commitment to the sustainability of the travel community.
Learning from the past can help motivate the need to create a better future. So how about contemplating the fate that befell one of the worlds great civilisations – the Inca’s – on a trek through the jungle to Machu Picchu on a carbon offset trip to Peru. Taking this 21 day tour with Intrepid will provide the perfect opportunity to discover the history of the civilisation of the lost cities.
Steering clear of the crowds may be the key to both a more relaxing travel experience and avoiding destinations that are being loved to death. Treading the path less travelled to a destination that would benefit from your visit can be a very personal way to travel in a sustainable manner. Ideally, opting for places that have some form of control over visitor numbers, wether it be regulatory, physical or cultural means they will be there to enjoy for the long term. (Image suggestion: deserted beach)
The Kingdom of Bhutan is perhaps one of the best examples of sustainability and eco-travel in action through regulatory intervention. Back in the mid 1970’s when the country was opened to the western world, 60% of the forests were locked into perpetuity. Tourism is carefully managed with all tours booked prior to arrival with a Bhutanese tour operator. As a result, locals and tourists alike can smile while enjoying the stunning countryside and thriving traditional culture.
Pristine and adventure packed New Zealand has similarly made an environmental and social commitment to preserving their landscape. A nationwide integrated approach has been created to manage tourism development. An official mark of quality for tourism called Qualmark has been developed aiding visitors in recognising operators actively participating in responsible travel. (Image suggestion: Fox Glacier)
If doing rather than seeing is preferred than get involved in hands on conservation efforts around the world. Volunteering is a great way to combine eco tourism with an up close and personal experience of an eco-system, community or culture. Organisations such as Earthwatch, can provide volunteer opportunities both close to home and all over the world. With conservation expeditions to exotic corners of the world, this not for profit organisation aims to spread awareness.
Perhaps next year may find you on an Earthwatch Expedition in the African savannah in Kenya. Your goal is to help bring the black rhino back from the brink of extinction. Research work is centred in an area with abundant wildlife, so a day on the job may bring you face to face with zebras, hippos or up to 232 kinds of birds. This is one travel experience that will leave you breathless knowing that you are making a difference. (Image suggestion: Black rhino in savannah and/or volunteers in conservation work)
After planning your perfect eco-friendly holiday, don’t forget to take your good work with you. Being conscious of the triple bottom line will ensure that you chose wisely so your visit can be as positive as possible.
Wherever your journeys take you, responsible travel will mean you are part of the solution by treading lightly rather than trampling the earth. Sustainable travel will keep those travel bugs healthy so that future generations can also enjoy the best the world has to offer.