A New York Times article from earlier this year stated that 1.2 billion people traveled in 2015. That’s awesome! Travel yields so many benefits, from developing empathy to forging bonds with new lifelong friends to making adrenaline-fueled memories. But, does traveling have a net negative effect? The same Times article cited a Booking.com survey from last year — only 42% of the respondents believed that they traveled sustainably.
But fret not; do not stop traveling! Au contraire, the United Nations designated 2017 as the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development (#IY2017). You may need to get more adventurous to get more sustainable.
The idea behind ecotourism is for travelers to make as little of an impact as possible on the destination where they travel. A common ecotourism adage:
“Take nothing but pictures. Leave nothing but footprints”
(This saying derived from Chief Seattle’s quote. And yup, you guessed it, the beautiful city was named after him)
Choosing a Spot to Let Your Hair Down
Ecotourism does not mean grungy or “hipster chic”.
Exhibit A: Morgan’s Rock, an ecolodge nestled away in Nicaragua’s lush jungle along the expansive coastline with tender waves. It has an on-site organic farm and fishery that’s used to serve travelers at its restaurant. The bungalows were built with minimal impact on the surrounding environment using sustainably sourced wood. Solar panels heat the water, and the greywater is used for irrigation.
To get more eco-travel ideas, check out Intreprid Travel’s destinations. Intrepid hosts some full-on ecotourism expeditions. On travelers behalves, the company decreases the carbon footprint of trips around the world by booking public transportation and restaurants that source their food nearby. Intrepid also quantifies the carbon output of each trip and purchases equivalent carbon credits from renewable energy projects to offer a net-neutral travel experience.
All of the following companies are part of the Intrepid Group and provide ecotourism experiences: Geckos Adventures, Peregrine Adventures, Urban Adventures, Adventure Tours Australia, and The Family Adventure Company.
Tourism accounts for 5% of global emissions — approximately 4% from transportation (40% of those from air travel), according to The Guardian.
Getting to the destination still remains a pain point for the sustainably-minded traveler. In a previous newsletter, we mentioned a consortium of airlines that formed the Sustainable Aviation Fuel Users Group to accelerate the development and commercialization of sustainable aviation biofuels. Choosing to fly on one of those airlines utilizing biofuels is a start.
Sustainable flying just isn’t an option yet, but you can limit emissions by choosing direct flights without layovers because planes use the lion’s share of their fuel during takeoffs. And if driving to the destination is possible, taking a good ol’ fashioned road trip will keep emissions to a minimum.
Stay Woke While Adventuring
TAKE A REUSABLE WATER BOTTLE, DAMNIT. As we’ve mentioned before, plastic never goes away and tends to find its way to the ocean. Bringing a reusable water bottle requires such minimal effort and it’ll quench your thirst when you need it most.
Also, biking around a city is a great way to explore it. Copenhagen and Amsterdam are often regarded as the world’s most bikeable cities (though, the latter seems a bit counterintuitive given all the dazed people walking out of coffee shops). Here’s a list of many more cities primed for biking:
And finally, here’s a robust calendar of eco-activities on the UN Sustainable Tourism website as a part of the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development.
Act on Climate
It’s not as bad as getting food poisoning while traveling, but running out of battery on your phone feels pretty awful. Birksun has backpacks with a solar panel on it that can charge your phone while you trek around. It’ll allow you to travel in sustainable style this summer.
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