Whether you like lounging around on a sun-kissed beach enjoying the peace and quiet while you develop your tan, scaling mountains or shopping ’til you drop, making small changes to the way you travel can make a big difference to our environment.
More and more people are becoming aware of the harm that we do to our planet, its wildlife and wonderful historical sites when we take our vacations. Broadway producer Louise Gund is a great example of someone who has become heavily involved in bringing the issues that we face to the forefront.
Having supported the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund since the 1980s, when she’s not working on the next big play to hit the New York stage, Ms Gund promotes the benefits of sustainable farming and has lobbied on behalf of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. She proves that you don’t have to be a full-time activist or scientist to make a difference.
Reducing your carbon footprint
By going on vacation, you are obviously going to be ‘traveling’ from one destination to another. However, some modes of transport are more eco-friendly than others. If possible, take a train or drive rather than flying. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, aviation accounts for over 10% of all transportation greenhouse gases in the USA.
Obviously, if you’re traveling from one side of the country to the other then flying is going to be less polluting but if you’re only going from one state to another then consider taking a train instead. If you have to fly, remember to book non-stop routes wherever possible with carriers that are known to have efficient aircraft and high occupancy rates.
Choosing the right holiday
When you’re booking your trip, always use a travel company that actively supports sustainable development and prides itself on not making a negative impact on the local environment. These days there’s a wealth of eco-friendly hotels to choose from.
Many use solar energy, are energy efficient and have effective waste treatment facilities and, if you do your homework, you could also stay at a resort that provides financial assistance to its local communities.
Be the perfect guest
It should go without saying but it’s the little things such as disposing of your litter properly, sticking to designated footpaths or trails, and resisting the temptation to pick rare plants or flowers that can make a huge difference. You wouldn’t necessarily have a hot bath every day, leave the air conditioning on or use disposable cups when you’re at home, so why do it while you’re on vacation?
Taking a shower will help to conserve water, while investing in reusable water bottles, turning the lights off when you leave your room and not asking for fresh towels when you don’t really need them, will all greatly help you to be conservation-minded.
Respect your chosen destination
It’s always great to explore a new city, coastline or country, and one of the best ways to find the most interesting features and places, and to get to know what somewhere is really like is on foot.
Fresh air and gentle exercise with plenty of excuses to stop and admire the scenery or to relax and taste the local cuisine is both more enjoyable and environmentally-friendly than hiring a car! If time is short and you need to get around more quickly, try using the local public trains and buses, and don’t forget that many places now offer bikes for hire as well.
For those that like to enjoy more active pastimes, choose ones that don’t harm the environment. For instance, if you like to practice your swing and putting skills while you’re away, try to visit a golf course that uses recycled water for their courses and greens.
If your bucket list includes visiting the elephants of Thailand or getting up close to the indigenous wildlife of the Amazon rainforest, take the time to do your research before you book. Just because somewhere calls itself a ‘sanctuary’, it sadly doesn’t mean that it operates ethically or sustainably.
It’s always tempting to get that once in a lifetime selfie for your Instagram or Facebook profile but take a moment to think about the welfare of the animals and the landscape to make sure that the stars of your photos have not been snatched from their natural habitat just so that you can be charged to take their pictures.
When it comes to food and drink, it’s easy to keep that feel-good factor going by electing to support shops, cafes, bars and restaurants that are owned by local people.
Depending on where you are in the world it may not always be the cheapest option, however, by doing this you’ll be putting money back into the local community and having the chance to savor the local cuisine with freshly-sourced ingredients rather than giving your hard-earned cash to big multi-national corporations. Popping into a McDonalds may seem like an easy option but think of the carbon footprint that is involved in serving you that Big Mac.