Authored by Ashlea Wheeler
Many of us are doing everything we can to reduce our carbon footprint at home. We’re making an effort to recycle, catching public transport where possible, and reducing the amount of electricity we use. Now that global warming is at such a critical point, we’ve realized that we should be doing everything we possibly can to reverse it.
But what about when we travel? Do any of us think about what impact we might be having while we’re skipping and jumping between countries?
I know it’s not pleasant to think that we might be damaging the environment by exploring new places, but unfortunately travel leaves a carbon footprint too.
Don’t worry, we don’t have to loudly declare that we’ll never leave the house again, though there are small steps we can take and to ensure we’re keep the environment happy too!
So what can we do to ensure our travels aren’t causing irreversible damage to our precious earth?
Buy carbon offsets on flights
According to the Air Transport Action Group, flights contribute a whopping 705 million tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere annually. This is about 2% of ALL man-made carbon emissions.
I have to admit; I was rather skeptical about carbon offsetting flights at first. How do I know that the airlines aren’t just pocketing the extra money? But after doing some research I found that in Australia at least, all carbon-offsetting schemes have to be in line with the government’s carbon neutral policies before being implemented.
The schemes are often implemented by a third party such as CarbonNeutral, who use the funds for carbon reduction projects such as renewable energy (wind and hydro power), conservation, and forest protection.
WWF has a great article detailing more ways that your travel carbon emissions are offset in these schemes.
It’s not usually a large cost – most domestic flights in Australia only charge a few dollars per flight for carbon offsets. It might be a little more for international, but the cost is still next to nothing in comparison to what you’ve paid for the flight!
Choose tour companies that have environmental policies
If you’re planning on doing any sort of tour, check their website first to see what their stand is on sustainability.
Companies such as G Adventures and International Expeditions have pages dedicated to sustainable travel, and detail the steps they are taking to make sure their tours don’t have a negative effect on the environment.
If the tour company has no such page on their site, it’s fairly safe to assume that you should steer clear as they don’t have any such policies!
Carry a tote bag
We’ve all heard about the devastating effects plastic bags have in oceans and as landfill. I made myself a tote bag to use (yay for sewing skills!) but you can buy them just about anywhere.
Get one that folds up fairly small and make sure you carry it everywhere. Then when a shop assistant starts packing your purchases into plastic you can proudly present your new tote bag and feel super good about the fact that you’re reducing plastic bag consumption.
Seek out recycling bins
This can be really hard when you’re travelling. I’ve noticed in my current home of Sydney that there are barely any public recycling bins, and I’ve been known to carry around recyclables all day until I get home to dispose of them correctly.
Not all cities are like this – many have bins for both garbage and recyclables, so be sure to check your trash for anything that can be recycled and be an awesome person by finding the correct bin for it.
Not only does this reduce the risk of many forms of food poisoning while you’re travelling, reducing the amount of meat you consume has significant environmental benefits.
The CSIRO claims that 16% of Australia’s carbon emissions are from livestock, 67% of which is methane emissions from animals such as cattle and sheep.
Eating vegetarian does not entirely fix this problem (you’d have to go vegan for that), but it does make a huge difference!
So what should we do?
There are many ways to be a sustainable traveller, but the #1 thing you can do is to be aware of it.
When you book a flight, a tour, or accommodation, question whether your booking is with a company that supports sustainable travel. When you’re walking around in a new city or trekking through a national park, think about whether there is anything you can do to reduce your carbon footprint while you’re there.
Everyone (and I mean everyone!) needs to be doing this to ensure this planet stays beautiful for future generations. We want them to be able to travel too.
What steps do you take to reduce your carbon footprint while travelling? Share your tips with us in the comments!