Colette Sexton, news correspondent at The Sunday Business Post, on how to travel the world without severely damaging the environment.
There are 7 billion people on our planet, but the billion with the largest carbon footprint includes the most frequent fliers. Travel is thought to account for 8 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions — four times higher than scientists had previously estimated, according to a study published in the Nature Climate Change journal last year.
It is fair to say that travel, with its fuel-guzzling aeroplanes, is bad for the environment.
Jack Miles, a Pulitzer Prize and MacArthur “genius” award-winning author, called on us all to cancel our air travel plans in a post in the Washington Post last year.
“Take a deep, slow breath, and throw away that bucket list for good. You are needed at home, my friend, urgently needed. For the love of the Earth and of those who will inherit it when you are gone, stay right where you are,” he wrote. If you are inspired by Miles, who lives in sunny California and not wet and windy Ireland, by all means, burn your passport (or, rather, recycle it).
Related: Planning a trip? Here’s why you should consider travelling solo
But as much as we care about the environment, it is unlikely that billions of us will retire our passports and holiday at home to protect the planet. Instead, we must try to minimise our carbon footprint and act sustainably as possible.
The importance of sustainable travel is becoming a bigger trend among Irish people when choosing a holiday. While 57 per cent of Irish people do not think of sustainability when choosing a holiday, young people, and particularly young women, do. Two-thirds of females under 25 say sustainable travel is a factor they consider when choosing a destination, according to a RED C survey conducted on behalf of Travel Counsellors Ireland.
However, nearly half of people said they did not understand how to travel sustainably, which is actively making a positive impact on the environment, culture, and economy of the places visited. Here are some steps you can take to ensure your holidays are as environmentally friendly as possible.
- Buy local produce when you are abroad.
- Do not insist on new towels every day.
- Say no to the plastic straw in your poolside cocktail.
- Try to book direct flights. The majority of aeroplane’s emissions are created during takeoffs and landings.
- Look for airlines that use sustainable aviation biofuel.
- Use public transport where possible, or better yet cycle or walk.
- Bring a refillable water bottle with you instead of buying plastic bottles every day.
- Turn off the lights, air conditioning, heating or any appliances when you leave your hotel room.
- Stick to the trails and paths that are marked otherwise you might damage plants and trees, and never feed the wildlife.
- Avoid tours that exploit animals, such as elephant riding or posing with lions and tigers.
- When snorkelling or scuba diving, fight your urge to touch or otherwise disturb the coral.
- Do not stick your camera in the faces of locals. It is rude. They are people, not something to show your friends when you get home.