Travel, especially jet travel, it is contended could be the worst thing you could be indulging in, in terms of harming the environment. Does that mean you have to give up on travel for leisure? Meh. Perhaps not. There are multiple ways by which you could counterbalance environmental costs. Here are a few tips to travel more responsibly-
1.Carbon offset plans- Just one round trip by air could mean as much as a thousand pounds in carbon dioxide pollution. You can now moderate your impact, at least to a degree by purchasing carbon offset plans sometimes directly through your airlines operator. The money goes towards conservation, sustainability and other environmentally friendly projects in developing countries that directly results in reducing carbon emissions.
2.Plan long vacations- instead of multiple short ones. This way you can reduce your carbon footprint by decreasing the number of times you fly. It also gives you more time to discover far flung places. Instead of mere snapshots, you get to really get a feel for a place on longer vacations. Conversely, travel locally and skip long distance air travel altogether. There are bound to be endless unexplored destinations in your own backyard that you constantly put off for later simply because you think you have easy access to them.
3.Eat locally- eating grub produced within a 100 mile radius is considered as locally produced. Consuming local chow greatly benefits the environment as it many times reduces the strain on the planet from environmental costs incurred from importing edible goods from outside the said range. Besides sustainability efforts also include how food is produced by way of fair trade practices. It might also give local farmers a boost. Ergo, when travelling, eating locally, not only do you get to be kind to the environment, you also get to tantalize your palate with home-grown flavors. Keep in mind what is in season before you buy fresh produce and how far it came from.
4.Walk a lot- or alternately cycle to take in the sights. It is not just the environmentally responsible thing to do, it is also one that allows you to accrue multiple health benefits. Make your holiday your free and exciting workout plan. You shed the extra pounds and you feel doubly good about it for shrinking also your trail of carbon.
5.Use public transportation- within countries use trains or buses for travel instead of flying. They make for interesting journeys at the very least. It also allows you to be a traveler and not a tourist by immersing yourself in regional life. Become more connected by inserting yourself in local conversations.
6.Conserve water- Water is a scarce resource in many parts of the world. Travelers used to an abundance of the resource are not mindful how precious a resource water is in many developing and underdeveloped countries. In many places, water is only supplied a few hours every day. In such countries, using a bucket and a mug for daily ablutions just might be a more effective way to conserve water than running long showers.
7.Support local economies- when you travel support community initiatives where the money goes directly to the locals. Use local guides and porters. Many initiatives by communities themselves offer worthwhile offbeat experiences. Whether it is a home stay with the Iban people in longhouses in Sarawak, Malaysia or a week spent among the last found tribe of the Huaorani people in Ecuador, there are always tourism ventures that are worth checking out.
8.Ecological balance- In your quest for adventure and the unusual ensure that you are not disrupting local ecology. Make sure you choose eco-friendly activities especially where exploitative commercial interests result in a dismal disregard for local ecology. To cite an example pick Donsol over Oslob in the Philippines to get up close with majestic whale sharks. Hand feeding whale sharks in Oslob to attract them in large numbers interferes with their migratory and hunting patterns. Always check on any detrimental environmental, economic or social impact you could unwittingly be causing before you sign up.
9.Watch your trash- It might be a good idea to be careful with waste on your travels. Many countries do not have systems in place to either recycle or even dispose waste efficiently in a manner best suited for the environment. Where they have no recourse, trash including plastic is burned indiscriminately which could be far worse for the environment than otherwise incorrectly getting rid of it. Try as much as possible not to add to the pollution. For instance, instead of buying disposable water bottles, use reusable water bottles and coffee mugs. Use water purifying tablets if you must.
10.Volunteer- contribute towards sustainable projects either through donations or better still with your time. Ideally, experts suggest, at least six months of your time for your contribution to be worthwhile. Long term volunteer projects are a fantastic way not only to do your bit but to also thoroughly explore, enjoy and understand a world very much removed from your own.
Feature image- Cycles in Amsterdam. Image courtesy- Leoks / Shutterstock.com