Today we celebrate World Environment Day! Put simply, World Environment Day is about people doing something good for the environment. The impacts of climate change and protecting our environment is a topic that is gaining momentum around the world. The United Nations has called global warming “the defining issue of our time” and it is time for us to take action now.
World Environment Day is a reminder for everyone to think about their personal impact on the environment. Us globe-trekkers and adventurers think of nature as our playground, but unfortunately tourism contributes over 8% of the total global greenhouse gas emissions every year. In order to enjoy the places we visit on our travels we have to come together to minimise our carbon footprint and protect the often fragile environments we visit.
In this article we will discuss the impact that tourism has on the environment and measures you can take as a traveller to minimise negative environmental effects of your travels.
How does travel impact the environment?
- Transportation and Greenhouse Gas Emissions
As I mentioned, over 8% of global greenhouse gas emissions come from tourism. 90% of those emissions specifically from transportation.
Tourism places significant pressure on a destinations natural resources. The effects of overconsumption can be detrimental in places with already limited resources.
Devastatingly, litter is still a huge problem in many tourist destinations. The problem is only amplified in developing nations without the resources to cope with tourism growth. Other forms of pollution from tourism include water, air and noise.
How to travel more sustainably
There is good news for those that want to travel the world and do their bit for the environment. Next time you plan a trip, consider engaging tourism operators with an ecotourism accreditation.
Eco or sustainable tourism is engaging in activities that help visitors appreciate and understand nature. These sustainable activities contribute to the conservation of the local environment and community.
The World Tourism Organisation defines ecotourism as:
• Nature based tourism where tourists observe and appreciate nature and traditional cultures in natural areas
• An educational experience
• A small group tour or activity by a local operator
• An experience that minimises negative impacts on the environment
• An activity or experience that supports the maintenance of the natural area
Beware of greenwashing
It is fantastic to see that ecotourism and sustainable tourism is becoming more popular with travellers. If you are deciding to make more environmentally friendly decisions while travelling (which we hope you are), make sure to cross-check the definition of ecotourism above with what you are promised by a tour operator. Unfortunately the term ‘ecotourism’ is being overused and incorrectly used in the industry, so it is important to do your research.
Another way to be sure that you are engaging in ecotourism is to check the certification of the operator. For example, in Queensland the government has endorsed Ecotourism Australia and Earthcheck certification.
More tips for sustainable travel:
- Purchase carbon offsets
On average, only one in ten passengers purchase to offset the emissions from their flight. This is mostly due to a lack of understanding about where the money goes.
In Australia, Virgin, Jetstar and Qantas give all carbon offset funds raised to the Fly Carbon Neutral program and does not take any cut or administration fee. This program invests in environmental projects such as renewable energy and reforestation.
If your airline doesn’t have a carbon offset program, you can use the calculator and offset your emissions on the Climate Care website. Considering that 90% of tourism emissions are from transportation, the small carbon offset fee is an easy way to be a more sustainable traveller.
- Choose direct flights and pack light
Who doesn’t love a direct flight anyway? Essentially, the shorter the distance you travel and the lighter the plane, the less CO2 emissions will be spewed into the atmosphere.
- Travel with reusables
Make sure to remember to pack your keep cup, reusable water bottle, a cloth tote bag and metal straw.
- Be smart about your travel destination
Try to avoid places around the world that are experiencing over-tourism. Destinations like Venice, Machu Picchu, the Yucatán Peninsula, just to name a few. Not only are these destinations are already negatively impacted by tourism, but the sheer amount of tourists will also impact the quality of your trip and cultural experiences.
- Think again about souvenirs
At Gifting Owl we believe in collecting more memories and less things. If you are considering buying souvenirs on your trip, make sure that they aren’t gimmicky knick-knacks that will eventually end up in landfill. Art, ceramics and textiles are usually better souvenir options that will last for years.
- Like a local
Not only is this a more sustainable way to travel, but it is also a more fulfilling, cultural travel experience. We recommend booking an authentic culinary experience when arriving in a new destination, so you can get acquainted with the local markets and cuisine while getting to know a local.
- Tips for overlanding
If overlanding is your preferred form of travel, see ways you can reduce your impact on the environment here.