Vacations can be a trashy experience – environmentally speaking, that is. From the fuel and resources burnt to get to wherever we’re going to the piles of rubbish left behind, travellers leave a hefty footprint on the world we’re so intent on seeing.
Yet hunting down ethical travel choices can be frustrating. The internet is often a muddy territory of green-washing designed to capitalise on ecotourism’s growing popularity. There are ways to travel more sustainably though, so here are some tips to consider before taking off.
Choose your destination wisely
Look beyond the glossy holiday brochures and consider a destination’s environmental track records before booking. Costa Rica, for example, has 1.1m hectares of natural reserves and a 93% reliance on renewable energy. Cambodia, on the other hand, has one of the world’s worst deforestation rates and wildlife poaching is rife.
Opt for sustainable modes of transport
If flying is unavoidable, pack light, as every extra luggage gram adds to the flight’s fuel burn and emissions. When travelling long haul, fly non-stop where possible: taxiing, taking off and landing are responsible for the greatest carbon emissions. If possible, choose public transport for short-haul travel, especially when you arrive at your holiday destination.
Avoid creating mountains of waste
Too many travellers leave a trail of trash – sidestep this by thinking ahead. Fly with your own headphones, for example, rather than relying on the plastic-wrapped airline offerings, and take a reusable shopping bag to skip plastic bags.
Support local people and animals
Tourism has a big impact on small local communities, and travellers’ choices can dictate market movements. Elephant riding is a classic example: long revered as a selfie opportunity for tourists, multiple damning reports now make clear these animals are suffering, and traveller demand only perpetuates the agony. A World Animal Protection report documenting the conditions of 3,000 elephants used in tourist venues across Asia found three out of four endured poor living conditions such as chaining, inadequate food and stressful interactions with visitors.
Read more at the Guardian