Summer is here, bringing with it ample opportunities for travel. While traveling is a great opportunity for recreation and relaxation, it can also provide the chance to learn new ways to prevent global warming. By implementing these travel tips, you can journey responsibly, encourage the hospitality industry to move in a more sustainable direction, and help reduce your impact while still enjoying yourself. But also keep in mind that you can make a difference just sitting at home!
Travel Tip #1:
Find Ecotourism Opportunities
According to The International Ecotourism Society , ecotourism is defined as “responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and improves the well-being of local people.” This concept is based on the intersection of conservation, communities, and sustainable travel. By seeking out ecotourism options, you can reduce your impact, preserving the special qualities of the places to which you were drawn in the first place.
When planning your trip, look for lodging that has a responsible environmental policy. Unfortunately, there is no uniform certification standard from which to judge and “green washing” can be a problem, but there are some ways you can decipher industry leaders from wannabes. First, you can start by searching the web for hotels that advertise responsible environmental practices, then either follow up with a phone call or check with a knowledgeable travel agency.
Unless you verify a business is truly ecological by looking for some kind of third-party awarded certification, you could be unknowingly converting your money into carbon emissions. Some of the more well-known certifications are: Energy Star (with a rating of at least 75/100), LEED certified building design, EU Eco-label, Green Globe (Australia, New Zealand, Asia, and expanding to the Caribbean), Green Leaf (Canada), and Sustainable Tourism Certification Network of the Americas (a joint effort of the Rainforest Alliance and The International Ecotourism Society). You can also look for any environmentally related rewards the establishment has earned.
Travel Tip #2:
Reduce Travel Emissions
As the journey to your destination will probably be the most emissions intense portion of your vacation, there are several ways to lower your impact. Do not underestimate the value of doing this. Reducing the greenhouse gas emissions from your travel is probably the most important way to help prevent global warming on your vacation!
The most destructive way to travel is flying. Flying is by far the most polluting option. Especially if you are traveling in a group, it is far more cost effective (both in dollars and emissions) to go by car. If you travel by car, be sure that your tires are properly inflated to ensure a smoother ride; with fewer emissions and less gas waste you’ll be saving money as you save fuel!
The most eco-friendly option is to travel by train. While often overlooked in the United States, trains are the best way to help prevent global warming on your journey, if you can afford the time. By going on a train, travel becomes part of the vacation as you get to relax, enjoy the scenery, and avoid the stresses of traffic, fatigue, and filling up at the pump.
You will still emit carbon, unless you choose to offset your carbon emissions by purchasing a carbon neutralization package. This is a great way to actively prevent global warming and support companies that are working towards curbing emissions. They will neutralize your carbon emissions by supporting a variety of projects that will offset the amount of carbon your travel produces. Terrapass is one great example.
Travel Tip #3:
Decrease Your Tourist Impact
Once you arrive at your destination, no matter where you go, there are a number of ways you can reduce your negative tourist impact and your global warming contributions, while maximizing your positive influence.
To save money and reduce emissions, use the public transportation system rather than renting a car or relying on taxis. This will give you a taste of the true flavor of the city while saving you the hassle of navigating traffic and finding parking on foreign streets, not to mention the substantial monetary savings. Many public transit systems even offer weeklong and weekend packages for unlimited travel, a true bargain for the mobile tourist.
Be cautious about where you eat, because a huge amount of carbon emissions result from the shipment of food. An important way to prevent global warming while traveling is to eat locally, which you can do by finding the local farmers’ market . Not only will this give you the experience of interacting with the locals, but it will give you a clearer picture of your environment, answering questions like, “What grows here in July?” Why is this town famous for its specialty cheese or its rhubarb pie? When you support the farmer’s markets, you will get to experience fresh, delicious foods that are specific to the given region. A side benefit, of course, is the tons of greenhouse gases you will save from the atmosphere as you buy your food locally. Also, instead of the comfortable but boring chains, try to seek out local restaurants, bars, hotels, and other recreational attractions – after all, you came this far for a reason!
Be especially careful if you are traveling to a natural setting, and be extra aware of the fragility of your location. Traveling to forests, beaches, etc. is a privilege and should be treated as such to ensure that you and others can return for a special experience in the years to come. When venturing into the great outdoors, remember to pack out what you brought in, making sure to leave all places in the same condition you found them.
Choose low impact recreation like hiking, biking, or horseback riding instead of 4-wheeling or snowmobiling, and swimming, canoeing, or kayaking instead of motor boating and jet skiing. Remember, if it has a motor, there is a good chance it is spewing emissions into the atmosphere!
Travel Tip #4:
The Best Solution
Is your hometown a tourism destination? There is a good chance that great attractions exist in your own backyard. The best way to curb your global warming impact is to discover special places nearby, visiting them as if you were a tourist, not a native. Check out a guidebook from your library and spend a weekend biking to all of the recommended places and events. You may be surprised by what you find!
Did you know you can help by staying home? You can help out the cause from the comfort of your own home.
 Ecotourism Society
Author: Brown, Nathan. A Cooler Climate, 2008.