Want to make your next vacation more sustainable, without sacrificing any of the fun or spending lots of extra money? It’s surprisingly simple to make travel choices that are healthier for the planet, starting with how you plan your trip.
1. Avoid peak travel times
Overly busy tourist hot spots are not only a drag for you, but they also stress the natural environment and increase pollution, waste and carbon emissions. Do the earth and yourself a favor by traveling during off-peak and shoulder seasons, when the weather may be just as idyllic, but rooms and airfares are discounted.
2. Consider carbon offsetting
Every form of transport that relies on carbon-based fuel generates CO2, a major driver of climate change. Many websites now offer ‘carbon calculators’ that allow people to estimate the carbon emissions generated by their trip (eg flights), then offset them with contributions to climate-friendly initiatives worldwide.
3. Ride the rails
Reduce your carbon footprint by finding alternatives to flying. Some of the world’s most unforgettable journeys are train rides. The historic Trans-Siberian Railway, Japan’s sleek modern shinkansen (bullet trains) and Peru’s rail route to the majestic ruins of Machu Picchu are a few reasons to say ‘all aboard.’
4. Sail away
Boats can be also an eco-friendly – not to mention thrillingly scenic –alternative to flying. Imagine yourself sailing between tropical islands across azure waves, spotting dolphins and whales en route. Keep in mind that generally, cruise ships are not sustainable; the big ships have high carbon emissions, don’t often utilize renewable energy and may pollute ocean environments.
5. Slow down
You’re going on vacation to relax, right? Don’t try to cross off a long checklist of sights every day. The more slowly you travel, the greener your trip becomes – with fewer carbon emissions and less energy consumption. Cycling is another way to slow down and savor your trip (or if you do drive, try to rent a hybrid, electric or biodiesel-fueled car).
6. Meet the locals
Shopping for artisan crafts at open-air markets, visiting eco-friendly farms on an ‘agri-tour,’ partying at an outdoor street festival or letting a local volunteer guide you around town are all fun, low-cost ways to create unforgettable travel memories. DIY exploring, instead of taking a package tour, keeps more of your tourist dollars in the local community too.
Reproduced with permission from Lonely Planet, www.lonelyplanet.com