Three Easy Ways to Help the Environment While Travelling
No corner of the earth is safe from the climate crisis. Our travel behaviour impacts all life on this planet; our home, communities worldwide and the very destinations that we rely on for tourism are affected. Mounting geographic disasters like the apocalyptic fires across America’s West Coast and Australia and flooding across the world are examples of how close to home and disastrous this can be.
Creative travellers are hyper-aware of the climate crisis and keen on changing their behaviour. But they find navigating the travel landscape a difficult experience. They want transparency and question anything which has the slightest suggestion of greenwashing or foul-play. According to our Future of Travel report, 75.7% of young creatives care most about the environmental impact of their travel behaviour
Below, we’ve created a travel tool that covers all the need-to-know tips for the conscious traveller who wants to keep their footprint as small as possible.
Travel is good for us, but not the planet
It is industrial systemic change that needs to happen to ensure travel has less of an impact on the climate crisis — but individual efforts and actions are important and contribute to a wider sense of urgency and awareness. Tourism alone is responsible for 8% of the world’s carbon emissions, primarily through aviation. Increased economic development and affordability have made travel even more accessible, and this percentage is only set to rise.
In an extreme era of smartphone use and influencer culture, social media platforms have become one of the main destinations for travel inspiration. Geo-tagging has driven a rapid increase to destinations across the globe, damaging fragile ecosystems and in some cases destroying them. During the pandemic, destinations had a moment to breathe with fewer planes in the sky and less footfall on the ground. The waters of Venice became clear, locals could see the Himalayas for the first time in years and in national parks across the world, natural wildlife returned home to normally crowded roads and routes.
And while international travel isn’t up to where it was pre-Covid — 72% below 2019 levels, according to the World Economic Forum — the aviation industry, hospitality and tourist boards are in full swing pushing for its revival.
Plan ahead to lighten your carbon load
There are many ways to make your trip greener before you’ve stepped foot out the door. If you’re able to, choose eco-friendly travel options (like trains or boats), pack lightly (every kilo counts — more weight means more carbon emissions to power a plane) and stay at eco-lodges, green hotels, and restaurants.
Keep this in mind at every point of planning, and you’ll be amazed at how many greener options are available. Of course, socioeconomic status can impact how ‘green’ you can travel — such as how long you can travel for, whether you can afford sustainable accommodation and choosing trains over budget flights.
For budget travellers who can’t afford eco-friendly travel and accommodation, consider how often you are travelling, choose public transportation over Ubers and cabs and choose at local markets over fancy restaurants. Travelling sustainably is in the decisions you make, but it's also a mindset. If you do decide to jump on a plane, be more mindful of your behaviour when you arrive.
If I’m not flying overseas, can I take a train?
What affordable eco-lodging is available?
Is there a route or decision I can make to make this more eco-friendly?
What local sustainable or vegan cuisine do I want to try?
Cheaper isn’t always cheaper
Sometimes, you’ll need to fly. But oftentimes, you don’t. 56.3% of young creatives said their main frustration with purposeful travel was the cost. While it’s true that more sustainable travel options are often expensive, eco-friendly “sacrifices” aren’t often sacrifices at all — there are incredible train journeys, boat trips and eco-lodges all around the world that are not only beautiful but can become a valuable part of your trip.
For example, an overnight train is far more expensive than a quick flight, but it offsets the cost of accommodation. Public transportation is always cheaper and more green than a cab. As mentioned, not everyone can take a lot of time off work. If time is a barrier to choosing the longer, greener route, consider destinations closer to home, or more conveniently accessible — being more selective and realistic with your travel destinations could mean a much lighter carbon footprint.
And always remember that flights and Ubers are artificially cheap — their true cost far outweighs what we pay, and that money is taken from elsewhere. Worker exploitation and eco-destruction are two such effects, and it’s not the wealthy that will feel the impact — 1% of people cause half of the world’s aviation emissions, and most flights are from the global north. Climate change also disproportionately affects those in the global south, in particular people of colour.
Of course, choosing the longer or more expensive route isn’t an option for many. But consider which choices are in your control, and how you can offset your carbon footprint in other, more creative ways.
How much money and time do I really save with a flight?
Why is my flight so cheap?
How is my local travel polluting the environment?
How can I use the money I save for more eco-friendly activities?
Stay in one place longer
Staying longer in a place has numerous benefits — more time to enjoy and explore, and less travel means less environmental impact. While not everyone has the option of taking a lot of time off work or paying for a month’s worth of hotels, staying in a place for longer allows you to naturally build ties to the local community, and pushes you off the tourist path.
Working remotely has become the norm, and this will likely continue — taking your work abroad is a great way to travel for longer while still earning money.
How much time can I take off?
Can I work remotely while travelling?
Are longer-term rentals more affordable than short-term accommodation?