Whenever we travel we are likely to have some impact on the planet; whether moving by car, plane, or train we leave something of a footprint. It is difficult to go through life without feeling that you are treading on the planet. But we must try to tread light, and allow our footprints to become but a tiptoe. Here are 5 ways to minimize your impact on the planet as a traveler.
Be Conscious of Air Transport
Travel, or at least the first stages of it, usually involves some form of transport. This is almost always the case, especially if, like me, you live on an island. So most of the time we must choose a way to get to our destination, and this is rarely avoidable.
Try only to take planes when it is necessary. Sometimes the same journey can be taken by train or bus, which will slightly reduce your carbon footprint. It is also possible to fly in a more eco-friendly way with the recent emergence of CO2 minded airline companies. Generally speaking more modern planes feature more efficient engines, and less emissions. Some companies, such as United Continental Airlines, have invested in new aerodynamic designs, and cleaner terminals and aircraft, making for less impact on the environment.
Consider Alternative Transport
Public transport varies in quality and price depending on the country you are in, but because public transport is shared transport, it is nearly always cleaner than hiring a car or taking a taxi. Short journeys and national journeys by public transport can be cheaper and nearly always reduce a traveler’s impact on the planet.
There are a few other ways to travel that we have not mentioned yet, some of them more exciting than paying for any sort of transport, and often just as clean. The first is hitch-hiking. Many people would consider this dangerous. In some countries it might be. In any country where it does not feel dangerous walking down the street I do not consider hitchhiking any more dangerous than eating at a cafe. I have hitchhiked over 100 times in Europe, at times using it as my main method of transport.
My experiences ranged from marginally awkward because of language barriers or personality clashes, to extremely rewarding and in depth. Hitchhiking ensures that you never take a car journey that would not be taken anyway. The kind person who picks you up is taking that journey whether you are or not, and so your impact is minimized.
Some people will never brave hitchhiking even when they are in a country where it is safe to do so. They have seen too many horror movies. Car sharing is a great alternative, also known as car pooling. The premise is simple; there is a website, drivers post their journeys, passengers respond and share the journey, the petrol costs and emissions are also shared. Some countries have stronger communities than others but it is possible to car pool all over the world.
Take a Walk
Personally, this is my favorite way to travel anyway. You see the whole country, even places that tourists would never visit, you see the countryside, you feel healthy, and your impact on the planet is minimized. As a side point your harmony with the planet is also maximized! Try traveling on foot; you will not regret it. Trail walks are great way to travel for a long time using only your feet, or it is possible to combine on foot travel with some hitchhiking or public transport. Great for the environment, great for the body, and great for having the deepest travel experiences.
Respect the Land
Whatever country you are in, make sure you respect the land. Always put your rubbish in the bin, or better still recycle even when on the move. In fact, all the same guidelines that would be true at home are also true when traveling. This includes minimizing consumption of products and packaging, of electricity, and of meat and damaging industries relating to food.
Eco-travel is a new form of tourism that makes a promise that by traveling and staying there, you will not have a huge impact on the environment. Sometimes in eco-travel some of the money you pay will go back into protecting the planet. Eco-travel or eco-toursim is not a bad way to go, and can provide rich experiences where it is not simply a money-spinner.
I would like to recommend to you a more raw form of Eco-travel; volunteering. Volunteering on organic farms and in self-sustainable homes is one of the best way to reduce your impact on the planet when you travel. Try the WWOOF community, or the more inclusive and up to date “workaway” site. Both of these offer the traveler the opportunity to live and work in someone’s home, and very often communities and homes featured have an interest in the planet, and in organic methods. It is a great way to learn new skills, experience a culture and reduce impact, and there is nothing superficial about it.
There are many ways to reduce impact on the planet, whether at home or traveling. It is the little changes that will make a big difference in the end, so start now by taking a conscious approach to the planet.