The last year saw travel grind to a halt, but despite lockdowns, communities around the world are finding new ways to stay connected and support one another. It’s also offered plenty of time to reminisce about past travels and dream about future journeys, which are soon to become a reality. Travel is an incredible gift, and with it comes a responsibility to make decisions that have a positive impact on the people and places we visit, the wildlife we encounter and the planet we all share.
From carefully selecting the experiences we participate in thinking about the environmental effects of our travel, there’s plenty to consider while anticipating adventure’s return. It might sound complicated, but these helpful tips and tricks will put you on the right track.
When the time is right to travel again, here’s how to travel sustainably and carbon neutral:
Understand carbon neutrality and how to reduce your carbon footprint
By now, you’ve more than likely heard terms like “carbon neutral” and “carbon footprint,” but maybe you’re not 100% confident in understanding what they really mean – and that’s okay! Carbon can be confusing, but essentially, increased greenhouse gases (GHGs) are directly linked to Climate Change, and GHGs are typically measured in tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent. The total amount released into the atmosphere as a result of your activities and lifestyle are what makes up your carbon footprint.
Emissions from energy consumption, water use, food, transportation and waste management are typically the major contributors to a product, business, community or individual’s carbon footprint. Since travelling often requires flights, in-destination transportation, eating out and other excursions, it can contribute to extra GHG emissions. The good news is, by making mindful and informed decisions, there are plenty of ways to reduce your carbon emissions and offset what can’t be avoided.
Consider alternate transportation methods
Jet-setting to far-flung destinations can contribute to our carbon footprint via GHG emissions from flights, so where doable, choose alternate modes of transportation, like train or coach. If flying can’t be avoided, know take-off and landing are the most fuel intensive portions of flights, so try flying direct when possible. If you’re a chronic over-packer, try to keep your luggage light as the less a plane weighs, the less GHGs it emits. The impact of every passenger packing one fewer pair of shoes (or the equivalent of 1 kg) would be equivalent to taking 10,500 cars off the road for one year. Plus, Google Flights and Skyscanner launched helpful tools to identify flights with lower emissions based on the type of airplane and fuel. In destination, immerse yourself in the new sights and surroundings by walking, renting a bicycle where you can or opting for public transit.
Go with the pros
Trying to sort out the logistics of how to travel sustainably on top of planning the rest of a holiday can be overwhelming. To save yourself the stress, travel with a company that’s already got everything sorted – from transportation and accommodation to meals, sightseeing and sustainability – and experience a guilt and hassle-free vacation. Adventure travel company for 18-35-year-olds, Contiki, is on a mission to MAKE TRAVEL MATTER® powered by its not-for-profit, the TreadRight Foundation, and recently announced it will be a 100% carbon neutral company by January 1, 2022. This includes its epic 350+ worldwide trips, at no extra cost to travellers. Guided by a new 5-step Climate Action Plan to support its GHG reduction targets, the brand is achieving carbon neutrality by reducing its emissions as much as possible. Its fleet of coaches across Europe are already the cleanest available, equipped with Euro6 engines so sometimes the air leaving the engine is cleaner than the air it takes in, plus its two owned ‘Special Stay’ properties are switching to 100% renewable energy. It is also working with partner South Pole to purchase verified carbon credits to offset unavoidable emissions and investing in two developing nature-based carbon removal solutions.
Choose ethical and educational experiences
While considering carbon emissions is an essential aspect of travelling sustainably, responsible travel incorporates many other factors, and it’s equally as important to consider the activities and experiences we engage in. Travelling offers many unique opportunities to connect with local communities and learn about new cultures, and it’s important to support, respect and protect the people and wildlife who call these places home. Contiki offers MAKE TRAVEL MATTER® Experiences across 60% of its itineraries, which are conscious and immersive experiences selected due to the positive impact they have on the planet, people and wildlife you visit and those who partake in them. Each experience educates travellers on pressing global issues and local community actions being taken to address them, while directly advancing the UN Sustainable Development Goals. For example, in Berlin, taking a walking tour led by a Syrian refugee to gain a new perspective, or in Costa Rice, visit the Sea Turtle Conservancy to see baby turtles being released into the wild and learn about their important conservation work.
Be mindful with your meals
Restaurant dining and eating out are often unavoidable while travelling. Try to choose restaurants that locally source their food, which not only reduces emissions from food transport, but it also supports the local economy. Additionally, beef, chicken and eggs create more GHGs than their protein-rich vegan alternatives of tofu and beans, so try opting instead for some vegan and vegetarian options. Food-related carbon emissions can be reduced by up to 60% just by eating vegan for 2/3 of your meals, making Meatless Mondays worth consideration.
Offset your carbon use
Achieving carbon neutrality is a big step towards a low carbon economy and reducing your carbon emissions as much as possible and balancing unavoidable emissions by reducing the same amount of emissions elsewhere makes it possible. Tools like South Pole help travellers measure impact by inputting their travel information (i.e., flights), and doing the back-end calculations for you. It then provides the option to purchase verified carbon credits to offset, by investing in environmental projects that prevent or reduce emissions.
For more information and tools to help reduce your carbon footprint, visit TreadRight’s new Impact Hub: Impact.TreadRight.org/Climate/.