The New York Times reported a major risk in climate as early as 2040 and why 0.5 degrees in warming is actually something we should be concerned with. And while the rising temperatures have an effect on our climate and society, we need to think critically about what sustainability in every industry means and how we can become more conscious to the effects this is placing on our environment. They’ve concluded that we have two years to implement a plant to reduce global warming otherwise the results will be irreversible.

Travel is a huge producer of “waste” from the little single-use toiletry bottles in our hotel rooms, the greenwashing policies making us believe that we are making an impact in our environment by using a towel twice when in reality said hotel is using an inefficient energy system and creating waste otherwise and the impact our choices through travel can have on the environment. There is also the issue of over tourism in certain destinations is a growing problem forcing places to close beaches or regulate guests because it exceeds the carrying capacity of either that ecosystem or the urban environment.

And according to the Expedia Airplane and Hotel Etiquette study (2018), “Almost 60% of Canadians said that having an eco-friendly hotel option was of some importance when it came to hotel considerations, indicating this is becoming of greater significance to Canadians.” To help you travel more sustainably in 2019, here are some tips to help you plan your next trip.

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How to Make your Travel Sustainable

When booking your next vacation, picking how you travel to and around the destination in a sustainable way is important.

Many airlines offer options where you can purchase carbon offsets for their travel. Right here in Canada, Air Transat became the first major international tour operator to be Travelife Certified for all its activities become a leader in sustainable development. They have also developed an online resource for their travellers to help them plan a more eco-friendly trip with a variety of resorts and eco-responsible hotels that meet the standards for biosphere responsible tourism to sustainable tourism, rainforest alliance and more.

For travellers looking for a tour of a destination, Intrepid Travel has over 1700 tours all around the world and for the last 30 years have focused on sustainable and experience-rich travel. In 2018, it was announced that are the world’s largest B-Corp certified travel company being a completely carbon neutral business working along local organizations and communities to allow you to see the world and provide a positive impact to the local economy.  They have also focused on launching new tours this year to lesser traveled areas of the world and off the typical routes to help spread tourists out around the world.

Image Credit: Intrepid Travel

Eco-Friendly Resorts and Destinations

In Canada, the rocky island of Haida Gwaii diverse plant and animal life, and the totem pole and longhouse remains are some of the oldest authentic examples of coastal First Nations villages in the country. When visiting this region, leaving the sites in the same conditions when you leave is really important to protect and maintain the ecosystem and are strong advocates of the ‘leave no footprint’ philosophy. Accommodations like Haida House and Ocean House offer eco-adventures to teach you about the Indigenous flora and fauna and eco-initiatives to help benefit the Haida nation.

In 2018, Isla Palenque opened in the Gulf of Chiriquí on a private island in Panama. This resort was the first development by the Cayuga Collection of hotels in Panama focused on creating resorts in central america that offer sustainable luxury committed to sharing this special area of the world, not harming it. Throughout the resort, they use renewable materials, biodegradable products and have constructed their own furniture with fallen trees from the island to create a luxurious and eco-friendly experience.

The Dock to Dish® program designed to deliver a truly sustainable catch of the day and offer guests culinary options by only sourcing local, artisanal and low-impact wild seafood serving only foraged fish that is abundant in the local ecosystem and rapidly producing.

Beach Bungalow Image Credit: Isla Palenque, Cayuga Collection

How to Enjoy Nature in an Environmentally-Friendly Way

One great way to lower your carbon footprint when traveling is to camp or stand among nature instead of opting to go to a lavish resort. A dark-sky preserve is an area, usually surrounding a park or observatory, that restricts artificial light pollution often to promote astronomy but can also be extremely beneficial to the wildlife in the surrounding area.  The removal of light pollution can help nocturnal animal find a refuge in a natural habitat.

Mont-Mégantic is around 2.5 hours east of Montreal  and Quebec City just outside of Sherbrooke in Quebec and the site of the International Dark-Sky Association’s first International Dark Sky Reserve and the site of the ASTROLab. In this park, you can stay overnight under the stars in one of the 37 sites or in one of the 10 ready-to-camp Huttopia tents.

On January 4, 2019, New Zealand’s third largest island was officially recognized by the International Dark Sky Association (IDA) as an International Dark Sky Sanctuary. Stewart Island’s Māori name “Rakiura” (usually translated as “glowing skies”) tells of the area’s special relationship with the night sky.

New Zealand is already home to a gold-rated International Dark Sky Reserve in the Mackenzie Basin in the South Island’s Southern Alps, and the Dark Sky Sanctuary on Great Barrier Island off the North Island, north of Auckland making this the destinations during your campervan trip around New Zealand to stop and see the nature.

Image Credit: Mark Russell

How to Avoid Overtourism

There is also the issue of over tourism in certain destinations is a growing problem forcing places to close beaches or regulate guests because it exceeds the carrying capacity of either that ecosystem or the urban environment. Visits to Machu Picchu have risen from 400,000 in 1996 to 1.4 million in 2016 which has sparked alarm for organizations like UNESCO on the effects on the infrastructure because of the growing foot traffic. While this shouldn’t deter you completely from traveling, it should make you think about how and where you’re traveling.

For example, Zion National Park in Utah sees an average amount of 4.4 million visitors throughout the year but are heavily concentrated in the warmer months. The state tourism board has instead tried to spark interest in visitors during the colder month to not only spread out the visitors throughout the year, but allow local businesses in Springdale, Utah to open all year long which can help local businesses grow.

Another option it to visit lesser known spots to avoid the crowds. For travellers hoping to explore France, skip out on the hustle, bustle and crowds of Paris by heading west and spending your summer in Brittany. Begin your trip by exploring the historic architecture in Rennes and then head to the Atlantic Ocean to take in the beauty of Dinan, St.-Malo, Dinard or Saint-Brieuc. This region is only a short train ride from Paris and can offer both cultural and architectural experiences that rival those in Paris.

To help curb over tourism, many tour operators such as Trafalgar, Contiki and Busabout visit off-the-beaten-path destinations in Thailand to go and explore the North.  While Canadians will still flock to the country, especially the Thai Islands, these companies make it a point to offers their travellers the opportunity to visit Northern Thailand – a destination not often on many travellers’ radars.

“Secondary” places such as Chiang Mai, Pai and Chiang Rai are all bursting of culture, history and food. These are great places for people to experience the local Thai culture, and not just “fly and bake” on a beach. This allows tourism, which is still going to happen regardless, to spread the attention to other parts of Thailand and not just popular spots like Phuket and Bangkok.

Photo Credit: Busabout


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