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Yes: travel and flying in particular does cause carbon emissions. However, tourism also creates one out of every 10 jobs globally. Many of these are in remote corners where communities play a crucial role in protecting delicate ecosystems and ways of life. Others allow those on the margins to gain independence in societies where that is far from a given.
Travel can be one of many pathways to making our planet a safer, fairer and kinder place – somewhere people and nature thrive in harmony. Here’s how to see the world while helping to save it, one trip at a time…
The below tips are taken fromThe Ethical Traveller: 100 ways to roam the world (without ruining it!) by Imogen Lepere, illustrated by Julia Murray (Smith Street Books, £12.99) Out now
Consider where you are most needed
Approach your holiday planning strategically so you can pick somewhere that really needs your support. Disaster Tourism may sound gross but the aftermath of a natural disaster or terrorist attack is when your dollars are needed the most. It’s also important to engage with destinations that are dealing with negative publicity and tell your friends the real story – if it is safe to do so, of course. Other destinations where your money means more are those that are highly dependent on tourism. Take the tiny Caribbean Islands of Antigua and Barbuda, where visiting beach-lovers bolster 90 per cent of the local economy.
Give high season the cold shoulder
Lower prices, fewer crowds and a warmer welcome are just a few reasons to travel during the off-season. In spots that struggle with overtourism – the point at which the needs of the tourism industry become unsustainable for a destination – resources such as water and transport may become harder for locals to access. Low season can be wonderfully atmospheric (picture Venice’s deserted backstreets in January mist), while ‘shoulder season’ – those months between high and low – may actually provide preferable weather. Hiking Crete’s Kydoni Gorge, for example, is far more enjoyable in May, when the floor is carpeted with wild herbs and temperatures are a comfortable 21 degrees Celsius (70 degrees Fahrenheit).
Be aware of greenwashing
Many more people care about creating a sustainable future and understand that every dollar or euro they spend could be seen as a vote for the kind of world they want to live in. Unfortunately, those canny folks in the marketing department have also spotted this, which is why communications in the tourism industry are filled with ‘greenwashing’. Look out for vague claims without stats to back them up, no sign of locals on an operators’ social media channels, no mention of independent businesses, and claims that they align with specific Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) just by the nature of what they do. If you suspect, snitch! Press the company for more details and if none are provided, report them to that country’s tourism board.
Pack with a purpose
It’s tempting to fill every cranny of your bag with those holiday clothes you never actually wear but leaving a little room for school supplies will ultimately make you feel even more fabulous. Pack for a Purpose is a not-for-profit that connects travellers with schools and community projects in their travel destination so they can bring the supplies that are actually needed. Worried about squishing it all in? Start by removing packaging and use the KonMari method to fold your clothes.
Be a people person
Sorry personal-space fans, but if you must fly, please make sure it’s in economy. Studies show emissions per passenger in first class can be nine times as much as the good people at the back, with business passengers coming in at three times the emissions of those in economy. This is simply because more people + a smaller space = greater fuel efficiency.
Stay on the rails
There’s no doubt a train is always more carbon-efficient than a flight but not all trains are created equal. Electric trains, like those that whisk people around Sydney and Moscow, typically generate up to 35 per cent less carbon per kilometre than their diesel equivalents. In the Netherlands, passenger trains run on wind power and Chile’s Santiago Metro relies mostly on its own solar plant. In Europe, Germany is leading the way when it comes to renewable rail travel. The world’s first hydrogen-powered passenger trains are currently speeding silently between Buxtehude and the beach town of Cuxhaven several times a day.
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