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Green travel is a contentious topic. The notion of embracing low-impact and environmentally conscious travel is a laudable one, but in reality, it’s complicated.
And the popularization of a number of related terms, such as “sustainable travel,” “responsible travel” and “eco-tourism” has further obscured the issue.
Given that tourism produces harmful emissions, the term “green travel” can seem like an oxymoron. An oft-cited study found that, between 2009 and 2013, tourism accounted for about 8 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions; presumably, that number has since increased. Some people even argue that if you care about the planet, you should stay home. But on the other end of the spectrum, there is tangible evidence that mindful, ethical or “responsible” travel choices can lead to a variety of positive effects that include environmental, economic and cultural benefits — for host communities and visitors.
“Done well, tourism can be a significant force for good, both for nature and for local communities,” Tim Williamson, marketing director of Responsible Travel, an activist travel company, wrote via email. “Travel is important — but for it to be sustainable, we have to fly much less. We can’t offset our way out of the climate crisis. We can’t carry on consuming more, flying more, and plant some trees to balance it all out. We do have to restore nature, as well as — not in place of — slashing emissions.”
Green travel will not solve the climate crisis, but knowing what to look for can empower you to make choices that do less harm and more good if you do choose to travel. “The more informed you are, the more you’re able to influence things by creating demand for more sustainable and responsible tourism options,” said Edith Alusa, CEO of Ecotourism Kenya and a director of the board of the Global Ecotourism Network.
This is an excerpt from an article by Sunny Fitzgerald, originally published by The Washington Post.