In the era of Greta Thunberg and the ‘green wave’ that’s sweeping our depleted planet, many of us have been wondering what we can do to be more mindful and conscious of our choices as a consumer.
When we consider traveling again in light of COVID-19, we must ask ourselves how we can continue exploring the world – to keep doing the important work of broadening our hearts and minds, and promoting cross-cultural understanding – without hurting it.
If you’re confused about where to start, we’ve compiled this list of five actions you can take to be a more conscious and sustainable traveler. Whether you take one, three, or all five onboard for your next journey, we’re certain they will make your next trip better, for both you and the earth. These tried-and-true principles are guaranteed to reduce your environmental impact and make you a more mindful traveler.
1. Transport smarter
According to the Center for Biological Diversity, “Airplanes could generate 43 gigatonnes of planet-warming pollution through 2050, consuming almost 5 percent of the world’s remaining carbon budget.” Buying carbon offsets from companies like mossyearth.com or climatecare.org can help, as can booking the most direct route, since taking off and landing burns more fuel than cruising. Flying economy is more eco-friendly than business and first-class, since economy seats take up less space, as is choosing airlines that use biofuels or newer, more fuel-efficient planes.
Or opt to take the train. Sure, trains usually take longer than planes, but they also use up to 50 percent less fuel, plus their emissions aren’t released directly into the upper atmosphere. There’s an undeniable romance to rail travel, it allows you to experience a deeper sense of place by immersing you in the landscape, plus it gives you the chance to walk around and get to know fellow passengers.
2. Go plastic-free
In the last ten years, we’ve made more plastic than the century before that, and almost every piece of plastic ever made is still on the planet. You can do your bit and reduce the number of disposable plastics you consume while on the road by packing things like a reusable water bottle (like LARQ), a metal container for takeaway food, and a reusable cotton tote bag for shopping.
3. Eat plant-based
Beyond eating a plant-based diet, cultivating your own garden and purchasing local produce can make a huge difference to the environment. Supporting locally-grown produce and reduced food waste can massively lower carbon emissions, in particular, because most food waste occurs at the industrial level, according to Project Drawdown, a comprehensive guide to reverse climate change. From vegetables that are deemed “too ugly” to be sent to stores, to an overabundance of produce that doesn’t sell, finding ways to grow your food locally and utilize what you produce is a step in the right direction.
4. Turn off the air conditioning
Tropical destinations are a popular choice for travelers, with ample sunshine and azure ocean water. The problem with these locales is that their gorgeous surroundings come with a major drawback: high temperatures. The truth is that air conditioning (also referred to by Project Drawdown’s as “Refrigerant Management”) is a massive contributor to greenhouse gases—and reducing the use of air conditioning chemicals in favor of natural cooling methods is the number one ranked solution to reducing carbon emissions. You can reduce your impact by turning off the air conditioning in your room, and many hotels are already working to solve this problem. Playa Viva and Olas Tulum, both in Mexico, don’t have AC but instead create a natural flow of air by utilizing the venturi effect to efficiently cool the rooms.
5. Stay at a Regenerative Resort
Start your sustainable travel journey by choosing a truly green and ‘regenerative’ accommodation. Do your research to find the right eco-friendly option that minimizes negative impacts on the local ecosystems, while contributing back to the local community. Opt to stay at a Regenerative Resort, with each hotel selected to join the collection based on their dedication to environmental and social impact.