How To Reduce Your Carbon Footprint While Traveling
Planes leave disastrous carbon footprints on the planet. How to avoid catching one? How to compensate and find eco-friendly addresses? What are the possible alternatives? Here are some tips to change your perception of tourism and to become a traveller with a conscience.
At a time when low-cost companies fares are less than 20 euros, how to resist to the temptation of booking? Well, it’s time to think about the undeniable harmful consequences, find other options to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and adopt a new philosophy of travelling. First of all, how about travelling closer and enjoy the art of slow travel? Car-sharing, train, cycling and even hitchhiking are much cleaner travel options than flying. Also, taking your time to reach a destination can result in a very satisfying feeling.
For trips within Europe, favour Inter Rail cards and options. They cover 30 countries. You can of course travel through the other ones and even further. Trains from Europe can take you as far as Vladivostok and Beijing! The British website The Man at Seat 61 is a mine of information should you want to travel anywhere in the world.
Car-sharing -or carpooling- is more and more widely used throughout Europe and beyond. There are different internet carpooling platforms depending on countries but BlaBlaCar France offers rides everywhere in Europe and is a good one to start with.
Bicycles lovers will be glad to know that thanks to the European EuroVelo program more and more areas, regions, countries are developing networks of greenways which allow cyclists to avoid cars and reconnect with nature. The traveller on the budget will also be happy to (res)discover the joys of hitchhiking as it seems to be back on track. The North of France town of Marcq-en-Baroeul sets a good example. Stations in and around town have been created so people can hitchhike to wherever they want.
British train – © Elisabeth Blanchet
Offsetting The Carbon Footprint
If you have no other option than flying, choose your airline carefully. Aim at one that works on its carbon emissions compensation. For example, Air France offers the « Trip and Tree » scheme designed by the NGO A Tree For You. When booking your trip you’ll be given the option to sponsor one or several trees from different agroforestry projects throughout the world. If you don’t have the opportunity to choose your company, you can do the same gesture and act against climate change through the Ecosia platform.
Another thing you can do is use the Greentripper website which allows you to calculate your carbon dioxide emissions and act accordingly: Greentripper suggests projects to fight climate you could support to offset your carbon footprint.
Choosing Eco-friendly Accommodations
Another way to reduce your carbon footprint is to target eco-friendly accommodations. To be sure about the place you want to stay at, make sure it bears the EU Ecolabel or the Clé Verte French label. In France you can use the Voavert platform to book eco-friendly hotels, bed & breakfasts, unusual and quirky places all fulfilling sustainable tourism criteria. Outside France, visit the Green Global Travel website. You’ll be given reliable eco-friendly addresses around the world and introduced to the ecotourism jargon. Beware of imposters using greenwashing! For those who wouldn’t know the term, it consists of practices which occur when a product or business says they’re green or eco-friendly, but they spend more resources on making sure you know that, rather than actually implementing this into their business.
Barcelona made at tourism – © Elisabeth Blanchet
Leaving a Social Footprint
As well as minimizing your carbon footprint, make your social footprint larger! One way to do it is to avoid mass tourism destinations. Today nobody can deny its harmful consequences on local residents and environment : property speculation, house prices rise, local shops being replaced with tourist bars and restaurants, overcrowded streets and public places, noise pollution, accumulation of waste and air pollution. These are the main examples of what cities like Barcelona, Venice, Rome or Dubrovnik suffer from. Also think about avoiding destinations strongly connoted with sexual and drugs tourism. Even if you are not a consumer, the simple fact of getting to these places contributes to the continuing of these not politically correct touristic activities.
Walk off the beaten tracks instead, meet local people and communities. There are ways you can contribute to their businesses and initiatives. For example you can book amazing activities and experiences through the U2GUIDE platform, 50% of your contribution will profit NGOs humanitarian projects.
But what to do about the internationally famous not-to-be-missed landmarks? Well maybe the only way to visit them is to brave their touristy territories out of season when tourists are missing, if such thing happens!
Black Sea crowded by tourists – © Elisabeth Blanchet
Changing Your Perception Of Tourism
Equipment, clothes, accessories are also part of a trip. If chosen carefully they can also help reduce your carbon footprint. Clothes brand Tentree plants 10 trees each time an item is sold. If you buy a pair of shoes or sunglasses by Toms, you’ll help one person in need. And these are only two examples of sustainable tourism. To discover other initiatives – and if you read French – get our E-book : Learn how to be an impact traveler. You can also attend fairs dedicated to sustainable tourism and ecotourism such as the Festival des Globe-Trotters or the DirecTravel salon in France. You’ll meet people, learn many tips and end up building the trip of your dreams.
Here you are, all ready to reduce your carbon footprint! Your vision of tourism has changed. You understood that to be sustainable, tourism can’t only remain an economic asset. It should also be considered as a financial leverage for projects developed by civil society organisations whose aims are to protect the environment and give a better idea of the human challenges caused by the explosion of tourism.
Don’t miss our next article, written by one of U2GUIDE’s members, about his experience in Portugal!