Global warming, smog and toxic chemicals are causing you sleepless nights. You’re itching to visit exotic locales, but you’re worried that travel will only make things worse for the planet.
Should you go or should you stay? It’s true that travel — especially air travel — can carry a hefty environmental price tag by burning fossil fuels and creating global greenhouse gases. But experiencing different cultures, dabbling in languages, seeing history and learning how others live is rewarding, educational and an important part of the human experience. So, certainly, go ahead and indulge your travel desires, but when you do, consider reducing your environmental footprint as much as possible.
Here are five common-sense tips to lessen your travel impact. They will ease your conscience and as a bonus, you’ll save money.
1. Enjoy activities that burn less fuel.
Avoid jet skis, motorboats and all-terrain vehicles, and instead, float in a kayak, go for a hike on mountain or coastal trails or jump astride a horse and go for a ride. You will observe nature up close and increase your fitness.
2. Check out hotels in advance and book one that has made a commitment to sustainability and has an active environmental program that includes recycling and energy efficiency.
Once you’ve arrived, be sure to use the recycle bins, turn off lights when not in use and make an effort to buy only consumables packaged in recyclable materials.
3. Use public transit.
Not only will you reduce your carbon emissions, but you’ll save money, meet locals and learn more about the region. In many countries, taking a bus or train is safe, cost-effective and can be an adventure in itself.
4. Get involved.
You can work with conservation programs for endangered leatherback turtles in Costa Rica, help build an orphanage in Tanzania, or clean up a beach or reef. There’s nothing like watching newly hatched turtles crawl into the sea by moonlight or the smile of an abandoned little girl who now has a home and is receiving an education. You will connect with locals and be a part of their culture. You will feel great about what you’ve done and will have wonderful stories to tell your friends when you return.
5. Resist the temptation to pick up that piece of coral, cute shell or attractive plant. Taking objects from beaches and reefs is usually forbidden and reduces the natural beauty for those visitors who will follow. Furthermore, living things can spread insect larvae or parasites that could cause irreparable damage back home. At the same time, don’t leave any litter behind.
Travel is an important part of enjoying a full, well-rounded life. But, as with many choices, balance is required. So, go ahead and make those travel plans, but change your outlook. Cast aside the hedonistic eat-and-drink-till-you-drop and cost-doesn’t-matter attitudes usually taken during vacations. Instead, concentrate on taking joy in learning about a new culture, seeing new scenery and having the opportunity to relax. Be responsible. Walk with a smaller footprint and revel in it. Make happiness, not consumption, your goal.