How to travel ethically

Posted on: 24 October 2010 by Gareth Hargreaves

Advice for those who love to travel but also care about the impact it's having on the environment.

ethical travelAir travel has been blamed for being a major cause of global warming, yet the number of global air passengers is set to triple by 2050.

The average person in the UK already generates around ten tonnes of carbon dioxide per year, with one return trip from Heathrow to Sydney generating almost half this number per passenger.

Some commentators advise us to stop flying to save the environment and the world's poor, but on the other hand, responsible tourism can create real benefits to local communities and to the conservation of the world's natural and cultural heritage.

If we were to stop travelling altogether then that too would have an impact on global warming and development as National Parks and Protected Areas, which make up 7% of the world's land mass, including extensive forested areas that absorb carbon, are often supported by tourism revenues.

At the moment, air travel only accounts for 3% of total emissions, and that includes cargo flights. While all causes of carbon emissions - particularly those like air travel that are growing quickly - need to be tackled urgently, it would be easy to imagine from some of the media coverage that air travel was the only cause of global warming.

The decision is a lot tougher to take less cheap flights to Europe than it is to pick up a packet of fair trade tea. As such, changing the way we fly represents one of the most challenging behaviourial changes for the 'ethical consumer'.

However, there are some measures you can take to be eco-friendly:

How To Be A Green Tourist

  • If it's practical to reach your chosen destination by train then do so - you are likely cause only one eighth of the emissions of flying.
  • Think about taking fewer short breaks by air. They are more polluting per passenger mile than longer flights, as take off and landings generate a significant part of the total emissions per flight.
  • Enjoy fewer, longer breaks where your holiday creates some real benefits to conservation and local communities in the tourism destination - ask your operator for their written responsible tourism policy to ensure this is the case.
  • Offset the carbon emissions of your flight with a company - such as Climate Care - that fund projects such as cleaner burning stoves that both reduce carbon emissions and benefit local communities.
  • Think about holidaying in the UK - we spend £19bn more on holidays overseas than we receive from overseas tourists. If you do holiday in the UK, then again make sure your holiday accommodaton reduces energy use, waste and supports local food producers.
  • Demand that our politicians take action to ensure that the airlines (not just a few enlightened consumers) take responsibility for their emissions - the polluter pays principle.
  • When travelling abroad, think before you eat. It's a great part of the travelling experience to try exotic foods, but find out where the meat comes from, and avoid meat that comes from endangered animals.
  • Check before you buy plant and animal products abroad. Don't buy trinkets or other goods made from coral, tortoiseshell or other endangered species.
  • Accept that to combat climate change we will all need to fly differently, and less.
  • Make other changes in your life to reduce your carbon emissions.

Travel links

Responsible travel  is one of the fast growing travel online travel agencies in the UK, and lobbies for more responsible tourism.

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