Updated: Dec 27, 2021
Let's be real, us humans have been the metaphorical Bull in a China shop called Earth since the late 19th century. Who can blame us, we invented the combustion engine. WE MADE BIG METAL CABINS FLY 30,000 FEET IN THE AIR! Now, however, we have been accustomed to such feats of magic since birth, and we can no longer ignore the state of the earth.
The point of this guide is to support people in understanding that they can collectively make an enormous difference to the carbon footprint, through that monstrously large crater of a footprint called travel and tourism (8% of all CO2 emissions come from the industry 1).
Let's not be too hard on ourselves, we no longer sweep the issues under the rug, and leaders and influencers alike are making pragmatic steps to make things better. (One must question whether Elon and Jeff have given up on Earth following their forays into space, but I'll stay optimistic)
What is Ecotourism
My personalised definition of ecotourism is - going to places, and not screwing them up. While I'm unlikely to be published in Elite Traveller magazine, the definition keeps my monkey brain on track when planning and taking trips.
You may also know it as conservation travel or sustainable travel, its one and the same thing. You're probably thinking 'okay, so I need to row to New York from Bristol for my Christmas spree in Manhattan.' Why not - but ecotourism not only means cutting down on burning the fuel used by planes, it also means respecting indigenous cultures, Americans included (at least for the last 300 years).
Yes it was a pretty poor summer here in the UK, and last year was a hot one, but the impacts of the way societies operate are far wider reaching, this little section is broken down into 'whats the impact', and 'how is travel contributing to that', to make it simple.
Nasa *insert shocked face emoji* reports that the global temperature will continue to increase, there will be more droughts and heatwaves, hurricanes will become even more intense, the arctic will become ice free, more species will die off, there will be more health risks. Scary stuff. 2
Now onto travel and tourism, and how its contribution. But first, an interesting regional graph showing contribution to the crisis.
Yeah I was surprised with Asia Pacific too.3
The key statistic for travel and tourism is that 8% impact to all CO2, with the loserboard going in order of the USA, China, Germany, India.
If you break it down another way, some tourist hotspots like the Maldives, Cyprus, the Seychelles - 80% of their total emissions come from the industry!
Interestingly, yet, logically on reflection, its been shown that for every 10% extra we earn, an additional 13% we increase our carbon footprint, I'm sure we can all relate to this one. 'As soon as I get that bonus, I'm going as far away as possible'.
So what can we do? Stuff. Things. Many things actually help, heres a concise breakdown
Research your service providers
Check out your hotel providers, tour guides, travel providers, they should all have sustainability initiatives, and if they don't, then for shame.
As a crazy broad statement, coaches and buses in Europe are either the same or better than here in the UK. There I've said it. But they're honestly good, sometimes a few minutes late but nothing to call home about. Consider if its possible before renting a car.
Minimise waste, avoid using plastics, respect the wildlife.
Don't be a dick.
Eat local food with local ingredients
This encourages locals to not deliver goods over great distances, burning fuels, keep it... local. Also it probably tastes better.
Planes, trains and automobiles - actually just trains
If you can get around by train, you significantly reduce your impact, like, a lot. Try and plan around it. Long distance trains are also pretty fun with a stack of uno cards.
Be safe in the sun(screen)
Many sunscreens have chemicals that damage the seas and oceans, check out some natural alternatives like the zinc focused ones, they work well too.
Education, education, education
Many people are unaware of the impacts they have when they travel. I assume as a responsible human being that you want to improve your impact, and what better way to do that than by using your network.
Offset your flying
Airlines now have initiatives that let you offset your carbon footprint impact with the planting of trees, you can even find this through SkyScanner, super easy!
Statista reports that 83% of travellers surveyed believe ecotourism is important worldwide. I thought that was a nice high number, which perhaps shows my cynicism, but it begs the question, why isn't it 100%?
Let's subtlety spread the word to our networks that sustainable travel is important, and very possible.
See you on the other side.
1 How tourism contributes to global warming, Ecobnb - How Tourism Contributes to Global Warming - Ecobnb
2 Vital signs of the planet, NASA- Effects | Facts – Climate Change: Vital Signs of the Planet (nasa.gov)
3 Carbon dioxide emissions worldwide - • World carbon dioxide emissions by region 2020 | Statista