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Tourism’s responsibility towards climate change

Are your travel habits killing the environment?

How many times have you found yourself browsing the web and being immediately drawn in by cheap flight deals? Surely, I am not alone in saying that almost every lunch-break at work results in me dreaming of an escaping the boring antics of everyday life with an exotic adventure. $700 return trip to Turkey? Count me in!

But did you know that every time you hop on a transatlantic flight, you alone are emitting the equivalent of approximately 1.6 tons of CO2 into the environment. You might be even more shocked to hear that the average Australian produces around 26 tonnes of CO2 each year. Now think about once you have arrived at your destination, is the air-conditioning in the hotel turned on all day? Do your showers end up being that extra bit longer? It’s so easy to get caught up in holiday mode and as tourists we often fall liable to the act of mindless consumerism.

There is no denying that flying less is the simple solution to reducing your impact on the environment but how many of us are actually willing to stay landlocked for the sake of our carbon footprint? Asking the world to relinquish their sense of adventure and their inner calling to explore just doesn’t seem right to us.

Thankfully, a growing interest in carbon offsets, the rise of biofuels and renewable energy and an increased focus on eco-tourism are all contributing to more sustainable tourism practises. But what can we, as individuals do to reduce our environmental impact on the earth without having to give up travel?

Introducing: 4 ways to be a smart and sustainable tourist

1. Purchase carbon offsets

Carbon offsetting is essentially compensating for the carbon-dioxide you’re producing with your flight by preventing the same amount of pollution from being emitted elsewhere. Buying offsets allows you to balance out the carbon used in flight by supporting initiatives that remove CO2 from the environment, such as forest conservation and renewable energy projects.

Saying we are never going to fly again to prevent emissions is like saying we will never eat dessert again – it’s just not going to happen! Buying carbon offsets is like going to the gym.  We all want to treat ourselves by eating cake or going on holiday, now we can balance it out by exercising and offsetting our carbon emissions.

Next time you’re booking a holiday, ask your travel agent about carbon offsetting or search for the option to purchase offsets when booking online. For just a couple of dollars you can undo a big chunk of the impact from your flight

2. Fly direct

Choosing the most direct flight to your destination can significantly reduce your carbon footprint. Take-off and landing produce the most air pollution and by limiting the number of stop overs you have, you are already doing your part for a greener tomorrow.

3. Use a green booking engine to find eco-friendly accommodation

Most hotels are more focused on maximising profit than doing the right thing. That’s why you should consider finding your accommodation through third party sites such as TripAdvisor’s Green Leaders Program to ensure you are staying somewhere that takes their impact on climate change seriously.

These sites showcase a variety of eco-friendly hotels for all budgets and only show you results for businesses who are committed to green practices like recycling, using local and organic food, and electric car charging stations. TripAdvisor has even partnered with the United Nations Environment Programme, Eco Tourism Australia and Earth Check to ensure the hotels offered are truly sustainable.

Just remember, booking green doesn’t excuse your behaviour during your stay. It is always a good idea to turn the air conditioning and lights off when you are out of the room, reuse your towels and limit your water use. It’s the little things that really make a difference.

4. Be road smart

It’s pretty obvious that your flight is going to have the biggest impact on the environment but what about your other transport?

Once you arrive, it is a great idea to use public transport where possible, just like you would aim to do at home. Better yet, hire a bike! Opting for these alternatives rather than a personal taxi or uber will not only reduce your carbon footprint and save money, it will also allow you to truly experience the destination you are visiting. You may even end up travelling through a neighbourhood you never knew existed or meeting locals who give you insider tips on where to go and what to do. That way everyone wins!

No one expects you to stop travelling – that’s crazy. The simple fact is – travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer. Yes, that was super cliché, but it really is true. Nothing can quite replace the feeling of experiencing diverse cultures, meeting new people, seeing new places or even tasting different cuisines. DON’T stop travelling, just travel smarter. Be mindful of your environment because without it, travel will not exist.

About the author

Emily is a keen traveller and studies International Hotel & Tourism Management at the University of QLD. Being born in Germany and moving back and forth between her home country and Australia throughout her childhood has opened her up to appreciate the cultures surrounding her. It has also ignited a desire to travel the world and a passion to gain as much experience and knowledge from the people she meets and places she visits as possible.
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