Travelling is one of the most exciting and rewarding things a person can experience. You get to make new friends, meet different types of people, learn about new cultures and cuisines, and see spectacular landscapes.
Whether you’re jetting off around the globe or hiking through the Scottish Highlands, it’s important that you are aware of your surroundings.
Unfortunately, travelling can take its toll on the environment. From the aircraft you fly with to the souvenirs you buy from the gift shop, just about everything you do affects the environment.
The importance of being eco-friendly has been emphasised in recent years, as there are concerns about the consequences of our large carbon footprints. So, while travel will always have some impact on nature, there are some things you can do to minimise the impact.
Whether you’re shopping for fresh produce or searching for the perfect souvenir to take back for your loved ones, it’s important to shop locally. When on your travels, buying from the local area will not only help contribute to the local economy, but it will also reduce the effect of greenhouse gases as many mass-produced gifts and foods are shipped from other countries. Buying food from a market or street stall will also give you an insight into the local culture.
Go on a 'Staycation'
England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland are home to some of the most breathtaking views and spectacular natural beauty. Miles and miles of coastline border a lush green landscape, yet we take a lot of it for granted. You could instantly reduce your carbon footprint by holidaying somewhere in the UK, rather than jetting off on a flight to the other side of the world.
Don't take 'souvenirs'
If you want to remember somewhere, take a photograph, not a piece of the landscape. It might be tempting to pocket a few shells or a unique plant to remind you of your travels, but you could be doing more harm than good. It’s important to leave the environment as you found it. However, if you are snapping away, don’t forget to turn off your flash so as not to disturb the local wildlife.
Plastic bottles are everywhere these days, but they can wreak havoc with the environment. To give you an idea of the scale of the problem; there are more than 1,500 plastic bottles consumed every second in the US1.
So, rather than picking up a new disposable bottle every time you get thirsty, take your own bottle with you and refill it. This will save you money and help protect the environment.
If a group of travellers descended on your home town and left without clearing up, this would probably leave you feeling less than please. Well, that is what’s happening to people in towns and villages all over the world. Picking up after yourself will help to ensure that these local environments remain litter free.
Stick to the trail
You might want an adventure, but when you’re travelling, it’s worth taking the beaten path. You will still be able to explore, so don’t worry about missing out. The problem with going off the trail is that you won’t know what you are disturbing beneath your feet. Remember to respect the landscape and stay on the marked trails.
Offset your carbon footprint
Offsetting is where one action counter balances the effects of another, saving the equivalent amount of carbon emissions as those that are produced. Some airlines and tour operators run their own carbon offsetting schemes. This is where you make a donation on top of your purchases, but the money is used to fund projects, such as setting up renewable energy resources.
Stay in an ecolodge
If you love staying in cosy hotels, why not opt for a choice of accommodation that helps protect the environment at the same time? An ecolodge or resort will normally benefit the local people, contribute to conservation and use renewable energy resources.
You could also go a step further in your quest to be the ultimate eco-conscious traveller and take part in a volunteer project. There are opportunities all over the globe to go into a community and work in exchange for room and board. This will allow you to take part in a once-in-a-lifetime experience, help the locals and get free accommodation.
Travelling will always have some impact on the environment, but with a little bit of care and consideration, it is possible to explore the world without there being too many negative effects.