According to NASA, 97% of scientists believe in anthropogenic (caused by human activity) climate change. And it’s hard to dispute travel as one of those anthropogenic causes. Aviation, a major component of the tourism industry, accounts for 5% of annual global CO2 emissions alone. One of the reasons for this may be because the strength of carbon emissions is intensified at high altitudes. Furthermore, the amount of fossil fuels extracted to fuel the tourism industry is staggering.
But that of course is not to discourage you from travelling. In fact, stopping you from travel may actually have negative impacts on locals who rely heavily on tourism; or it may prevent you from doing good works that benefit locals or the globe. Thus, here at FairAway, we believe that it’s not about halting all holidays, but rather to continue to go on holidays with the mindset that you can make a positive impact. Hilary Bradt, founder of Bradt Guides – guide books with a reputation of focusing on responsible travel – offers the following: “Travelling with the hopes of having a positive impact is always going to be more rewarding than staying at home for fear of having a negative one. I think we should stop feeling guilty about travel and rejoice in the positive contribution we can make. Simply being there helps”.
So what can travellers do to mitigate their impacts on climate? Flying less does help, especially when avoiding short-haul flights. Stick to direct routes, and for some longer journeys, take alternative methods of travel, such as rail, whenever possible. Avoid notoriously unsustainable holidays such as cruises and all-inclusive resorts. And whenever possible, try to reduce your carbon footprint during your travels in as many ways as you can.
Carbon offsetting – the practice of purchasing “offsets” to make up for your carbon emissions associated with your travels – can be an option as well. But it isn’t without its scrutiny. Mainly, it’s difficult to know where your money is going when you purchase offsets and if it’s really going towards projects that help fight climate change. Some also argue that it allows travellers to continue polluting because they’re paying extra money. But should you decide carbon offsetting is a viable option for you, we advise purchasing offsets from reputable companies that are certified by The Gold Standard. This will ensure that your offsets are funding green projects that have real benefits.
Climate change is a global issue that affects us all. In some parts of the world, especially in poorer countries, the effects have already been felt with disastrous results, such as droughts and floods. And additional climate change can have serious implications for countries where the effects haven’t yet been felt. But if we all take measures, both at home and abroad, perhaps we can curb our impacts and prevent catastrophe. But it will take more than doing small everyday things. We will require the political will, global investments in green technology, and a major behavioural shift in how we treat our Earth. Perhaps one day, sustainable travel will be just be ‘travel’.