Did you know that tourism is responsible for at least 8% of global CO2 emissions? In this guest blog, Trevor Scott outlines some simple eco-friendly actions you can take next time you travel.
According to the Department of Environment and Energy, even though Australia generates only about 1.5% of global emissions, on a per person basis it is one of the world’s largest emitters of greenhouse gases. In fact, Australia’s per capita CO2 emissions is more than four times the world average.
Tourism is one of the largest growing industries and by the end of 2020 the number of international tourists may reach 2 billion. So this makes tourism one of the major global emitters and transport, shopping and food are the most significant contributors.
Whether you are travelling internationally or planning a trip to Tasmania, there are options for more eco-friendly travel to reduce your impact on the environment.
Here are 10 tips that will go a long way in helping you be a responsible tourist.
1. Reduce Red Meat Consumption for Eco-Friendly Travel
You should reduce the amount of beef you consume when traveling. Did you know that farmed cattle emit large amounts of greenhouse gases – possibly more than the transport industry?
The reasons include deforestation to grow feed crops and methane released by cows, which has been shown to have a greenhouse effect that is more than that of CO2.
This is not saying that you need to switch to the vegetarian diet, but choosing chicken over steak or eating less red meat is going to help reduce CO2 emissions. Eating more fresh vegetables and less red meat will also have a major health benefit.
2. Reduce Travel by Cars and Planes
Try to minimise the use of ICE (Internal Combustion Engine) cars and planes as much as possible. It seems like common sense but it’s impossible to travel from New York to Paris by swimming or on a riding on a train. However you can take a train or rent a bike instead of a car when travelling shorter distances. You might consider taking a passenger ferry such as The Spirit of Tasmania instead of a plane to visit Tasmania, too.
Furthermore, there are a lot of things to see locally as well, which is a great reason to travel to nearby places once in a while instead of going somewhere thousand of miles away.
3. When There are No Better Alternatives – Consider Carbon Offsets
Carbon offsets have made it possible to compensate for the emissions produced elsewhere and fight the pollution produced every day. Of course, it is much better to take actions to directly decrease emissions or directly remove carbon from the atmosphere.
There are many verified carbon-offset projects that combat climate change. Organisations such as Sustainable Travel International can put you in touch with offset projects. You can also search for projects that are closer to home in Australia.
This is a win-win situation for eco-friendly travel that has benefits for you as well as decreasing the carbon footprint. So, despite valid criticisms of the carbon-offsetting offered by Qantas and Virgin airlines, you should consider taking up the credits offered when you have to fly.
4. Choose Eco-Friendly Accommodation
When planning a trip, make sure you choose accommodation providers who think not only about their clients but also about the environment.
Look for accommodation that has been built to minimize environmental impact. Ask the accommodation owner about their waste and land management practices and any other initiatives that are going to lower the amount of energy consumed.
5. Consume Local Produce
When travelling, try buying from the small businesses and always go with local products. You should choose products that aren’t overpacked, and stay away from any products that are harmful for the environment.
Health professionals from Local Harvests (Australia) point out that when you choose to buy local produce, you’re not only reducing the carbon footprint and supporting the local economy but it’s also good for your health. They explain:
Locally grown food is fresher. Fruits and vegetables begin to lose their nutrients within 24 hours of being picked, so fresher produce is more nutritious. Better quality soil and more sustainable farming practices typically mean better tasting and more nutritious food.
6. Avoid Polluting Activities
Rather than going snowmobiling or Jet-skiing, choose a more eco-friendly activity such as dog sledding or kite-surfing. There are many sustainable activities that are a better choice for the environment without the need to sacrifice the fun.
North East Tasmania has many natural attractions, short walks and riding trails to suit everyone!
7. Avoid Disrespectful Attractions or Activities
It can be tempting to take part in activities such as riding an elephant or swimming with dolphins. But this hides the maltreatment and captivity that the animals have to go through for the sake of this tourist attraction. It is a much better idea to view native animals in their natural habitat.
8. Purchase Sustainable Accessories
It seems like a small change but getting a reusable water bottle instead of buying dozens or even hundreds of plastic water bottles will have a positive impact on the environment.
Australia recycles only 36% of PET plastic drink bottles which means the majority end up in landfills or in the oceans, harming the ecosystem and poisoning animals.
Wellness experts from Ocean Watch Australia explain that focusing on small changes like that can have a big global impact on the environment. They say
It takes over 50 million barrels of oil every year to pump, process, transport and refrigerate our bottled water. That’s a huge amount of resources to be wasting on something we don’t even need!
9. Be Sun Smart for Eco-Friendly Travel
Researchers estimated that at least 25% of sunscreen cream applied is washed off during swimming and bathing. They further suggest this might release 4,000–6,000 tons of sunscreen per year into the world’s reef areas. This is bad news because sunscreens can cause rapid bleaching of hard corals. Organic ultraviolet filters and nano-particles damage the health of reef corals.
Mineral sunscreens with non-nanotised zinc oxide or titanium dioxide might be safer for coral reefs than chemical-based sunscreens. But this doesn’t mean you should slather them all over your body, because the evidence isn’t clear for their marine-safe credentials, either.
Sun protection is very important. The SunSmart program says:
sunscreen should be the last line of defence after clothing, a hat, shade and sunglasses. During sun protection times, apply SPF30 (or higher) broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen to any skin not covered by clothing.
So wearing sun-smart clothing to limit skin exposure is the most sensible way for you to minimise your impact on the marine environment. Because you need much smaller amounts of sunscreen to cover your exposed skin!
10. Focus on Ethical Companies
When planning your trip, consider the impact on the environment too. For example, using search engines like Ecosia that gives 80% of their profit to a tree-planting program is a great initiative.