Words by Katherine Mallett
Artwork by Amelia Field
As borders continue to re-open and people are eager to satiate their so-called ‘travel bug’, it has never been more important to educate ourselves about the detrimental, and often irreversible impacts that travelling can have on the environment. It is our responsibility to look after our planet and ensure we are doing everything we can to reduce the threat of global warming, and this is no more prevalent than when travelling.
Although the global pandemic has been anything other than welcome by most, it is apparent that this may have been what the environment has been craving in order to recover and renew itself. A huge decline in international travel, along with a halt in commercial activity, has helped lead to a significant decline in the production of carbon emissions. As well as this, we have seen an improvement in air quality, reduction in noise pollution and cleaner rivers, which has positively impacted international wildlife. But it’s not only the wildlife that has benefited. A recent study has revealed that there has been 11,000 fewer deaths in Europe during lockdown, due to a vast improvement in air quality.
Despite such reassuring images surfacing, including that of clear water in Venice and the Himalayas being seen for the first time in 30 years in India, the world must and will eventually return to a sense of normality – whatever this may look like. Thankfully, countries have already began opening up their borders, with many countries offering incentives to tourists to entice people to travel there for their holidays. Although the prospect of a summer on the shores of the South of France or of a sangria at the pool bar in Ibiza sounds more than appealing (I can almost taste it), it is vital to consider the environment as much as we can before we rush to hit that ‘book’ button.
It would be hypocritical, practically criminal of me (as a TRAVEL section editor) to scorn or deter people from exploring the globe – after all it’s one of life’s certain joys. However, it is important that we are aware of the impacts that travelling often has on the environment, and in turn do our bit to help reduce these.
How can I travel sustainably?
Train Trumps Plane
Flying is arguably one of the most harmful modes of transport, as it has such a large carbon footprint. Although flying is often praised for its speed and convenience, you could instead opt for ‘slower travel’ by catching the train(s). This could mean you visit fewer places but spend more time at each destination. Travelling by train gives you the opportunity to intimately witness a countries landscape, whilst considerably reducing your carbon footprint. Many countries have advanced railway networks that make it easy and convenient to get around and this includes (but is in no way exclusive to) India, Switzerland and Russia.
It is sometimes unavoidable to travel by plane, and in such circumstances, it is important thatyou do your research and travel with an airline that is doing their bit to be actively eco-friendly.For example, United Airlines announced in 2018 that it would reduce its carbon emissions by 50% by 2050. Also, the airline hasintroduced “Flight for the Planet”, which has since been deemed the most eco-friendly commercial flight of its kind in aviation history. This is a result of sustainable biofuel and carbon offsetting; the investment of funds in organisations which help to lower carbon emissions.
Despite our best intentions with recycling, it is shocking that tonnes of plastic waste ends up in landfill each year. When on holiday or travelling it is easy to buy bottled water or use plastic bags as a “one-off”. It is important that are good intentions extend to everyday of the year, including holidays, and we must do our best to refuse single-use plastic when possible. Also, try to reduce your plastic consumption by making simple and easy switches, such as using metal straws, shopping with reusable tote bags and getting your morning coffee in a reusable (and preferably recycled) coffee cup.
Research your Resort
Before booking your trip, try and do your research about where you are staying. Invest your pennies in hotels and accommodation that are truly doing their bit to reduce their environmental footprint and are investing in being sustainable. For example, cotton is one of the most polluting industries on our planet, but despite this, many hotels boast cotton bedding. Try looking for hotels that offer alternatives, such as organic cotton bedding or somewhere that avoids this altogether.
Exploring new landscapes and immersing oneself in new cultures should be fun, exciting and refreshing. Doing so sustainably by implementing small but mighty changes in what we know and how we use this information is rewarding. There is no doubt that every little helps when it comes to preserving our beautiful planet.