Travel

Travelling? Make it eco-friendly

It's possible to minimise your carbon footprint when on holiday with these 10 steps

Mention eco-friendly travel and you might think of camping or backpacking, but there are many other "green" things you can do to reduce your carbon footprint and protect the earth.

Ecotourism is a rapidly growing industry, thanks to greater awareness and more environmentally conscious travellers trying to do their part.

Regardless what type of travel you choose, conscientiously making sure you leave nothing behind but footprints can go a long way.

Here are some simple ways to do so.

1. If possible, try not to fly

Out of all the modes of transport, flying produces the most carbon dioxide emissions per kilometre. If possible, take the train or go on a road trip. Even one short flight produces more CO2 than driving or rail travel.

Also, avoid stopovers if you can, because those mean longer journeys and more CO2 emissions. A direct flight not only saves you time, but it will also be less taxing on the environment.

2. Pack light and fly Economy

Business Class may be more swanky than Economy Class, but the latter actually produces a smaller carbon footprint as it is far more efficient in terms of the number of passengers a flight.

Business Class takes up more space and accommodates not even half as many people.

Secondly, Business Class flights come with Business Class facilities, such as airport lounges and spas, all of which use up lots of water and produce more waste.

Also, a light backpack means the airplane uses up less fuel than with heavier suitcases.

3. Walk or use public transport

Compared with driving, renting a car or taking a cab, mass transit is a much greener way to travel because it uses less fuel for every passenger. Even better, explore by foot. It's a great way to experience new places, and you get to clock those 10,000 daily steps.

4. Hitchhike

Gone are the days where you have to stand on the side of the road with a sign asking for a ride.

There are apps that make hitchhiking easier and safer now - such as Carpooling.com (particularly popular in Europe), Hitchhiker Carpooling and Waze Carpool - and allow you to see ratings online, the names and licence numbers of the drivers, and every one is registered.

5. Stay in eco-conscious resorts or hotels

The tourism industry - especially island resorts and spas - can jeopardise local wildlife and culture and destroy the land. However, more accommodations are becoming aware of the need to preserve the environment and local communities.

So look for accommodations with eco-certification, which indicates whether an establishment is eco-friendly - in that it gives back to the community or acts on sustainable practices such as preserving wildlife and local cultural heritage or employing local staff.

They are typically given by sustainable tourism organisations or non-profit organisations that support sustainability in tourism around the world.

By supporting establishments with these certifications, you're helping to develop a travel trend that reflects the growing lucrativeness and sustainability of eco-tourism.

6. Travel with fair-trade travel agencies

Choosing fair-trade travel agencies also helps to ensure that your travels are environmentally friendly.

Design your trip using an eco-friendly, socially aware travel agency such as EXO Travel. It helps you tailor sustainable travel experiences by regularly carrying out assessments and on-site inspections before classifying hotels as Eco-Friendly or Socially Aware, supporting local charities and fair-trade shops, and actively supporting community-based tourism projects such as cultural revival in Cambodia and saving wildlife and nature in Indonesia and Vietnam.

It also ensures that its partners such as retail shops and hotels practise everyday sustainability by reducing waste and using biodegradable products.

7. Pack your own reusables

Instead of using the mini shampoos and body lotions in your hotel(s), pack your own toiletries to reduce wastage. Fill them in reusable bottles so you can use them for the next trip too.

Also, bring along a foldable cloth shopping bag for your purchases, utensils and a metal straw, and perhaps even a container to pack any leftovers during your meal. With these on hand, you will never have to ask for single-use disposable items such as plastic bags and styrofoam or cardboard containers.

And don't forget that reusable water bottle or tumbler.

8. Skip the animal rides

Animal rides may seem like harmless fun, but it's common knowledge by now that the animals used as tourist attractions suffer seriously poor living conditions.

They are chained, kept in cages and frequently abused, starved and overworked - and many have died under the adverse conditions. Skipping tourist-y activities with animals will show that such inhumane practices have no place in the tourism industry and create a change in protecting local wildlife.

9. Shop for souvenirs wisely

It's tempting to reach for a bunch of paper fans or keychains as souvenirs when you're on holiday. But more often than not, those gimmicky items are thrown away eventually and create waste.

Put some effort into buying your souvenirs and look for something that is locally-made and not imported. Find something that is long-lasting, such as ceramics, textiles or consumables such as local spices or spirits - these will make for more sincere gifts and memorable keepsakes.

This article was first published in Her World Online (www.HerWorld.com)

TOURISM & TRAVEL