When you go on vacation, you obviously want to reduce your environmental impact while you travel green on your next vacation. However, while staying at an environmentally friendly hotel will go some way towards limiting the effects you have on the world around you, the truth is that the biggest impact occurs before you ever arrive – traveling to wherever you are going.
Once you do get there, local transportation then just adds to the problem. Fortunately, there are lots of different things you can do to keep your carbon emissions under control.
Travel Green On Your Next Vacation
When traveling overseas or to the other side of the continent, jumping on a plane is unavoidable.
In this case, buying carbon offsets can help to limit the damage. However, if your destination is nearer at hand, ask yourself if you really need to book a flight – and whether other modes of travel might be better. For example, if it is possible to take the train, then this can save up to 75% of the energy you would expend flying.
Not only that, but a train journey can actually be part of your vacation, particularly if there is good service on board and the train passes through interesting scenery.
The same principle also applies if you are planning on traveling extensively once you reach your destination. Particularly in places such as Europe, it is very easy to reach most places by train – even if you are not going to a big city. Going by high-speed train will save up to 66% of carbon emissions compared to driving long distances in a large car.
There is always the option of picking up a car once you arrive and then using it to travel locally in the area. In fact, because the car will only be used for traveling relatively short distances, getting a smaller, more fuel-efficient car – such as a compact hybrid – is perfectly feasible.
If you are staying in a big city, then consider using the local transport system – particularly if it is a good one. While using public transportation may not be convenient in cities such as Los Angeles, other cities – New York, London and Paris, for example – have excellent and extensive transportation available.
In fact, it is often more convenient to travel by subway in these cities, since this will allow you to bypass heavy traffic and avoid the challenge and cost of finding parking.
Finally, don’t underestimate human-powered transportation – this is the ultimate way of eliminating carbon emissions. Some cities are now starting to offer the opportunity for visitors to pick up a bicycle for a nominal fee and then return it to another point in the city once they have finished with it. We saw this while we were in downtown Indianapolis as one example.
Cycling is also a great way of seeing the countryside and enjoying the fresh air at many destinations. It is perfectly reasonable to make a 50-mile trip on a bicycle in a day provided that you are relatively fit – and if you aren’t, then you soon will be if you go on a cycling vacation.
Responsible Travel vs. Eco Friendly Travel
Responsible Travel vs. Eco Friendly Travel is part of our Back to School: Green Travel Basics Series. Here at Go Green Travel Green we talk about “Green Travel.” But, there are lots of other words out there with similar meanings, specifically “responsible travel” and “eco friendly travel”.
So what’s the difference? If you want to know how we define green travel, check out our Green Travel Definition post. (We break it down into environment, people, culture, economy, and personal health. It’s has a broader definition than either responsible travel or eco-friendly travel.) But what about the difference between eco-friendly travel and responsible travel?
Eco Friendly Travel
Eco friendly travel, relates directly to the enviroment including being aware of and minimizing your impact on the physical environment. It’s a narrower definition than responsible travel.
photo credit: Nicholas T
Responsible travel expands beyond the traditional notions of environmentalism and encompasses socially-conscious travel. It means understanding, respecting, and supporting the cultures and people in the area you are visiting. We like this definition from Lonely Planet:
Responsible tourism can be more-or-less defined as travel that takes into consideration the ‘triple bottom line’ issues of:
Environment: travel that minimises negative environmental impacts and, where possible, makes positive contributions to the conservation of biodiversity, wilderness, natural and human heritage.
Social/Cultural: travel that respects culture and traditions and fosters authentic interaction and greater understanding between travellers and hosts.
Economic: travel that has financial benefits for the host community and operates on the principles of fair trade.
If you were looking for a trip that’s only eco-friendly you might take a trip that minimizes your impact on nature. But if you’re going to take a “responsible” trip you would want to make sure that your travels support the local economy and respect the culture. Before you take your next trip, be sure to consider whether you’re looking for eco friendly travel or responsible travel.