Is the Travel Industry Doing Enough to Go Green – Glance over travel imagery in brochures, on social media feeds, and travel sites, and it is hard to believe just how impactful the travel industry is on the environment.
Is the Travel Industry Doing Enough to Go Green?
Those beaches appear pristine; the mountains so rugged and wild.
However, our endeavors to see more, and to experience more of the planet’s wonders are making their mark in a spectacular fashion.
Take the natural and land resources depleted by a constant influx of tourists, as an example.
Water, energy, and raw materials are used at an alarming rate, placing considerable strain on local communities that struggle to absorb this financial impact.
Then there’s the air pollution and noise contributed by the industry.
Tourism is responsible for approximately 60% of air travel, which leaves so much more than contrails in its wake.
Perhaps most devastating are the physical impacts of tourism, including solid waste and littering, construction, aesthetically pollution, deforestation and marine habitat devastation, and the alteration of ecosystems.
Sure, we’re able to acknowledge the symptoms as part of our desire to travel further, and faster, but can the industry manage, and reverse the toll they are taking on our planet?
Going through the motions of sustainable travel
There are numerous ways to remain environmentally friendly during your next stay abroad, such as walking and cycling, taking shorter, cooler showers, and paying attention to the energy that you’re using to power your accommodation, or charge your gadgets.
It’s also possible to support the local economy while you save the world, simply by sourcing locally grown and manufactured products.
The industry has a lot to learn if it’s to earn, and maintain a green badge of honor.
Yes… An emphasis on green hospitality
Green hospitality, and sustainable luxury, has become the latest frontier in luxury travel; we don’t just want to bear witness to the world and its wonders any more, but preserve as much of our planet as we can when we travel.
As the green travel trend gains traction, so too do the efforts of the travel industry to conduct business as responsibly as possible.
The travel industry is becoming increasingly aware of its impact on our environment, and now has the opportunity to make a huge difference to communities, the people residing in popular destinations, and those employed by the industry via the $1.2-trillion it contributed to the world’s economy last year alone.
No… Reducing the travel industry’s paper trail
The paper and pulp industry use more water energy than any other sector, and contributes to air and land pollution by way of escaping gases and waste paper.
Using paper for booking confirmation, travel guides, tickets and boarding passes, and official documentation amongst other things, the travel industry still has a long way to go before it can reduce its paper footprint.
Technology has come a long way towards providing solutions, including the ability to produce and sign documentation, and manage digital transactions via computer, mobile or tablet device.
Currently chaired by entrepreneur and philanthropist Keith Krach, DocuSign does just that, processing more than 150-million signatures in just ten years; empowering travelers, and the industry by way of digital signatures and transactions, DocuSign is heading the crusade to banish the travel industry’s paper trail.
The industry still has a long way to go until it is completely paperless, though.
Yes… An alternative to fuel pollutants
According to an article published in New Scientist the contrails, or condensation trails, left behind by airplanes are far more sinister than they might, at first, appear.
Climate change researchers have come to the conclusion that contrails have contributed to global warming far more than aircraft greenhouse emissions, which themselves are scarring the Earth’s atmosphere.
While researchers busy themselves with ways that airplanes could reduce the effects of their contrails, greener and cleaner jets that use eco-friendly fuel substitutes have been in development.
Many commercial airlines already use bio-fuels, in fact.
It would appear that the industry is willing to accept the effects of airline travel, and invest in change.
No… Continued loss of habitat
While the travel industry is not solely responsible for the global loss of habitat, there can be little denying that the growing number of people exploring the world, and the rise in popularity of marine tourism are taking their toll on the environment.
And the animals that populate those habitats.
The effects of land degradation and pollution, and the depletion of natural resources have been steadily rising as the travel industry expands its reach; the planet will one day have to say that enough is enough, as delicate ecosystems and species suffer the consequences of tourism.
By way of systematic planning and safeguarded practices the travel industry has the opportunity to protect such habitats, and support local people; it’s time for a global conversation.
The answer to this article’s titular question is a resounding ‘no’, although that’s not for the industry’s want of trying.
You need only look at the points contained within this piece to know that the travel industry IS making leaps towards becoming greener.
From turning its attention towards sustainability to inspiring travelers to approach their adventures more responsibly, the concept of tourism is changing radically before our eyes.
2017 became the UN’s International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development; here’s hoping that the travel industry extends that title to include the years, decades, and even centuries ahead.
Sustainable Tourism ~ What’s the Future of Sustainable Travel
Sustainable tourism has become one of the biggest trends in tourism.
People are looking to minimize their impact, hoping to find places that make for memorable vacations and also where they can make a difference and show their respect for local cultures.
Fortunately, a number of places are more than willing to open their doors.
What is sustainable tourism?
Sustainable tourism is a form of eco-tourism or green travel.
The point is to leave as small a footprint as possible while at the same time supporting local culture.
This is a natural outgrowth of the “pack it in, pack it out” philosophy but carried to another extreme.
Here the tourist is actively concerned about his environmental impact.
Given the harm that people have done to the environment, it is understandable that people are worried about the environment and their carbon footprint.
This is especially relevant in places which are threatened due to global warming and from being so popular with tourists.
In one way, sustainable tourism is a way to see threatened areas where global warming has done the most damage while at the same doing something to possibly protect those same areas.
Sustainable tourism and sustainable travel is being mindful of where you choose to travel, how you get there, and all of the choices you make while you are visiting.
Over populated tourist destinations
With global warming and over-visited tourist spots, travelers have begun looking for places to visit that may not be around much longer.
There are scores of examples of destinations that are being destroyed due to heavy tourism.
This creates a catch-22 where even more visitors come to see these places while they still can.
“Last chancers” are visiting in mass to places such as Machu Picchu in Peru, the Great Pyramids of Egypt, Bali, Galápagos, and many more places.
Impact of travel to Costa Rica
Costa Rica has long been a favorite for its lush jungles and gorgeous beaches.
It has become more famous for the threatened plant and animal species in the area.
The influx of tourists has created a number of other issues due to the age of the local vehicles.
As tourists swarm to the area, those vehicles see more use.
Being they are not up to current emissions standards, this increases pollution levels and further damages the eco-system.
Kenya’s issues with excess visitors
Kenya has always been a favorite of ecologists due to the diversity of life on its Savannah and mountains.
This interest has also been its biggest bane as tourists are causing excess littering and pollution.
They also interfere with local cultures. Kenya has been the focus of poachers and foreign hunters interested in trophy kills.
This has created ecological and cultural issues that have recently been the focus of efforts to return Kenya to a more pristine state.
Tourists visiting the Curonian Spit
Lithuania is an interesting choice given its European location, but its low-lying nature makes it susceptible to flooding should oceans rise too much higher due to global warming.
People recognize Lithuania for its beaches, native bird populations, and water sports locations.
It is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage location due to the Curonian Spit, a long peninsula known for its beaches.
Tourists have been flocking to it before it disappears under the waves.
This causes new problems for the area.
Visitors impact the Atacama Desert
Chile is another example, with its number of great tourist locations.
The Atacama Desert is arguably one of the most fragile due to its location and uniqueness.
The desert is very dry.
Plants and animals have adapted to survive the desert.
Many value the desert for its specific ecological niche.
However, interest from tourists has increased due to its proximity to a number of major ocean currents.
This has been the greatest threat as the nearness of a potentially rising ocean could swiftly eliminate the desert if oceans rose by any degree.
This has created a lot of interest and visitors.
Impact of travel
Intentionally or not, masses of visitors consume tangible and intangible resources in these areas.
Impact of travel often is:
- Exploit freshwater reserves
- Create excess pollution, smog, litter
- Deface statues, make graffiti, etc.
- Consume excess energy
- Introduce non-native species
- Impact wildlife and green spaces as the areas attract more hotels, restaurants and tourist attractions
Travel takes it toll on each area’s eco-system.
It’s important to go green whenever possible.
What is the future of sustainable tourism to protect the world’s resources?
The future of sustainable travel means that more locations will be looking into LEED certification.
Travelers will become more diligent about choosing low-impact eco-conscious means.
Sustainable travel will become more of a focus.
It’s important to understand the significance of minimizing our travel impact.
Sure, we can all turn off the lights and reuse or towels.
But it’s important to choose places where we can minimize our impact.
Thomson is one company that now has a focus and commitment to being sustainable.
They offer water-saving, energy-efficient and many other eco-sensitive ways to minimize their impact.
It’s exciting to think that more hotels will be recycling water.
Others will harvest rainwater for landscaping and for their restaurant’s own vegetable garden.
More and more travelers are interesting in the future of sustainable travel.
Even online learning helps green travelers stay green.
Ultimate Ayahuasca Experience in Peru
Planning your holiday
It’s valuable to consider places where you can be mindful of the way in which you will impact the area.
More awareness to places on the threatened list does two things.
It helps bring awareness to help conserve the area but also creates more interest and traffic.
Consider your transportation while get around the towns you are visiting.
Can you take a train or a bus instead of renting a car?
Perhaps you can rent a bike and enjoy cycling tourism.
Either on your own or as part of a tour.
Sustainable tourism is a way to help ensure our future generations will be able to see all of the places we are able to enjoy.
Innovations in Green Travel Series
The Green Travel Series is now complete.
We hope you enjoyed reading the series as much as we enjoyed writing it.
For those who want the series in an easy reference format, here it is:
- 31 Reasons to Travel Green: In Pictures
- 12 Things You Need to Know About Carbon Offsets
- How to Find Green Accommodations
- 11 Tips and Tricks for Greening your Hotel Stay
- Volunteering Abroad – 10 Things to Know
- 21 Resources for Volunteering Abroad & Why You Should Do It
- How to Take Culturally Sensitive Photos
- How to Find Sustainable Souvenirs
Innovations in Green Travel: Higher Fees
Increased fees for airfares makes travel more expensive.
But it has also encouraged more earth friendly practices, such as packing light, and taking fewer and/or longer plane trips.
More Public Transportation and Hybrid Rental Cars
Despite budget cuts, most cities are still expanding their mass public transportation options.
For instance, in Minneapolis there is another Light Rail Line being constructed.
When cities increase their public transportation options it’s easier for travelers to get around.
If you can’t use public transit, you can always rent a hybrid rental car, which wasn’t really an option 3 years ago.
Yesterday we highlighted some new green travel products including companies competing for making the lightest luggage, and new stainless steel water bottles and glass water bottles (like the Alex Bottle we featured yesterday).
Everyday we get many emails about new products that will make travel “greener” in some way.
Easier Ways to Buy Used
Despite the advances in green travel gear, there are still there are still duds – like disposable underwear -that encourage waste and make travel more about consuming products than actually enjoying the trip.
Luckily, in part because of the bad economy, it’s easier than ever to buy used.
From Craigslist, to Ebay, to Thrift Store Shopping
More Green Content
Luckily, more people are writing about the wonders of responsible travel.
This increased awareness builds interest and knowledge of how to be a little bit friendlier.
Keep reading about environmentally friendly travel and continue to support these writers.
5 simple ways to travel greener
Are there ways to travel greener?
Does that even make sense grammatically?!
We are always looking for ways to be more green.
We know it is often more difficult while traveling as we don’t have our habits and routines to support us.
But when we flew from Washington, DC to West Palm Beach, FL to visit our relative, we made it our mission, however small, to try to improve.
You may think, “Am I making a difference?” We were of the mindset that little things add up to make a very big difference.
Here are five simple things we did to reduce our environmental impact as we looked for ways to travel green.
Travel Greener Things We Did on Our Trip to Florida
Took a direct flight to the closest airport. We’re frugal travelers so we considered cheaper tickets with layovers, which would mean flying further from our destination.
But the flights that went to Miami International Airport would mean driving an additional 60 miles to our destination.
We thought about the convenience factor and the environmental impact of the cheaper flights and opted to spend more to fly non-stop to Palm Beach.
Rented a car. Although we advocate for public transportation, it’s not always an option.
Our choices were to ask our relative to pick us up and drop us off at the airport (which would have been harsher on the environment with the extra trip there and back), take a cab (which would have been brutal on our wallets), or rent a car at the airport, which we could also drive to the beach.
photo credit: TroyM
Stayed with someone.
Instead of sleeping in a hotel where rooms are cleaned and mini shampoos restocked daily, we opted to stay with our family member.
If you don’t know anyone in the town you’re visiting, check out Couchsurfing.
You can crash with fellow couchsurfers for free, plus they’ll show you around town.
Opted for free activities.
Instead of going out to bars or movies, which would have burned gas and money, we chose to stay closer to the house for entertainment.
We went for long walks in the much appreciated warmer climate, read books by the pool, and watched movies at home.
We saved resources by eating breakfast and lunch at home.
By eating in, we both avoided the usual restaurant waste (like unused straws that are thrown away, extra utensils that are washed anyway, and dishes that get cleaned in wasteful commercial dishwashers) and saved the gas it would have taken to drive there.
When we did go out to eat, we either split our meal or took the leftovers to go so they didn’t go to waste.
Other easy tips for traveling green
There are some more obvious tips that you are probably already doing.
Combined with our above list of ways to travel greener, you will be an uber-green traveler.
Leave the soaps and shampoos in your hotel room; reuse/hang your towels; shop at the local grocery store instead of eating in restaurants (and bring a reusable bag or two); carry a reusable water bottle; recycle; and walk whenever you can.
Once you become conscious and mindful about ways to travel greener, it can become a fun challenge.
You will see how little changes add up to make a big difference.
You may inspire others around you to pick up some new habits as well.
Green Reasons to Time Your Travel with the Weather
Sunny days with fewer tourists are the most cited reasons for traveling in the late spring and early fall.
But by traveling “weather consciously” you also can be a much greener traveler.
photo credit: preciouskhyatt
Here are 5 ways that traveling with the weather will make your travels more eco-friendly:
1 Winter Jacket, 1 Pair Heavy Boots, 3 Pair Long Pants, 3 Long Sleeve Shirts, 2 Sweaters, 1 Pair Mittens, 1 Hat
Total Weight: 14 Pounds
1 Light Jacket, 1 Pair Walking Shoes, 2 Pairs Shorts, 1 Pair Light Pants, 3 Short Sleeve Shirts
Total Weight: 6 Pounds
Warm weather means that you need to pack less.
When you pack light, less energy is needed to transport your stuff.
No Air Conditioning/Heat
If you time your travel with the weather, you can visit most countries during a season where you won’t need heat or air conditioning.
Just open your window and the weather outside will be comfortable.
Longer Days = Fewer Lights
In the late Spring and early Fall, the sun stays out longer than during winter.
Thus, you don’t need to turn on your lights until later at night, meaning less electricity gets used.
Walking 3 miles to the museum doesn’t seem very appealing in 10F degree cold or 100F degree heat.
But, when it’s 65F degrees who can resist an enjoyable stroll to your destination?
Fresh, Locally Grown Produce
During Fall, there’s an abundant harvest and in Spring greens taste fresher than ever.
When you time your travel with the seasons your food is more likely to be fresh and locally grown.
Luckily, it’s now officially Spring in the Northern Hemisphere and Fall in the Southern Hemisphere, so pack your bags.
Go Green Travel Green Travel Blogs You Should Be Reading
Since Go Green Travel Green is somewhat of a Niche Green Travel Blog.
Although we think sustainable travel is something that should be pervasive and not a niche.
I love the personal stories that get told in travel blogs.
Just as relationships with family and friends change when you quit your job and spending several months traveling, so too do digital relationships.
We aren’t the best at keeping up with our followers when we are traveling.
So, in an effort to make up for lost time, we read and follow hundreds of travel and environmental blogs.
Encourage our readers check out a variety of travel blogs and websites.
There are tons of travel blogs out there with travel tips (this one included).
Travel Podcast and Travel TV Shows at the bottom
Discovering countless new (to me) blogs has been a lot of fun.
I hope readers have enjoyed checking out these websites as well.
One of my favorite things while reading blogs is when the author reveals something about himself/herself that leaves you wanting to learn just a little bit more about them.
You get a true sense of the author’s voice. Here are some great travel blogs where the author’s voice really comes through:
Soul Travelers 3
Women on The Road
Escape New York
Graham’s Travel Blog
The Travel Tart
Heather on her Travels
Family Travel Lougue
LL World Tour
The Carey Adventures
Visit the Coqui
Vermont Travel Notes
Frugal Travel Guy
A Luxury Travel Blog
Brave New Traveler
The Art of Nonconformity
Travel Blog of an Indian Backpaker
What I See Out My Window
Anna Goes Bananas
Nathan Shipley Travels the World
Upgrade Travel Better
Nile Guide Blog
Katie Parla (Food and Italy)
Travels with Two (Traveling for Couples)
Olga, The Traveling Bra (Funny site about a Traveling Bra)
Delicious Baby (Travel with Kids)
Walking and Drinking Beer(Beer and Travel)
Wanderlust and Lipstick (Women’s Travel)
MyKugelhopf (Food and Travel)
Write to Travel(Travel Writing)
India Travel Blog (Travel in India)
Traveling the Green Way (Green Travel)
Europe a la Carte (Travel in Europe)
Travel Rants (Consumer Issues)
Green Globetrotter (Green Travel)
Ecotourism: Taking Pictures and Leaving Footprints (Green Travel)
The Wise Tourist (Napa Valley)
Nerd’s Eye View
Notes from the Road
Lives of Wander
One Giant Step
Travel Podcasts and Travel TV Shows
Of the travel sites I’ve checked out, the biggest surprise has been in the world of podcasts and .tv sites.
Honestly, I had listened to or watched very few travel podcasts and videos up until this week.
And I had no idea what a wide range there were out there.
So, if you’re looking for a new type of media to watch while taking a break at your office desk or checking your email at a coffee shop in Amsterdam or listen to on your iPod while boarding a plane to Perth or enduring a chicken bus ride in Guatemala, I encourage you to visit the sites below:
My number one favorite Travel Podcast is hosted by Mike Siegel (maybe a little bias because we attend High School together) Travel Tales Podcast.
You can follow Mike on his FaceBook Page and @TravelTalesPod…@FunnyMike
Indie Travel Podcast (Podcasts and Video)
Amateur Traveler Podcasts
National Post Traveller Podcasts
Slow Travel Podcasts
Everything Everywhere Podcasts
Notes from Spain
A Year in Europe (no podcasts since 7/08)
Travel in 10 (not frequently updated)
Two Guys Around the World
Interview with a Green Traveler ~ Why Travel Green
We sought out a green traveler to help inspire our readers to keep traveling and living green.
Here’s our interview with a green traveler who makes it her mission to travel green.
What do you like about green travel and working in the travel industry?
It is good to see that travel that “gives back” is on the rise.
With innovative trips that incorporate a type of “active philanthropy” or the booming volunteer sector, travel seems to be changing for the better.
One of the great aspects of being in the travel industry at this time is being able to make a contribution to people and places you’ve grown to love over the years of visiting and getting to know local residents.
Being able to develop programs that incorporate community experiences that will benefit these people and knowing that this is a growing part of tourism is exciting.
What’s your background?
When I was finishing my master’s degree in community-based tourism, I had worked all year with a rural community group in the small town of Quizarra, in Costa Rica.
I started thinking about how I could help them create partnerships with an international tour operator.
The rural town belongs to the Alexander Skutch Biological Corridor, an area designated for conservation due to it being surrounded by protected areas that are major habitats for wildlife.
The residents want to strengthen the Corridor by increasing businesses that allow for conservation, such as tourism, rather than increase more intensive land uses such as cattle ranching.
I wanted to continue helping this group of residents in Costa Rica, he said.
Because I believe so much in the power that travel has in being able to connect travelers to communities in developing countries, I knew we could make it work.
What sorts of programs have you been a part of?
We developed the Costa Rica Cultural Experience itinerary that allows travelers to visit the community I worked with, helping them to establish tourism in their community, and contributing directly to their incomes, incomes which are much needed in this rural farming town.
I recently guided a trip and it was so much fun.
The couple I accompanied from California said their favorite part was being in the community with the families, having lunch with them, learning how to make tortillas from scratch, taking a walk through beautiful primary forests on different families’ properties, and even riding in the back of their trucks!
For me it was a wonderful experience because I got to see everyone again, got to bring them some business, and got to let a few more people experience the welcoming and heartwarming culture of rural Costa Ricans.
What other programs are in the works?
Another innovative way for travel to give back is taking place at the Procopio Gamboa Villalobos School, located ten miles from La Fortuna near the Arenal Volcano, also in Costa Rica.
Visitors can help the school that was started up by their own community-based enterprise, selling donated clothes.
They are providing advice and business guidance to the leaders as the project grows.
There are lots of ideas for the school and the surrounding community.
Next on the list for this summer is to help set up a recycling program, that will be managed by community members and will not only help with waste management, but it will provide an additional source of income as the program expands.
Already in this little town of Chachagua, travelers can see the whole process of corn being turned into “masa”, the flour to make tortillas, at a neighbor’s farm down the street.
Doña Mara loves to have people visit; it’s a real treat to share in her culture.
Just spending some time making authentic Costa Rican food, taking in the views around of flowers and the distant volcano, and letting the warm breeze relax you, makes for a very peaceful day.
After our interview with a green traveler, it is more motivating than ever to reduce and reuse as well as recycle.
Support local businesses and use less.
The Most Environmentally Friendly Cities