Sustainable travel may have a wholesome ring to it, but what does it really mean?
According to the UN’s World Tourism Organisation, sustainable tourism is, “tourism that takes full account of its current and future economic, social and environmental impacts, addressing the needs of visitors, the industry, the environment and host communities…”
Here are a few of the most popular types of sustainable travel.
- Volunteer. Volunteering abroad, as long as you’ve done your homework and picked the right project and organization, is a great way to travel sustainably. You’re having a direct, positive impact on the local community.
- Adventure Travel. Sustainable adventure travel programs may sometimes include a volunteer opportunity, but more than anything it allows you to get your blood pumping and adrenaline rushing without leaving economic or environmental destruction in your wake. Look for local adventure travel programs and tours, or, if you do end up going on an organized trip with a larger company, make sure they employ local guides and provide local accommodations.
- Tourism. When you choose to embark on an adventure sans-organized program, be conscious of your impact on the local community. Look for locally owned accommodations and if you choose to do a walking tour or day tour, opt for locally owned and operated tour companies. As you go through your day-to-day, think about the impact your tourism has. Make sure you’re contributing to the local economy, taking a serious interest in the local culture, being respectful of local customs, and interacting with local people.
Sustainable travel can be broken down into three simple principles: environmental, social, and economic.
Environmental. Environmental sustainability focuses on ensuring the preservation of both natural and cultural heritage sites so that future travelers – can experience the country’s national treasures for generations to come.
Social. While travel helps promote the exchange of culture differences and ideas between people, it can also degrade the very cultural aspects that make the country so unique in the first place. Social sustainability encourages the idea of cultural exchange between travelers and locals while at the same times aims to preserve cultural heritage and traditions that define each country’s way of life.
Economic. Stay at a locally based hotel or grab a bite to eat at one of the neighborhoods local restaurants. Not only will you experience more of the country’s culture, you’ll help the economic sustainability of the country by giving profits of tourism back to the local community.
Here are some easy to follow sustainable travel tips that can make a world of difference:
- Plan ahead
- Pack light & bring a reusable water bottle
- Stick to public transport
- Support locally owned & organic whenever possible
- Don’t litter. Just don’t.
1. Costa Rica
4. New Zealand
Green tourism was used by researchers in the 1980s in a study that described the hotel industry’s practice of placing green placards in each room that encouraged guests to reuse their towels. The study found that many hotels ultimately made little to no effort to actually conserve resources or reduce waste; they just wanted to appear to be environmentally friendly, or “green.” It’s important that travelers dig a little deeper into hotels’ green claims when researching before booking.
Ecotourism is defined by the International Ecotourism Society as: “responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and improves the welfare of local people.” The key principles of ecotourism include minimizing impact, protecting biodiversity, building environmental awareness, and respecting local culture. Typically, the primary attractions for ecotourists are flora, fauna, and cultural heritage.
Sustainable tourism businesses support environmental conservation, social development, and local economies. Examples of sustainable business practices include conserving water and energy, supporting community conservation projects, recycling and treating wastes, hiring staff from the local community, paying them just wages and providing training, and sourcing locally-produced products for restaurants and gift shops. In order for sustainable tourism to thrive, it has to be profitable for business owners.
Sustainable tourism and ecotourism are similar concepts and share many of the same principles, but sustainable tourism is broader; it covers all types of travel and destinations, from luxury to backpacking and bustling cities to remote rainforests.
While there are some positive effects of global warming, such as longer beach seasons and the development of rural and seaside tourism, the negative effects outweigh these benefits:
- Rise of sea levels – will eventually submerge small islands and coastal regions. Regions depending on tourism are under threat.
- Desertification and the scarcity of water – making regions less hospitable for both local communities and tourists.
- Deforestation and the harm to biodiversity – affecting both the ecosystem and directly reducing the global carbon sink, while also discouraging demand for such destinations.
- Melting of snow and glaciers – one of the causes behind rising sea levels, and also affecting mountains and ski resorts, resulting in the shift of destination demands, depending on the most attractive climate conditions.
Exact figures are difficult to provide, tourism has a broad nature and various components which all contribute to a different extent to climate change (CO2, heating, air-conditioning, construction, etc.). Despite these difficulties, recent approximations estimate:
- Tourism is responsible of about 5% of global CO2 emissions. In terms of radiative forcing, tourism contributes to 4.6% of global warming.1
- The transport sector, including air, car and rail, generates the largest proportion, with 75% of all emissions. In terms of carbon emissions, air causes 54-75% while coach and rail 13%. Air travel is considered the main tourism contributor to global warming: It’s responsible for 40% of the total carbon emissions caused by this sector, and 54-75 of radiative forcing
- The accommodation sector accounts for approximately 20% of emissions from tourism. This involves heating, air-conditioning and the maintenance of bars, restaurants, pools and so on. Clearly, this varies according to the location and size of the accommodation, as well as the type of establishments – hotels having greater energy consumption than pensions or camping sites.
- Furthermore, activities such as museums, theme parks, events or shopping also contribute to certain amounts of emissions (approx. 3.5%).
The carbon neutral involves three basic steps:
- Reducing carbon emission by considering alternative means of transportation.
- Measuring the carbon footprint associated with the travels, by using a carbon emission calculator through one of the carbon offset organisations.
- Offsetting the carbon emission by purchasing certified carbon credits or supporting offset projects such as tree planting, renewable energy, energy conservation and environmental education.
A significant portion of the population are interested in traveling and learning on their holidays or vacations. Another portion of the population are also interested in being more sustainable, and in their travels seek out ecotourism or sustainable travel options. That, and they enjoy outdoor activities in cleaner areas!
The popularity of travel is skyrocketing. With an estimated 1.1 Billion people traveling internationally each year, the affects on destinations is significant. This can be both positive and negative.
Currently, Hawaii bans those sunscreens containing oxybenzone and/or octinoxate, but it allows the use of all other chemical or mineral sunscreens. The only exception to the rule is the prescription sunscreens, which can still be used even if they contain one or both banned substances. The sunscreen ban in Hawaii will take effect on January 1, 2021.
According to the existing studies, the only sunscreen safe for coral reefs is the mineral sunscreen with non-nano size zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide. Non-nano sized particles mean they have a dimension of 100 nanometers or more, and can’t be ingested by corals.
Mineral sunscreen is typically considered to be reef-friendly; however, research has shown that mineral sunscreens containing nanoparticles of zinc oxide or titanium dioxide can still cause coral bleaching, as corals can ingest the tiny mineral particles. Furthermore, nanoparticles washed in the ocean can also react with the UV rays and form hydrogen peroxide, a compound that can kill phytoplankton – a vital nutrient to many species of fish and corals. Thus, only the mineral sunscreen with non-nano particles is reef-friendly.
Research regarding the effects of avobenzone on corals is not yet conclusive; however, preliminary studies indicate that this compound might not be reef-safe. Besides, avobenzone also offers scarce UV protection; this compound breaks down quickly and lets sneaky UV rays reach your skin. Using a natural mineral sunscreen is the safest option for both you and the environment.
Zinc oxide sunscreen is a mineral sunscreen typically considered reef safe. However, recent research indicates that nanoparticles of zinc oxide can be ingested by corals, causing coral bleaching and subsequently coral death. Therefore, only those sunscreens containing non-nano particles of zinc oxide are reef safe.
Titanium oxide is a physical sun blocker that is safe for both humans and marine wildlife. This mineral, when used in its non-nano form, can’t be ingested by corals and doesn’t react with the UV rays in the same way it reacts when used in its nanoparticle form. Non-nano particles are also too big to be ingested by coral, small fish, and crustaceans. Because titanium dioxide is not absorbed into the skin, it doesn’t provoke allergic reactions and is overall safer to use than chemical sunscreen by kids and people suffering from skin allergies or sensitivity.
Yes. Spray sunscreens are bad for both you and the environment. Recent studies have shown that even if spray sunscreens don’t contain chlorofluorocarbons anymore, they still contain a bunch of other chemicals that are bad for the environment and that can trigger an allergic reaction. The mist of spray can also be inhaled, and the particles that fall on the sand can be washed into the ocean quicker. According to EWG, you should avoid spray sunscreen entirely.
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