I wrote the book on ecotourism, literally. When The Business of Ecotourism came out in 1996, people couldn’t distinguish between ecotourism and eco-terrorism. As the United Nation’s International Year of Sustainable Tourism Development draws to a close should you be hanging up your hotel towel and buying carbon offsets? The answers might surprise you.
I’ve become cynical about hotel towel programs where a little room card explains how hanging your towel up means it won’t be replaced; the reduction is laundry saving water and energy. After hanging up my towel, all too frequently I return to my room to find my towels replaced. Ad-hoc conversations I’ve had with hotel managers confirm there are challenges with execution. Sometimes staff doesn’t understand the program’s intent or think the room isn’t really clean without fresh towels.
Carbon offsetting programs have also had their challenges. Can Tech Letter recently published a review of tree planting initiatives and found although planting a tree can create a personal connection it may not be an effective offset. While your flight may be this week, the tree you purchase will take a lot longer to grow and absorb carbon. And it’s a temporary fix. When trees die the carbon is released again.
So what to do? Can you green your travel habits? Here are some suggestions that might work:
- If you want to buy carbon offsets look for a program certified independently such as Gold Standard. Or consider replacing a flight with road or train travel or even a staycation! According to the David Suzuki Foundation travelling by air has a greater climate impact per passenger kilometer than trains, boats or cars.
- If you do leave home, take a guided tour at your destination, even if it’s only for a few hours. By listening to a local you can find out what their issues are and the money you spend on your tour will be an important ‘value-add’ to the economy.
- Consider splitting an entree with your travelling companion. A Guardian report found 50% of all food produced in the United States is thrown out. With many restaurants serving up huge portions it’s relatively easy to save dollars, calories and resources by sharing a meal.
- Keep hanging up your towels but put out the ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign on days when you don’t need the trash emptied. You may have to make the bed yourself (just like at home) but you can be sure to save water and energy.
What are your favorite ways to green travel? Drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll share the best ideas in a future issue.
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