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How to reduce your environmental footprint when travelling south?

Actu - Voyage Sud EN

Since many of you are shopping around for a little trip down south for the spring break or the next vacation, Équiterre’s action of the month is to reduce your environmental footprint—even if you go for one of the famous all-inclusive packages.

Everyone knows it’s not very eco-friendly, but as we live in a northern country, the yearning for warmer climates is understandable. Unfortunately, eco-resorts are still few and far between and not necessarily affordable. Also, not all travellers are ready and willing to stay with locals and shop for groceries, organize trips, prepare meals, etc.

We strive to change the world one step at a time, so here are a few simple, practical tips for green travel and sustainable and equitable consumption for your next trip.

 Consumption

  • Take a reusable water bottle, coffee cup or canteen. The number of plastic cups used and thrown away every day is shocking. Do a little extra: pick up any rubbish you find on the beach or hotel grounds for those who are unfortunately less environmentally conscious.
  • Remember, just because there’s an all-you-can eat buffet, it doesn’t mean you have to take four helpings and waste food. The same goes for alcohol.
  • If you purchase souvenirs, look for crafts and products actually made locally, not in China.

Respect for nature and local communities

Make sure the local community—not just the resort—benefits from your stay:

  • Leave the resort and take in the local culture whenever you can! Travelling, meeting people and discovering different lifestyles opens your horizons.
  • Opt for nature activities. Do you really need to hire a Jet Ski, moped or jeep, and go parasailing or flyboarding?
  • Visit certified fair-trade cooperatives. It’s a great way to support the locals and learn more about the how the food and products we purchase are made. You could also buy crafts or certified fair-trade products. The World Fair Trade Organization (WFTO) website lists various fair-trade co-ops by continent.
  • Respect the natural habitat and leave natural objects like sand, pebbles and shells where you find them. Don’t touch the coral when snorkelling or scuba diving.
  • Realize that local employees have low wages. Why not support circular economy principles and give some personal belongings—games, outdoor or sports equipment, or clothes—or give tips? Small gestures like these are greatly appreciated!

Accommodation

  • If you’re not on an all-inclusive vacation, stay with locals, organize a house swap or rent through a company like Airbnb or Homelidays. Click here for more options.
  • Browse the Web for green accommodation, such as certified eco-friendly, sustainable or socially responsible hotels (for example : http://www.nolitours.com/en/Best-finds/by-eco-responsible-hotel?ID=2277&type=gamme&tmpl=GEN) or natural reserves. Watch out for greenwashing—companies falsely claiming to be green through advertising and marketing.

Transportation

Here are some other ways to shrink your environmental footprint from transportation.

  • Compensate for your travel emissions by purchasing carbon offsets when you buy plane tickets or from organizations like Planetair to encourage renewable energy and energy-efficient projects. Compensating for 100 kg of GHG emissions costs less than a coffee!
  • Travel south every year? Why not go once every two years, and the other year, choose closer destinations that benefit the local economy and are less consumption-oriented.
  • Don’t go as far. Got a week’s vacation? Pick a destination that’s a short flight away, rather than Hawaii or Thailand.
  • Choose direct flights and reduce your GHG emissions: planes burn more fuel when landing and taking off.
  • Travel light! Clothes and personal belongings weigh down the plane. If we all took less baggage, tonnes of GHGs would be saved!

Got any tips for limiting your environmental footprint when travelling? Please share!

Other useful links

  • Success stories of tourism operators and travel destinations, where tourism develops in harmony with natural resources and local cultures, from Sustainable Travel International.
  • Responsible Travel Report: Sustainable Travel International online magazine