Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Guest Post - How to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint When You Travel

Flying, driving and cruises are known for being bad for the environment but are also the most common and popular ways of travelling. Most of us want to travel at some point in our lives - whether it’s an annual two-week summer holiday, a teenage gap year, or a round-the-world trip when we retire; and it’s easy to see why - meeting new people, seeing world-famous sites, understanding and experiencing different cultures - there are numerous benefits to travelling.

But as the impacts of climate change are starting to be felt, many of us are looking for ways to reduce our carbon footprint; so much so that environmental businesses are a rapidly growing industry. So is there a way of travelling that enables you to reap the benefits, but without harming the environment? Luckily, the answer is yes. If you are planning to dust off your suitcase soon and take to the open road, use these five tips to help you reduce your carbon footprint.

Sometimes there is no alternative but to travel by plane. If this is the case try and book your flight through a company that offsets your flight, or alternatively you can look into offsetting it yourself. Also there are many eco-friendly tour operators now available, so if you prefer to travel in organised groups rather than independently consider booking with one of these companies.

Once you have booked your trip make sure you research your destination thoroughly. This doesn’t just mean finding the best places to eat or the must see-sites, but instead look at finding out how to make your trip as eco-friendly as possible. For example if you are planning to drive across the USA, looking into using a car rental company that specialises in renting hybrid cars - with a bit of research you will often be amazed about the options available to you.

Once you’ve got to your destination you will want to get out and explore. Instead of relying on expensive taxis find out about the local transport there. Many cities have established subway systems and bus services that are safe, reliable and cost-effective. While some places it is better to hire a bike or to explore on foot.

If you are going to multiple destinations, you often don’t need to depend on flights as many places have ferry services and good rail links. If, for example, you are travelling across Europe the InterRail network covers most of the continent.

Be active
Hiking, cycling, sailing and kayaking are great ways to travel that also leave virtually no carbon footprints. Most destinations provide some chance to be active - cycling across the Alps or hiking in South America are just two popular options. Normally, these types of trips will provide you with the chance to improve your health, meet like-minded people, and gives you the chance to escape the stresses of modern living.

There are many eco-friendly accommodation options available for travellers. Camping is great for keeping your emissions to a minimum, just remember to take all your litter home with you. However, if camping isn’t suitable try to find an eco-friendly hotel or guest house. There has been a boom in eco-friendly accommodations over the last decade so you may be surprised about the level of choice available.

When you are travelling try and eat as much locally produced food as possible, not only is it normally cheaper, fresher and supports local farmers, but the fact that the food hasn’t travelled far reduces its carbon footprint. To do this, if you are in self-catering accommodation or camping, try and find farmers markets and shops. If you are planning to eat out, research which restaurants use locally produced ingredients. Alternatively, eat at cafes and restaurants where the locals eat, as they will often have meals that use seasonal and locally grown foods.

Written by Derin Clark, a writer, editor and blogger.