How can travel be sustainable?

John Paul Lopez Taberdo on 07 November 2019

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Over the last few weeks I have been asked by many people, how can travel be sustainable if the carbon emissions of one international flight is equivalent to driving a car every day for one year?

I think that to answer questions like this, we first need to appreciate that every human-made product or service that we consume has some kind of impact on the environment, which can be measured in terms of carbon emissions. I’m talking about everything from the device that you are using to read this post, to the clothes we are wearing, to the food you are eating, the bicycle you are riding and the car you are driving. There are literally no material goods that have zero carbon emissions.

The question for me is, what are we going to do about it?

Take the phone, tablet or computer that you are using right now. Carbon was emitted all the way from the mining of resources to the manufacturing, packaging, transportation, marketing and the eventual sale of the product. There’s even carbon being emitted when you connect it to a charger to keep the battery topped up! Feeling guilty yet?

Well you should, and you shouldn’t... You probably should if you are not going to do anything about it. However, if you start to think about the ‘intention’ of why you are using it, and start acting towards bringing good to the world, then perhaps it is worth the trade-off. Bringing this back to travel, yes your flights are huge contributors to global carbon emissions. But if you are taking a flight to participate in efforts towards environmental conservation, cultural exchange, local sustainable development, historical preservation, learning and other positive things, then you can see that the good can sometimes outweigh the bad.

You might be thinking, “I don’t do any of that when I go on holiday!”

This might be true, but it might not for your next trip overseas. I’m not suggesting you need to join a conservation or humanitarian aid project every time you take a flight, but oftentimes it’s the small choices that we make that have big impacts on the environment.

“When tourists take an interest in wildlife and nature it can provide a greater incentive for local people to protect and support conservation efforts rather than hunting and poaching. In many countries, hunters have changed the way they view animals and have trained to become guides and protectors.” The Travel Foundation

The message here is to make a conscious effort to support good environmental initiatives when you are overseas, such as great national parks and wildlife areas, eco resorts and green hotels, and guided tours that contribute to environmental conservation. If you find this in any way challenging or confusing, I can help you make the right decisions when planning your next travel experiences – just get in touch :-)

Addressing the elephant in the room… Air travel and carbon emissions. I’m going to write more about this in future posts, but I’ll say for now that it is worth being conscious about reducing the amount of flights you take in a lifetime and supporting airlines that have the best environmental performance. Airlines that fly modern aircraft with more efficient engines are worth paying extra for, and many times you can avoid air travel altogether by taking trains and busses.

Feel free to get in touch if you would like to learn more or have a chat :-) Email johnpaul@travelcounsellors.com.au or call 03 9028 6899. I'm your local home-based Travel Counsellor for Melbourne-West, including Geelong, Ballarat and the Central Highlands.

Yours in travel, jp

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