The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO/OMT), a specialized agency of the United Nations and the leading international organization in the field of tourism, estimates that tourism is today responsible for 5% of greenhouse gas emissions and that the situation will get worse if we don’t change our traveling habits. 1.1 billion travelers will cross the planet in 2010; 1.6 by 2020. It is now a priority to travel differently. But how?
First of all, get used to the idea that there is no ideal eco-traveler, just because taking the plane has a very negative impact on global warming. Should we stop taking the plane? Of course not. Tourism and leisure are crucial in our stressful lives to open our minds and hearts and very important for local economies. But we can improve the way we travel and become more sustainable.
The first tip to becoming a better eco-traveler is to choose modern companies with recent aircrafts. My second tip is to calculate your carbon emissions. For example, I have calculated my carbon emissions for a return flight from Paris to Kuala Lumpur (check out http://www.carbonify.com/carbon-calculator.htm). My result: 1.810 ton. Equivalent to 16,000 km driven with my car or two years of heat for my apartment in France!
To offset your carbon emissions, you can sponsor tree plantings (5,820 trees is my price to pay to visit my in-laws in Malaysia) or choose to sponsor another sustainable development program.
My third tip is to take your time and stop running. Before going overseas, prepare your journey by choosing eco-friendly tour operators, try to avoid the busiest sites and search less known places in order to balance the tourism geographical repartition around the globe.
And last but not least, help preserve the environment by visiting natural parks, eco museums, don’t buy any protected species, reduce air con in your room, water wasting etc etc…
Most of all, don’t give up, start with what you can, every detail matters in becoming a responsible tourist!