The world’s favorite travel locations are endangered by the ways we vacation.
From the Galapagos Islands to Miami Beach, tourist hotspots around the globe have fallen victim to climate change. Even the Statue of Liberty is at risk of getting swept away by surging seas. While the issues these destinations face may vary, one thing is for sure– our presence tends to exasperate the problem.
Tourism Contributes to Climate Change
Studies by the United Nations World Tourism Organization indicate that tourism accounts for five percent of the world’s carbon emissions, and some experts say it’s double. Greenhouse gases, such as carbon, are the leading factor in rising temperatures, which are detrimental to the oceanfront paradises we escape to. Most of the harm is caused by big tourism corporations, but even they understand that there won’t be anywhere to escape from climate change if we don’t take action now.
The international conglomerate, Hilton Hotels, has taken steps to mitigate their environmental damage, from installing energy efficient lighting to constructing a carbon-cutting cogeneration plant in the heart of midtown Manhattan. Another industry giant, Royal Caribbean Cruise Line, installed purification systems that eliminate nearly all of the sulfur dioxide produced by ship engine exhaust. While their efforts inspire hope for the future, they may not be enough.
As the window to limit climatic catastrophe closes, change must be dramatic. These times require a revolution in the way we travel, led by agencies that don’t leave host communities– or their homelands– drowning in the wake of our wasteful ways. Luckily, this issue has galvanized a new breed business: sustainable travel.
Companies Changing the Way We Travel
· Bookdifferent is a travel agency that helps customers find earth-friendly accommodations. They’ve compiled over two million hotels, from treehouses to farm stays, all rated based on carbon footprint and environmental impact. They work with a non-profit called Green Destinations to identify the most sustainable destinations and educate travelers on how to vacation responsibly.
· Responsible Travel is an activist travel company that goes beyond minimizing impact. Their mission is to organize trips that benefit travelers, as well as locals and wildlife. Responsible Travel understands that sustainability isn’t just about the environment; it’s also about the economy. They aim to help the communities they visit thrive in the long-term.
· EcoCompanion is a burgeoning organization that uses a World Rating System to challenge “greenwashing”– when a company makes false claims about being eco-conscious. Like Bookdifferent, this system ranks destinations based on sustainability and uses customer feedback to ensure reliability. EcoCompanion has also built a network of content creators dedicated to the health of our planet.
Small Travel Habits that Make a Big Difference
Aside from booking sustainable destinations and accommodations, there are other ways to reduce your footprint.
· Reduce plastic by carrying a reusable water bottle. Buy a water bottle with a filter so you can drink clean water nearly anywhere.
· Take advantage of public transportation. From bikes to buses, there are usually ways to eliminate unnecessary waste produced by private cars.
· Use Ecosia when making travel plans. Ecosia is a search engine that plants trees with their profits.
Travel is an important experience. Our ability to see other parts of the world is what inspires us to save it. Travel connects us to the global village, as well as the planet we inhabit. To cease exploring this beautiful blue cosmic dot would be fatal to the spirit. Let’s just learn to travel smarter.