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Travel greener with these eco-friendly tips

Isabel Putinja

Contributor

The carbon footprint of the travel industry is responsible for eight per cent of the globe's total carbon emissions. Looking for ways to leave the smallest ecological footprint possible on your next trip? Follow these handy tips on how to travel green:

Choose an eco-friendly hotel

When researching accommodation for your next trip, get in touch with the resort, hotel or guest house to inquire about their approach to environmental sustainability. Ask them if they use renewable energy sources like solar or wind power. Is their waste recycled or composted? Do they use energy efficient appliances as well as lighting, heating and cooling systems? How do they cut down on water waste? Do they have a rainwater harvesting system in place and is grey water recycled?

Travel by train, bus or boat

Many travellers today are carefully reconsidering their transportation options when it comes to long-distance travel. Everyone knows that air travel is a big contributor to carbon dioxide emissions and air pollution. Have you looked into reaching your destination by train, bus or boat instead? If air travel is the only viable option, make it a point to take direct flights only as most fuel is burned during take off and landing. Do a bit of research before booking your next flight to find out which airlines are the leaders when it comes to fuel efficiency thanks to 'cleaner' fleets and carbon offsetting schemes. Also, consider taking longer and fewer trips by air to further reduce greenhouse gas emissions as much as possible.

Holiday close to home

Do you need to go on an exotic holiday to a faraway destination? Consider taking your next trip closer to home. Have you checked out the national park closest to you or taken a scenic railway trip that draws visitors from further afield? Look up the top tourist destinations and natural attractions in your own country and plan a bucket list of the most popular sights. Chances are you still have a lot to discover in your own backyard.

Eat local

Sampling the local cuisine is a great way to discover and experience local gastronomy and culture. Food which was grown locally is also fresher (and cheaper), and requires a lot less packaging and preservatives. At the same time, you'll also be saving on the energy used for transportation and refrigeration while contributing to the reduction of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. If you'd like to go a step further in reducing your ecological footprint, choose the vegan option on the restaurant menu. Compared to meat dishes, plant-based meals use significantly less land and water resources.

Travel slow

Once you've arrived in your destination, look for an eco-friendly way to get around. Consider taking in the sights on foot or on two wheels, or join a walking or cycling tour for an introduction to the tourist hotspots. Make it a point to take public transport to reach attractions that are not within easy walking distance. If you do need to rent a car during your stay, make sure to choose a vehicle which is as fuel-efficient as possible.

Avoid plastic

Just imagine the environmental impact if every traveller purchased a 1.5-litre plastic water bottle every single day. Carry your own stainless steel water bottle with you instead, which you can easily refill at public water fountains, in restaurants and cafés, or at your hotel. If you're concerned about water purity, invest in a portable water-purifying bottles that filter water anywhere in the world, making it clean and safe to drink. Other options are water purification tablets or hand-held UV-light filters that also quickly and easily make water potable.

Other ways to avoid plastic include refusing plastic straws and cutlery, and taking reusable shopping bags with you that can be easily folded and carried in your handbag. This will reduce plastic waste and keep it out of landfills and water bodies.

Pack light

Less is always more when packing. Aim to pack smart and only take the most essential items with you. Not only will you have less stuff to lug around, but lighter baggage means saving fuel as well as your back. Packing less reduces the environmental impact of your flight or even car trip because less weight will result in less fuel being burned and carbon emitted. 

Reduce laundry

It's become a universal rule in hotels around the world that towels left hanging in the bathroom are meant to be reused and not replaced with freshly laundered ones. Go a step further towards reducing water consumption by asking that bed sheets not be changed daily and leaving the 'Do Not Disturb' sign on your door if cleaning of your room is not required. This can significantly reduce the needless waste of resources like water and electricity and further reduce your travel footprint.

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