It is estimated that over one billion people travel each year, either for business or leisure. It is little wonder that with so many trips being made across the globe, tourism will account for 2.5 billion tons of carbon dioxide emissions by 2020. Figures such as this have lead to a call for travellers to be more aware of how their holiday or business trip can impact the environment. Over the next few weeks we will look at practical ways in which you can make your next trip more eco-friendly.
[The Green Travel website](http:// green.travel/learn/what-is-green-travel) uses the following definition:
Green travel is about making sure that travellers choose businesses, tour operators, and transportation methods that maintain and preserve the ecological integrity of the environment and contribute to local community development; meeting the needs of the present without compromising the needs of current or future generations.
As a basic guideline, the being an eco-friendly traveller means taking the following into account:
• Transportation: you may have flown to Europe but you can still offset the carbon emission of air travel by using public transport, walking or cycling where possible. If you do need to hire a car, ask the rental agency for a hybrid or smaller, more economical car.
• Accommodation: being an ethical traveller means researching places to stay. Does your hotel recycle? Do they use local food and beverage producers? Do they employ local staff? Are there schemes in place whereby they assist local communities or contribute to natural landmarks? How do they dispose of their waste? Do they use energy efficient appliances?
• Culture: green travel also refers to ethical behaviour while in another country. Take time to learn about local language and culture and be mindful of customs and traditions.
• Feedback: if you feel your hotel, tour operator, airline or transport company does not have suitable green initiatives in place, let them know. Show appreciation for measures they do take and suggest others.
• Stay in one place: keeping to a smaller geographic location not only gives you an opportunity to look in every nook and cranny within that area, but also reduce fuel emissions by travelling less.
• Photos before souvenirs: while you may instinctively want to buy as many curios as you can (who wouldn’t want a wooden giraffe?), many may be cheap imports or made from materials that are not sustainable. It’s an unfortunate situation – poverty often drives local people to overuse natural resources in order to make ends meet. Being ruthless when bartering neither lifts them out of poverty nor helps reduce the overuse of natural resources.
• Stay local: we are fortunate that South Africa has so many wonders to explore from nature reserves and high mountains, to wine farms and art galleries. Keeping air travel to a minimum not only reduces emissions, but gives travellers a chance to stop in places they usually whizz past. Take a trip through the Karoo, visit the battlefields of KwaZulu-Natal, drive over Long Tom Pass, spend a weekend camping – sightseeing needn’t require loads of cash, a month away from the office or extensive travel.
In part two we will look at practical, green travel advice.