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See the world, Save the world

October 18, 2009

“I want to hang a map of the world in my house, and then I’m gonna put pins into all the locations that I’ve traveled to. But first I’m gonna have to travel to the top two corners of the map so it won’t fall down.-Mitch Hedburg

I love to travel: from eating in hole-in-the-wall restaurants to sending postcards to jealous friends back at home, from not

The Alam Sari Keliki Hotel in Bali recycles all water and waste, uses solar panels, and grows organic produce.

The Alam Sari Keliki Hotel in Bali recycles all water and waste, uses solar panels, and grows organic produce.

having to fold my bed in the hotel to exploring the sights.  It opened my eyes to the beauty and vastness of the Grand Canyon, the Pacific Ocean, the Colorado Rockies and so much more.  Yet what are we to do when traveling the world also pollutes it?

Whether you call it eco-tourism, sustainable travel, or responsible travel, more and more environmentally friendly travel options are now available for those who wish to see the world without negatively impacting it.

Your mode of transportation is by far the greatest impact on the environment when you are traveling.  While traveling by boat or train creates a much smaller carbon footprint (though walking and bike-riding are the most eco-friendly), sometimes flying is the only way to get where you’re going.

To minimize the impact of your flight, booking direct flights are more eco-friendly.  The ascent and descent of a flight is what consumes the most amount of fuel.  Therefore, flying direct rather than flying to multiple stops is better for the environment (and your sanity…who ever enjoyed a layover?)

Another option for minimizing your carbon footprint is to purchase carbon offsets.  A carbon offset is a credit for emitting a ton of CO2 by investing money in someone else to absorb or avoid releasing a ton of CO2.  The money you spend on carbon offsets can go to companies or organizations that work on sustainable forms of energy or projects aimed at minimizing CO2 emissions.

Yet while this all seems nice and dandy, carbon offsets are quite controversial.  Where is your money going?  Do carbon offsets really help the environment?  Does this create an illusion of carbon-free air travel for those with the money to travel guilt-free?  If you are to purchase carbon offsets, I would definitely do some background research first.

What if air travel is inevitable and you choose not to purchase carbon offsets?  My family is from Taiwan and we fly there every other year to see our relatives.  Since biking or driving across the Pacific definitely isn’t an option, air travel is our only choice.  To minimize our overall impact on the environment, we try to be more eco-friendly in other ways, such as using public transportation and eating locally.

For those who are unable to stay with family while traveling, green accomodations for all budgets are becoming more widespread and for those who are traveling to an area without an eco-friendly hotel, there are a number of things you can do:
1. So you don’t have to fold your bed in morning, but you can still reuse the sheets and towels rather than having them laundered every day.
2. While you don’t have to pay an electricity or utilities bill, it is still important to conserve energy and water. Keep your thermostat low and your lights off when you’re out seeing the sights.
3. Bring your own toiletries in reusable containers.  Refrain from buying new travel-sized toiletries to conserve the amount of plastic waste you produce.

You don’t have to sacrifice seeing the world to help the world, especially with all the green travel options now available.  Tune in soon to see the environmental impact of our trip to Austin’s hometown of Hays, KS and how we tried to minimize that impact!

3 Comments leave one →
  1. October 19, 2009 1:28 pm

    I fly to new york one to two times a month to visit my boyfriend and even though I take as many sustainable strides as possible, I often feel they all those are canceled out with one flight. I have not figured out how to combat that especially since I’m not a fan of carbon offsets. Still trying to figure out what I can do.

  2. janiec52 permalink
    October 20, 2009 11:55 am

    I know how you feel. I love traveling, especially to see my family in Taiwan, and I can’t imagine not seeing them just because flying has a huge carbon impact. Thinking about this conflict always makes me wonder: to be sustainable, does that mean we are to be isolated from one another as well?

  3. November 9, 2009 2:42 pm

    I am notsure completely what we can to minimize air travel but there are many areas of our life we can work to offset our carbon impact …and save money for ourselves

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