With more and more countries opening up after several years of pandemic lockdowns, millions of people around the world are planning to finally resume their vacation and travel plans this year. In fact, the World Travel and Tourism Council predicts that travel spending will jump by an incredible 93.8% in 2022 compared to 2021. Yet travel, whether it’s a local staycation or an international trip, is inherently wasteful and often generates a lot of environmental impact. If you want to make your 2022 travel plans more sustainable and green this year, here’s what you need to know.
Why Does Sustainable Travel Matter?
Travel is inherently wasteful and has a big environmental footprint. Let’s start with the actual act of travel itself. When it comes to global greenhouse gas emissions, travel and transport account for 20% of all global carbon dioxide.
Let’s take a quick look at the numbers. From worst to least carbon emissions, here’s how the most common forms of travel stack up:
- Domestic flights: 255g of carbon emitted per kilometer traveled
- Short-haul flight: 156g
- Long-haul flight: 150g
- Train: 41g
- Ferry: 19g
But that’s just the beginning. When we go on a vacation or travel for work, we inherently rely on a lot of disposable items, such as plastic bags, single-use toiletries like shampoo and hand sanitizer, and take-out containers from street vendors or restaurants at our destination.
All of this creates a lot of pollution, and it’s well-documented that pollution isn’t just bad for the earth. It’s also bad for our health, with environmental factors like air pollution significantly weakening your immune system’s strength. Thus, committing to zero-waste travel and more sustainable travel choices helps the planet, protects our communities, and helps bolster our own personal wellness and health.
How to Travel in a More Sustainable Way
While “zero waste” may sound like an all-or-nothing proposition, it’s really about intention and effort and not just the outcome. After all, it’s very difficult to truly achieve zero-waste travel. Yet we can all make it a priority to reduce the impact that our travel has in 2022 as tourism soars to unprecedented numbers.
1. Plan and Book a Destination Committed to Sustainable Practices
- Banning plastic bags
- Discouraging or banning styrofoam and single-use plastic containers
- Creating new legally protected environmental areas to guard sensitive ecosystems
According to Lonely Planet, some top examples include:
- Copenhagen, which is aiming to be the world’s first carbon-neutral city
- Singapore, which is investing significantly in urban gardens
- South Africa, which has many carbon-neutral tourism attractions like the Table Mountain Cableway
2. Consider Ways to Make Your Transportation Itself More Sustainable
When you book your flights or your transportation on the ground at your destination, see what measures you can take to invest in the environment and reduce your travel impact. The airline you choose is a great area to focus on. You may want to ask different airlines:
- What their environmental policies are
- How they’re committed to more sustainable practices
- What options there are for you to reduce your carbon footprint
For instance, Alaska Airlines announced in 2021 that it was going carbon-neutral. Quantas cut its single-use plastic usage on flights by 75% in 2021, eliminating 100 million plastic knives, forks, and other disposable items. And travel partners like CarbonFund allow travellers like you to buy personal carbon credits to directly offset the carbon emissions generated by your flight.
3. Reduce Your Environmental Impact At Your Destination
- Pack light: Most tourists over-pack. Consider pieces of clothing that can easily be mixed and matched to create a new wardrobe each day. This saves you headaches and baggage fees, and it also reduces your total travel weight (and thus your carbon footprint)
- Avoid pre-packaged, single-use items: This includes snacks at the airport (simply bring your own from home), bottled water (pack your own reusable bottle for both the flight and your destination), toiletries, and even supplements. For instance, instead of buying single packs of vitamins at a corner store when you’re feeling under the weather abroad, pack a powerful immune booster like BioPro-Plus 500 from home.
- Avoid unnecessary printing: From travel itineraries to tickets to a tourist attraction, add passes and tickets to your smartphone instead of printing them on paper.
- Eat locally: Support locals, save small businesses, and avoid takeout containers.
By taking the above measures, you save the planet and your immune system from the harmful effects of pollution created by travellers.