I am well aware that the greenest course of action is to stay at home. It doesn’t stop me from wanting to travel though, and I am trying to reconcile the two by travelling as greenly as possible. The question is, how?
There is no way that taking the plane can be anything other than polluting. And I don’t really buy the carbon offset thing – sure it’s a nice idea to plant some trees, but you are still using up fuel in the first place. However, a round the world ticket means less flights than lots of individual holidays and we’ll be doing some of our journey overland. Also, slow travel is greener, as you are moving less, so our plan to spend longer in each place fits with this.
We are not perfect at home, of course. We take baths, not showers (sharing the water though), we own a car and often shop at the supermarket. However, we try to minimise our waste by shopping at the local market too, we have a wormery, grow a few of our own veg and recycle what waste we can. We only use our car about once a week, preferring to travel by foot, train or bus where possible.
We can try and do all these things when travelling, taking trains where possible, shopping at local markets and recycling where facilities are available. I also think that budget travel is greener than staying in big hotels, we won’t be having our towels washed daily for a start! An added benefit of budget travel is that it tends to put money into locals’ pockets, rather than the pockets of international businesses.
At home I try to never accept a plastic bag, always taking my own reusable ones. I also try to never buy bottled water, taking a Camelback bottle full of tap water when we go out. These are both things we can do when travelling, using tap water in countries where it is safe, and sharing large bottles to minimise waste in countries where it is not.
I am aware that there are travel operations that claim to provide an ‘eco’ experience. Often, these seem to be all talk and not much action. I know that they are not all bad, and we had a great experience with Costa Rica Expeditions. Not only did they look after us very well, but their extensive efforts to minimise their impact on the beautiful Costa Rican jungle are to be commended. Maybe we will come across companies like this in other parts of the world.
We can of course take the opportunity to learn from other countries about how they treat the planet. I remember from my last visit to Japan that everything was ridiculously over-packaged, down to the fact that we were given extra plastic bags at every shop in Disneyland, just in case. Maybe some countries will be better at recycling than the UK, which is only slowly catching up, and we could learn some positive ways to change our behaviour. Or we could use the very poor example of other countries, like the Kiwi family of Pilgrims Progress did, as a learning experience for us and for our children.
Although our carbon footprint will be undoubtedly be larger if we travel than if we don’t, I hope it has some positive impact. By showing our children the world’s beauty up close, it will hopefully give them an appreciation for it, which will stay with them for the rest of their lives.