How to travel sustainably to curb your carbon footprint

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Here are a few ways to travel sustainably when your heart seeks a post-pandemic short getaway but your mind worries about your carbon footprint.

Bored? Tired? Travelling is the easiest getaway one can find now. Well, it was until we found ourselves in the middle of a pandemic. Nevertheless, the tourism industry is still thriving, and the planet is still suffering.

For the new travellers on the eco-conscious bandwagon, sustainable tourism is the new golden term — as it should be for all. But it can get tricky to navigate through.

Here are a few pointers to keep in mind before planning your next trip (keeping in mind the restrictions).

Travel greener

sustainable travelEver since Greta Thunberg double-crossed the Atlantic on a boat in 2019, the climate movement’s attention quickly shifted to the importance of carbon neutrality when it comes to travel. According to the UK’s Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, a single passenger travelling on a domestic flight in Britain can have a carbon footprint of 254g of CO2 for every kilometre they travel.

Cutting out travel completely might not sit well with everyone, so the best bet here is to find ways to make it more sustainable. Avoid flying as much as you can, especially to locations closer to you. Instead, take a road trip using public transport or travel by ship or take the train, all of which are far more economical for the environment. I’m sure you’ll find ways to spend that time.

Extend your stay

long stay vacationsSpeaking of killing some time, vacations should be about spending time with yourself and those around you. And even if you’re more of an adventure-seeker on the lookout for dynamic experiences, slow travelling never hurts.

Essentially, stop hopping from one location to another and cramming 17 destinations in four days — you won’t remember anything from that trip. Take a longer vacation this time, stay put in one place, read a book, volunteer with locals, check out local conservation programmes and give back to the environment.

Try to travel close to home

backpacking“Tourism is sin and travelling on foot, virtue,” said Werner Herzog in an interview, glad that tourism was curtailed during this pandemic. As a traveller and filmmaker, he preaches sustainable tourism via backpacking on foot.

For him, this doesn’t just preserve the ecosystems but also allows one to truly experience a place. Taking his advice, try travelling on foot and visiting places close to you. It might sound restrictive, but it’s the best way to uncover hidden gems.

Avoid peak seasons

peak season travelThis might be too much to ask or be a deal-breaker for some, as the hottest destinations get their reputation from seasonal attractions. But hear me out: travelling off-season lets you explore your niche and allows your inner vacation planner to shine.

If travelling off-beat is what you’ve been wanting to do all this while, one search will let you explore a hundred travel itineraries and present ways to travel like a local. Not only do you reduce the pressure on local communities, land and resources, you also save a great deal of money, experience authenticity and can find empty Instagrammable locations.

Travel light and pack wisely

eco friendly travelVirgin Atlantic estimated that losing a pound (0.45kg) in weight from every plane in its fleet would save 53,000 litres of fuel a year. So by travelling light, you would help the planet a little and save your shoulders from the weight of your rucksack.

If you plan to backpack and travel on foot, carry utensils that you can either reuse or eco-friendly disposables that you can bring back. Renting gear and single-use equipment is also a great way to reduce your luggage and support local tourism.

Eat local

local vegan foodThis one is a no-brainer. If you’re travelling across the continent and eating the same food you would at home, what’s the point of leaving your house? Explore the regional cuisines or buy local produce if you’re cooking for yourself, support the agricultural workforce, talk to the locals and play your part in reducing your food miles.

Consider investing in a food tour as well — you travel on foot, eat things you won’t probably discover yourself, and hear stories that you’d only find in the depths of cookbooks.

Invest time to research

offset carbon footprint travelIn order to travel carbon-neutral, you will have to plan ahead of time, unless you’re a seasoned traveller. Schedule your travel arrangements — from your major transport to your stays. If you do end up flying, invest in a carbon offsetting initiative. Research your chosen homestay or hotel thoroughly and keep an eye out for green tourism. While it sounds sustainable, this usually refers to minimum effort taken by organisations towards sustainability to greenwash consumers.

Instead, look up their websites for their eco-friendly initiatives to verify the authenticity. Invest in a local guide or an agency that actually will help you travel sustainably. There are a lot of programmes that charge a small sustainability fee or a green fee that goes into reversing your carbon emissions.

Lastly, save resources and clean up before you leave. Don’t consume things unnecessarily. Read up, calculate your carbon neutrality and enjoy your time. Travelling sustainably is not as difficult as it sounds.

Muskaan Gupta
Muskaan Gupta
Muskaan is a history undergraduate at Lady Shri Ram College, New Delhi. Having grown up in different cities in India, she is passionate about food and culture. When she's not experimenting in the kitchen, you can find her invested in films and music. She is always looking for new things to do, is interested in studying food history and juggles between her love for filmmaking, writing and knowing the quirks of the world.