Travel means CO2 emissions unless you walk or cycle everywhere. While we all should reduce our travel miles, some of us have the bug and can't help ourselves. Here are five ecological and cost-effective habits you can adopt today to minimise your impact.
Make your own food
Buying locally produced food ingredients and cooking your meal at the hostel, your host's home or making sandwiches is both cheap and eco-friendly. A restaurant meal produces around 8kg of CO2 per diner and a home cooked meal around 400 grammes. Home cooked food generates 340kg of CO2 per person per year (source).
Alternatively, buy ready made meals and sandwiches that you can eat cold. Due to economies of scale and bulk transportation, this is remarkably effective compared to a restaurant meal.
Not only will you save quite a bit of money, but cutting out two meals out per day of travel saves 106.4kg of CO2 in a seven day trip.
Stay at a friend's place
Whether you use a luxurious hotel or a well-worn tent, your accommodation has an impact. Every time you use electricity, gas, hot water, light a camp fire... you are adding CO2 to the atmosphere.
While some more eco-aware hotels are now offering CO2 off setting to their guests, the fact remains that hotels are inefficient users of energy and goods. Daily cleaning and washing, those mini bottles of shampoo, lots of lights, heated and manned lobbies... they all use up lots of energy to make, maintain and finally take out of use.
If you have to stay in a hotel, use one that has a certification from the Climate Neutral Network or similar organisation.
A much better choice is to stay with a friend or find lodging through a hospitality exchange network. Your friend's, or host's, house will already be in use, multi-tenanted (at least when you're there) and your impact will be minimal. Try one of the major hospitality exchange networks and see how you like it:
Travel by train
Cars, planes, buses, and trains all release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere as they burn fuel. The level of emissions vary widely, but the more mass transit your mode of transportation is, the less ecological impact it is likely to have.
For example airplane emissions have a greater climate change impact than previously thought. The cumulative impact of CO2, nitric oxide and nitrogen dioxide, and water vapor has two to five times the impact of CO2 alone.
An easy way to judge the impact of your travel miles are by comparing the distance you can travel before emitting 1 ton of CO2:
|Transport mode||Kilometers per 1,000 kg CO2|
|Car - 1 passenger||6,250|
|Car - 4 passengers||25,000|
|Train - European average||28,000|
|Long distance bus||33,000|
|Train - Sweden||290,000!|
As you can see, travelling by train, long distance bus or a full car is the best for the environment. Modern, all-electric trains are by far the most eco-friendly mode of travel available.
Of course, not all destinations are accessible by bus, and you can't always cram two kids and the family dog onto a Greyhound. In those instances consider using or renting a fuel-efficient car. Not only will you save money, but cars with better fueld efficiency have a reduced impact on the atmosphere. And if you're driving, improve your fuel efficiency by turning off the air conditioner - it will save money and the environment.
Then some places can't even be reached without flying, so pick a charter flight if you can and reduce your emissions as much as you can.
Pay for your CO2 emissions
By using a carbon dioxide emissions calculator you can figure out how much CO2 your next trip will generate. Then pay enough to a carbon off setting fund to minimise your travel impact.
One of the best, and run by a non-profit, is Climate Care. Their site will let you both calculate and pay for your carbon dioxide emissions from flying, car travel, and heating or cooling your house.
Take only photos
Souvenirs, like all conspicuous consumption, generate CO2 emissions. And unless you are buying things that you need anyway, why not simply take photos to remember the place and people?
Pictures don't add weight to your suitcase, you can take thousands with a digital camera and you can share them, display them or simply view them on your own at any time. You can even send copies of your digital pictures to all the people you met on your travels, bringing back good memories for them too.
If you want to learn to take better travel pictures, try About.com's Travel Photography 101.
Websites for eco-friendly living
Here are a few websites to get you moving on making more eco-friendly decisions, whether travelling or not:
- Treehugger.com - Environmental news
- Drive Neutral - US-based organisation that helps you offset your CO2 emissions
- Climate Care - Offset your CO2 emissions - UK-based
- The Lazy Environmentalist - Blog about global warming and eco-friendly living from Josh Dorfman, founder of Vivavi
- World Changing - Covers the ideas and tools to make a better future for us all
Do you have more tips on eco-friendly travel?
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