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How can people travel more sustainably?

  • Publish Date: Posted over 1 year ago
  • Author:by Guest blogger: Vicky Smith, Earth Changers

How can people travel more sustainably? If only it was as simple as not flying!

It’s true that aviation is responsible for ~2.5% of global emissions – and that percentage hard to reduce as other industries decarbonise, where aviation is yet unable with no alternative fuel, hydrogen, electric or sustainable aviation fuel being still years away from mass commercial adoption.

But you may be relieved to hear, sustainable tourism is vital to delivering the global sustainable development goals too – we need to travel to support the world’s people and places - so long as it’s done in the right way.

Tourism’s impact as a whole is 8% of global emissions – so even tourism excluding aviation has a 5.5% emissions impact, which means we need to make more careful choices on how we make all out travel choices to ensure we create net positive impacts.

There is more to sustainability than carbon!

While aviation and tourism has emissions, it also offers the opportunity for tourism jobs and training, and foreign exchange earnings to communities in need – especially now post Covid, which has seen the tourism industry lose approximately 120 million jobs worldwide (WTTC, 2022).

We start to understand the real magnitude of that when we consider that in one of our partner destinations, Madagascar, we know each job financially supports 11 other people in the community.

Travel is extraordinarily important to economies and societies: ~10% world GDP and jobs on average. It’s not far off that in the UK, but as much as 70-80% in communities like the Maldives and Caribbean islands.

But it’s not just economically vital. Tourism brings finance to conservation, as evidenced recently by the success story of the mountain gorilla conservation programme through proper ecotourism.

As we’ve seen with Covid, without tourism, there’s no research and support funding, there’s no anti-poaching rangers or programmes, and many endangered species might no longer be around.

Travel also creates new perspectives and brings us out of our normal selves to experience other cultures and diversity. Travel is a vehicle for tolerance and an industry of peace – we can’t travel to places without it.

So we have to holistically weigh up the negative and positive impacts that travel creates.

People love travel and still want to travel, and if we can harness that, we can use if for ensuring we make positive contributions to people and places by choosing the right sustainable tourism.

Simply, every decision taken regarding travel can be taken more sustainably: How you get there, where you stay, where and what you eat and drink, what activities you do, how you support community and conservation.

Here’s a video I made with 5 Top Tips as Ambassador for the UK Government Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs:

We can reduce business flights and meet online most of the time instead, and cut multiple short-haul weekends in Europe as unnecessary.

But we also need to choose tourism that minimises negatives and maximises positives. This can be complex as tourism is a recipe of often intangible services: design, construction, energy, water, waste, staff welfare, hospitality, furnishings, food and drink, environment and community impacts.

To the average traveller, it’s a lot to research, and much is behind the scenes in supply chains. That’s why we at Earth Changers exist – to do the leg work on research and use our expertise in sustainable tourism since mid 00s to discern and advise, saving the consumer time and also confusion!

About Earth Changers

We want to change the world through tourism.

We’re a curated collection of sustainable, regenerative accommodations and tour companies who use the power of tourism as a vehicle for sustainable development.

We feature life-changing places with world-changing people for extraordinary experiences with purpose, to help customers find and book trips that change the world.

We research, discern and curate partners based on impact, and connect you to them so your money and logistics empower directly in the destination (disclosure: they pay us a finder’s fee). You’ll also get a free sustainability extra for booking through us!

With some, you’ll just have an amazing holiday, safe in the knowledge you are contributing to true sustainable tourism; others might offer a behind the scenes tour, others still get more hands on helping, to experience the difference of sustainable development in action.

It’s challenging for holiday-makers to discern sustainable tourism - it’s not one thing and it’s an intangible service, much often behind the scenes, and very time-consuming.

This is where we step in to guide where not many other people can.

Whether for personal trips, or corporate retreats, we have a little black book of amazing sustainable places. What better place to relax, get active, learn or talk about sustainability or corporate responsibility than a sustainable reserve, lodge or with social enterprise tours?

Founder Vicky’s been in sustainable tourism since the mid 00s and knows it end-to-end: hundreds of places all over the world, sadly not on the site yet because Covid shut down tourism trade for 2 years, but anyone is welcome to get in touch and ask for other destinations!

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