The issue of the environmental impacts of travel is complex and can be hotly debated. The question I want to explore today is – can you care about the planet and still travel the world?
This came up because I posted something on twitter about my blog and how the goal is to “see the world and make it better”. Some people were implying that this is hypocritical and you can’t travel if you care about the environment. While I can respect their right to voice it, I have to say that I disagree.
Let’s consider some of the impacts of travel. There are obvious ones such as plane, train and vehicle emissions. It’s true that it can be difficult to even get to your destination without some kind of environmental impact. Then there are also less obvious impacts, such as the materials required to build and maintain the places you visit and infrastructure you use. Also the energy and emissions from the gear you buy, the food you eat and the clothes you wear. There is no doubt that the majority of us, travellers or not, have some impact on the planet.
So, this begs the question. Do you have to give up on your dream of seeing the world if you want to be environmentally conscious? My personal opinion is no, you can do both. It all depends on your personal preferences. If you feel strongly about limiting your environmental footprint as much as possible there are definitely steps you can take, big and small. You can choose not to travel by certain modes, you can try to buy sustainably made goods, and you can eat locally produced foods. These things will all help to cut down on your footprint, but won’t eliminate it completely.
I also believe that nobody is perfect. I am far from it. I would rather everyone in this world be conscious of their impact and try to reduce it whenever possible rather than say if I can’t do it 100% I’m not even going to try. I would never hold someone to a standard that suggests that if you fly somewhere on a plan then you cannot say you care about the environment. These two things are not mutually exclusive.
Furthermore, I believe that emissions are only one small piece of the big picture. There are lots of ways to “see the world and make it better”, including:
- Gaining appreciation for other cultures;
- Volunteering abroad;
- Supporting local businesses;
- Donating to local social and environmental causes;
- Leaving places as you found them (i.e., not littering, not taking ‘souvenirs’ form nature, etc.);
- Making sustainable choices whenever possible;
- Spreading good-will and positivity wherever you go (being a positive force in this world makes it better too); and
- Promoting sustainable eco-tourism (do your research!).
I truly believe that many people making small changes, leads to big changes overall. If some people want to dedicate their lives to have as little impact on the planet as possible, good for you, your efforts are so appreciated. If you are someone who travels but realizes the impact and wants to start to make some changes, I’m proud of you too!
I believe that we should support each other in our efforts, great and small. Together we can make a difference and we should be proud of anyone who cares enough to try. So get out there – see the world and make it better – and support others trying to do the same!
I want to hear from you!
If anyone is interested in learning about the facts and figures around environmental impacts of travelling, I will be putting together a post about it. Anything in particular you want to know?
SEE THE WORLD, MAKE IT BETTER.
~ Earthly Traveller